Tuskegee National ForestTuskegee National Forest is a unique public land treasure in east-central Alabama. Despite being the smallest National Forest in the nation at 11,000 acres, the Tuskegee is a place rich in history, beauty and recreational opportunities. As a recreational resource, the Tuskegee offers hunting and fishing, a fine horse trail, wildlife viewing, and the Bartram Trail. The Bartram Trail was Alabama’s first National Recreation Trail and is considered one of the best mountain biking trails in the South.
Despite many of the wonderful qualities of the Tuskegee, the Forest is suffering. Years of bad logging practices have left Loblolly Pine plantations that are sterile areas that need restoration to Longleaf Pine. Encroaching development and modification of private lands around the forest adversely impact its beauty and environmental values. Illegal dumps along little-used dirt roads occur near and in the forest and pollute the public streams that flow through the forest.
The Tuskegee National Forest needs friends, people who will work with the Forest Service to develop a strong sense of community pride in this unique place and make it a true showcase. Friends of Tuskegee National Forest are teaming with local community leaders to showcase the Tuskegee Forest to bring eco-tourism and new dollars to the local economy. Won’t you help?
Efforts are bearing good fruit. We have not just stopped bad things for the sake of stopping them; our work has produced a totally new management style in the forest. The National Forests in Alabama have also agreed to go forward with restoration programs on every National Forest. These restoration programs involve determining scientifically what is needed to be done to reverse past mismanagement and restore natural forest ecosystems. These programs represent the first time ever that the Forest Service has fully dropped commercially-motivated logging entirely in a National Forest and adopted scientifically-driven restoration in its place. This means that Alabama and the Tuskegee National Forest are leaders in the nation in restoring native forests on public lands.
The Tuskegee National Forest faces an uncertain future. Without strong community-based advocacy for the forest, it may languish. Illegal dumps threaten the water quality and scenic beauty of the forest. Encroaching incompatible development lessens the value of the forest as an eco-tourism magnet. Loblolly pine plantations left over from the past mismanagement are biologically barren zones that are not good habitat for any wildlife. Those plantations need restoration into native forest types like Longleaf Pine that can provide good wildlife habitat; the Forest Service has begun this important restoration work, but decades of work lie ahead, and that can only be sustained through long-term community involvement. Old growth areas along the streams need to be surveyed and protected.
Despite the problems and the threats, there are great opportunities for people to get involved and help the Tuskegee National Forest.
The current management plan for the forest is being revised by the Forest Service, and making it as protective as possible with good restoration management is key. WildLaw has worked for more than seven years on this revision of the management plan, and your being a part of a community group working to help the Tuskegee will make the plan better.
The new Longleaf Pine restoration program has been put into place and recently started for the Tuskegee. Public participation in that program and comments on how to make it the best it can be was a vital role for local people, who helped make it a model for other forests to follow.
People who care for the forest need to get involved with Alabama’s congressional delegation to get more funding for the forest and money to buy additional key parcels of land around it to make it better.
Community people and organizations can develop cooperative plans with the Forest Service, such as the recent clean up and fixing up of the formerly run-down Tsinia Wildlife Viewing Area. Groups are needed to work on cleanups of roadsides and to get rid of illegal garbage dumps.
A great education effort is needed to make people in this part of Alabama and throughout the nation more aware of the Tuskegee National Forest and what values it holds. This forest could be a centerpiece for high-value, nonpolluting eco-tourism for the area. With all its unique habitats and room for wildlife, the forest is a natural teaching laboratory for local schools and universities, but the forest has seen very little use for that purpose.
There is a lot that can be done for and with the Tuskegee National Forest that will enhance it and the surrounding community. All that is needed is you.