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Nick relies on five stars; Gus relies on one

By Brad Bradford

Emeril Lagasse is one of the best chefs in the Southeast.  He has access to the best kitchens, the best meat, the best equipment and the best staff.  Emeril worked hard to get where he is today, but my Aunt Berta may be just as good, given the same resources. The SEC and the entire college football nation can relate to this analogy.

Jalen Hurts
Crimson Tide Photos/UA Athletics
Kamryn Pettway Auburn photos by Wade Rackley/AU Athletics

Nick Saban has run away and retired the recruiting championship with seven straight No. 1 classes with his latest haul. This year, there were 11 five-star recruits in the SEC. Bama signed six of them; Auburn, LSU and Tennessee signed one each and Georgia signed two.

Alabama continues to stockpile, with 65 percent of its players coming from outside Alabama. Top recruits continue the yearly trek to Tuscaloosa knowing that they must wait their turn behind other five-stars. This adds to daily competition for playing time.

When Vegas puts the odds of winning the national championship for Alabama at 3 to 1, you know that the talent and coaching is there. Hard to bet against them.

Auburn faces the dilemma that it has faced in Gus Malzahn’s soon-to-be fifth year: relying on one “star” to lead the Tigers to the promised land of the playoffs. In the past, it was Jeremy Johnson as quarterback. He ended up third string and never reached his potential.  Next, it was Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator who was going to be the answer. His defense finished 71st in the nation, giving up 405 yards per game. After one year, he was off to South Carolina.

This year, the Tiger hype is former Baylor quarterback transfer Jarrett Stidham. He showed in the spring that he has all the tools needed to get Auburn over the hump.

Two important questions: 1. Will Gus stay out of the way and let new coordinator Chip Lindsey run the offense? 2. Stidham has not played since 2015 when he played in the Big 12. The Big 12 defenses are nothing like the real bullets he is going to face against Clemson and the athleticism of the defenses in the SEC. How will he react?

 


ALABAMA 2016:  Listening to Nick Saban and Jalen Hurts talk about last year, you would think that Alabama finished 6-7, lost to Chattanooga and got beat in the Birmingham Bowl instead of going 14-1. Winning four of the last eight national championships and going for a three-peat causes anyone wearing crimson or houndstooth to have one simple goal: Hoist the crystal trophy in early January or it is a disappointing season.

Last year’s defense will go down as one of the most dominating in Tide history. However, it will also be known for playing 99 snaps on defense against Clemson and giving up a last-second touchdown on a pick pass and losing the national championship 35-31.

On that night in Tampa Bay, the better team made the fourth-quarter plays and won it all. No excuses. Bama won its third straight SEC title and is the only team to be included all three years in the Final Four playoff.

Freshman quarterback Hurts was the offensive player of the year. The defense finished first in scoring defense, first in rushing defense and second in total defense nationally. Except for an early season scare by Ole Miss and a 10-0 win against LSU, no one came closer than 18 points – until Clemson.

ALABAMA OUTLOOK: This is the first year since 2013 that the Tide will return a starter at quarterback. The backfield is loaded with a healthy Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris. Top recruit Najee Harris can make a difference real quick. The offensive line is experienced.

Saban replaced Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator with Brian “RUN” Daboll. His marching orders are to get the ball in the hands of playmakers (like Calvin Ridley) and don’t try to “out-cute” the defense.

Defensively, the Tide lost seven starters to the NFL.  The good news is that nine of the 11 projected starters on defense will be either juniors or seniors. Concerns: finding a kicker and depth at quarterback.

Prediction: SEC West champions with a regular season record of 11-1.  Possible losses: Florida State or Auburn.


AUBURN 2016:  Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele kept the Tigers in every game by finishing seventh in scoring defense nationally, giving up 17 points per game and playing with the intensity that Auburn is known for. (For comparison, Alabama finished first in the nation at 13 points allowed, a difference of only 4 points).

