DOUBTING RICHARD: Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar expressing his doubts regarding a nearly 300,000-acre expansion of the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge recently proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In the letter, dated September 3, Shelby expresses concern that FWS made their recommendation without “full consideration of the potential effects this may have on landowners, stakeholders, and the local economy.” Shelby cites what he calls the “millions of dollars in federal funds for land acquisition” that would be necessary to carry out the expansion. The senator also charges that only two public meetings have been held regarding the expansion, and that landowners and other business interests were not properly consulted. He has asked Salazar to extend the public comment period, which was scheduled to end September 7. He also wants to meet with Cahaba Refuge manager Steve Miller. To read the full text of Shelby’s letter to Salazar, visit www.shelby.senate.gov/public. Find the actual draft expansion proposal at www.fws.gov/cahabariver. JC
ALABAMA LOSING TIMBER: Forests in Alabama are being put in danger by urban expansion, according to a recent article by Thomas Spencer in the Birmingham News. His source is the Alabama Forestry Commission’s (AFC) report, Forests at the Crossroads, which states that 225,000 acres of timber were lost in the state between 2000 and 2008, only the second time since the Great Depression that Alabama has seen a net loss of forest. As suburbia expands, former agricultural land is typically turned back into forest in order to keep acreage in balance, but in the past decade urban growth has expanded faster than unused land can be reclaimed. You can find Spencer’s article, including a link to the AFC report, at www.al.com/green. This may be part of a disturbing trend in the South, as development begins to threaten even protected lands, according to the World Resources Institute. See a map of affected areas in the region at www.wri.org. To learn more about the risks of deforestation and the need for responsible development in the South, visit Southern Forests for the Future at www.seesouthernforests.org. AM
HYPERLOCAL GREEN: In a Green Brief on August 5 called “Think globally, act locally,” we told you about Helena resident Sonya Unnoppet, who was trying an innovative strategy to get more of her neighbors in the Riverwoods subdivision to sign up for recycling pickups with Allied Waste. After moving to the area in December, Unnoppet learned that only 52 of the 325 houses in the subdivision recycled. In response, she started the Riverwoods Helena Recycle Project. Kendall Zettler, the developer of the subdivision, has donated $500 in cash prizes to help encourage residents of the development to sign up with Allied. According to Unnoppet, six new households had signed up as of August 30, the original contest deadline. Unnoppet and Zettler have extended the signup period until September 30, with the prize drawing on October 1. Five $100 prizes will be given to five families. For more information, contact Zettler at (205) 621-3901. And look for a final update in Green Briefs. JC
TRAILS AGAINST TRAFFICKING: If you think human trafficking is a problem only in the Third World, think again. It’s a growing problem in the United States, including Alabama. Trafficking is a crime in which people are forced into servitude, often as prostitutes or laborers, through violence or threats. According to Sara Jane Camacho of the Birmingham anti-trafficking group Freedom to Thrive (FTT), you will have the chance to help increase public awareness of the problem and raise funds for FTT this Saturday, September 11. You can take part in a bike ride along Georgia’s Silver Comet Trail, a 61-mile paved trail beginning at the Mavell Road Trail Head in Symrna, Ga., and ending at the Alabama state line. The event starts at 9:30 a.m. According to Camacho, the trail is not a strenuous one, and riders do not have to be in peak physical condition or ride the entire 61 miles. Registration is $25 for adults ($20 in advance) and $10 for children or students. An optional sack lunch is $8. To register, visit www.trailsagainsttrafficking.com. Read more about the Silver Comet Trail at www.silvercometga.com. Learn more about FTT at www.freedomtothrive.org. To coordinate carpooling from Birmingham to the event, call Camacho at (205) 276-8978 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. JC
BUILDING BETTER: As we promised in Green Briefs a couple of weeks ago, we present the “Build Birmingham Better” initiative statement of principles written by Adam Snyder, director of environmental advocacy group Conservation Alabama. The statement was endorsed by the Cahaba River Society (CRS) and supplied to us by Beth Stewart, executive director of the CRS. Keep these principles in mind when you hear about what’s happening in your community regarding development. Stay informed and stay involved. We can’t keep piling responsibility for our actions onto future generations. AM
Build Birmingham Better
Over the past few years our economy, our community needs and our county finances have changed dramatically. Now more than ever, our region needs to have inclusive community conversations to make sure our leaders carefully consider citizen priorities for investing our limited public dollars wisely in regional economic development opportunities. We should choose forward-thinking growth policies that fix aging infrastructure first while reinvesting in existing communities, decrease our reliance on foreign oil and increase regional public transportation options in order to make our region more competitive in a global economy.
Fix aging infrastructure first: The Birmingham region’s roads and bridges are crumbling, causing safety hazards, traffic snarls and economic decline in established communities. Jefferson County needs a major reinvestment in its existing infrastructure before building costly new highways that will only increase our ongoing maintenance obligations and exacerbate long-standing air quality problems in the region.
Decrease our reliance on foreign oil: The last spike in gas prices hit Alabama hard, and prices are creeping up again. Citizens in the Birmingham region drive more than 32 miles a day—one of the highest daily mileages in the nation—because we have no viable alternatives. Investment in alternative modes of transportation will reinvigorate established communities’ economies, create employment opportunities and encourage energy-efficient development— all lessening our need for foreign oil.
Invest in existing communities: Well-designed transportation projects can breathe new life into struggling cities and suburbs, supporting a more cost-effective way for our region to meet economic growth goals. What should the priority be for spending limited transportation dollars—improving the neighborhoods we already have, or building projects in areas where people don’t live? If we choose the latter, who in our cash-strapped county will then pay the high costs for secondary infrastructure such as surface roads, water lines and sewer lines needed by the newly built outlying sprawl?
Build 21st century infrastructure: As our region competes for new businesses and residents on a global scale, other economic regions are investing in wisely planned and efficient public transportation options, which support the compact growth, lower-cost and healthier lifestyle more people value. Rather than only investing in transportation projects that rely solely on automobiles and shift economic activity ever further away from existing cities and suburbs, our region should diversify its transportation options in order to better connect people to jobs, build healthier communities and protect our drinking water and natural areas.
To learn more about the Cahaba River Society, go to www.cahabariversociety.org.