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OSI Grant Supports Land Protection & Climate Research In Northern Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, AL (July 31, 2018)–Thanks in part to two grants from the Open Space Institute (OSI), The Nature Conservancy has expanded and added access to its Sharp Bingham Mountain Preserve. The successful land conservation project will provide a critical space for climate research, while protecting a habitat-rich watershed.

Located on the border of Jackson and Madison Counties in northeast Alabama, the land will add approximately 580 acres to the Preserve, expanding the natural area to 4,000 acres. This property will also provide expanded and valuable protection to the headwaters of the Paint Rock River, which is one of the few remaining high quality, free flowing rivers in the entire Tennessee River Basin.

Photo Credit: Beth Maynor Finch, Finch Conservation

OSI supported the project through its Resilient Landscapes Fund and Southern Cumberland Land Protection Fund because of the protection of an intact forested landscape and the land’s above-average climate resiliency, meaning that the property will continue to serve as a haven for plants and animals, even as the climate changes.

“The Paint Rock River watershed is a global hotspot for rich habitat—from its pristine waters, to its unspoiled forests,” said Peter Howell, executive vice president at OSI. “The Sharp Bingham Mountain project will protect some of the Southeast’s most important habitat, even as the climate changes. We applaud The Nature Conservancy’s commitment to this landscape and the completion of this project.”

The land will provide a critical space to examine how forests respond to climate change, and the potential role that geography, climate, and soil conditions can play in promoting and preserving biodiversity.

“This area is one of the most biologically important regions of Alabama for both aquatic and terrestrial plant and animal communities and rare species in the Southeast,” said Jason Throneberry, The Nature Conservancy’s director of freshwater programs.

The Paint Rock and its major tributaries total some 90 miles of free-flowing river habitat in a watershed that encompasses about 318 square miles. Five globally-imperiled and twelve globally-rare mussels are found in the Paint Rock River and its tributaries.

The Jackson Mountains Landscape contains large blocks of forests that include many rare plants and important habitat for migratory and breeding birds. The system supports an extremely diverse army of aquatic life, including some 98 species of fish and about 58 different mussel species.

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