Injuries to quarterback Sean White and running back Kam Pettway led to a record of 8-5. Losing by 6 points to Clemson and 6 points to Georgia shows just how close Auburn came to a 10-win season. Beating LSU at home on a last-second heart-stopper kept the Tigers from starting 1-3. Instead, that win (well-earned) led to a six-game winning streak and a 7-2 record headed into the road game at Georgia. They were ranked ninth in the playoff rankings and controlled their own destiny.

Unfortunately, the wheels came off.  No second half first downs against Georgia led to a loss. Two weeks later, they scored four field goals but no touchdowns against Alabama. Finishing number 112 in passing offense (out of 128 teams) allowed defenses to load the box and disregard deep passing threats.

AUBURN OUTLOOK: Everything depends on the development of quarterback Jarrett Stidham and keeping the running backs healthy. The duo of Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson at running back behind an experienced offensive line is going to give defenses headaches. Malzahn has recruited well on the defensive front and coordinator Steele will keep the Tigers in close games. Daniel Carlson is the best kicker in the country. This means that the offense only needs to get one first down past the 50 and it should turn into at least three points.

Scheduling Georgia Southern in the opener is off the chart on the “dumb meter.” They play a triple option offense, which requires more discipline and special assignments for the defense. (Ask the 2011 Alabama defense that gave up 21 points to them the week before the Iron Bowl). Next time, schedule someone who runs an offense similar to Clemson, the second week opponent. Concerns: finding pass rushers and a true deep threat at wide receiver.

Prediction: Third in the SEC West with a regular season record of 9-3. Possible losses: Clemson, LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama.


BIG FOUR ROUND ROBIN: The top two teams in the SEC (Alabama and Auburn) and the ACC (Clemson and FSU) play each other, which will basically eliminate two of these four from the playoffs. Bama opens in Atlanta against Florida State. This can very well be No. 1 vs. No. 2. Obviously, one will be 1-0 and the other 0-1. The loser will not drop lower than 6th but has very little margin of error for the rest of 2017.

The next week, Auburn travels to Clemson for a battle of the Tigers.  Since it is the second week, one will then be 2-0 and the other will be 1-1. On Nov. 11, Clemson plays at Florida State. If either loses against the Tigers or Tide in September, this will be a second loss. The Iron Bowl is two weeks later. Unless Bama and Auburn both win earlier against FSU and Clemson, this also will be a second loss and take that team out of the playoff scenario.

Auburn and Alabama both play in the SEC West. Florida State and Clemson both play in the ACC Atlantic division. Only one from each division can make the SEC and ACC championship games.


SEC East prediction: 1. Georgia: Experience at quarterback and return of Nick Chubb. 2. Florida: Defense is good. Must develop a QB. 3. Kentucky: good run game. 4. Vandy: Derek Mason is one of the best coaches in the conference. 5. Tennessee: Farewell season for Butch Jones. 6. South Carolina: Still too young. 7. Missouri: signed 24 three-star recruits. Ouch!

SEC West prediction: 1. Alabama: too much talent and hunger from Clemson loss. 2. LSU: Guice at running back and play Auburn at home 3. Auburn: Must beat Georgia and Alabama. Otherwise, the record moves to 0-8 in these games. The natives get restless. 4. Mississippi State: Fitzgerald is one of the top SEC QBs. 5. Texas A&M: Too thin on both sides of the line. Sumlin’s hot seat gets scalding. 6. Arkansas: When is Bielema going to win a big game? 7. Ole Miss: NCAA probe has sent the Rebels from the penthouse to the outhouse.

National picture: Ten teams have a good shot at making the 2017 playoff. They are:

SEC: Alabama and Auburn. ACC: Florida State and Clemson. Big 10: Ohio State and Penn State. Big 12: Oklahoma State. Pac 12: Southern Cal and Washington. AAC: South Florida.

Semifinals: Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs Penn State (Bama 31, Nittany Lions 14). Rose Bowl: Florida State vs USC (FSU 38, Trojans 35).

National championship game in Atlanta: Alabama and Florida State open the new dome in Atlanta on Sept. 2 ranked No. 1 and No. 2. On Jan. 8, 2018, these two teams will meet again for all the marbles. Great game again. Same results again: Alabama 42, FSU 28.


Brad Bradford served on the coaching staffs at Alabama and the University of Louisville. He and his wife Susan (former Auburn cheerleader) own Bradford Consulting Group. Brad can be reached at brad@coachbradfinancial.com or coachbradbradford@gmail.com.

Charging Ahead

Why more Americans are driving electric vehicles

Question:

My son and his wife just bought an electric vehicle. I was surprised to learn that the cost of their new electric vehicle was comparable to a gasoline-powered car.  I need to replace my car in a few years and would like to learn more about electric vehicles. What are the pros and cons of going electric?

Answer:

Your son is not alone. The electric vehicle (EV) market is growing rapidly. There are good reasons why EVs are becoming more popular, but there are also a few potential drawbacks.

Let’s start with the basics: EVs are vehicles that plug into the electric grid for some or all of their power. There are two primary types of EVs. All-electric EVs—such as the Nissan LEAF—are powered entirely with electricity. Plug-in hybrid EVs—such as the Chevrolet Volt—are dual-fuel cars, meaning both the electric motor and the internal combustion engine can propel the car.

The Nissan LEAF is the world’s best-selling EV.
Photo courtesy Nissan

A key benefit of EVs is that a driver’s trips to the gas station are either vastly reduced or eliminated altogether. However, in lieu of gas refueling, EVs need to be recharged. At the lowest charging level, called Level 1, an hour of charging typically provides two to five miles of range per hour. Because the average light-duty car is parked for 12 hours per day at a residence, many EV drivers can use Level 1 charging for most of their charging needs. The fastest charging level, called DC Fast-Charging, can provide 60-80 miles of range in a 20-minute period.

Charging with electricity is nearly always cheaper than fueling with gasoline. An electric gallon—or “eGallon”—represents the cost of driving an EV the same distance a gasoline-powered vehicle could travel on one gallon of gasoline. On average, an eGallon is about one-third the cost of a gallon of gasoline. Another benefit of charging with electricity is that, throughout many parts of the country, it is a cleaner fuel source than gasoline. Although the exact environmental benefits of driving an EV will vary, one recent study found that two-thirds of Americans live in regions where driving an EV is cleaner than driving a 50 MPG gas-powered car.

Another key reason for the rise in EV ownership is because of recent reductions in the upfront cost of the cars. The batteries used in EVs are the most expensive component of the cars, but thanks to improving production methods, the cost of the batteries has dropped by more than 35 percent since 2010, and costs are expected to keep dropping.  Because of these cost reductions and technology improvements, EVs are hitting some major performance and affordability milestones. For example, in late 2016, General Motors released the Chevrolet Bolt—an all-electric EV with an estimated range of 238 miles per charge, costing about $30,000 after rebates.

Range anxiety still a concern

Although even longer range and more affordable EVs are expected to hit the market soon, one of the key drawbacks of EVs is that most models currently have a range of less than 100 miles per charge. More and more public charging stations are available across the United States, but “range anxiety” is still a concern for many potential buyers.  Fortunately, if you are considering an EV, keep in mind that the average American’s daily driving patterns are well-suited for EV use. More than half of all U.S. vehicle trips are between one and ten miles, and even in rural areas the average daily drive distances for typical errands and commutes are well within the range of most currently available EVs.

EVs are also well-suited for many commercial applications. For example, EVs are now being used as part of ridesharing services like Uber, where average trip distances are between just 5 and 7 miles. Companies like Frito-Lay and FedEx are also introducing EVs into their delivery fleets, and a growing number of municipalities are buying electric buses. One of the primary draws of EVs for commercial use is their minimal maintenance requirements.

If you are interested in learning more about EVs, contact a local car dealer to schedule a test drive. Many curious drivers are impressed by the performance of EVs, especially the instant torque provided by the electric motor.

Your electric co-op can also be a great resource. More and more co-ops own EVs as part of their fleets and may offer “ride and drive” events. Dozens of co-ops also offer reduced electricity rates for “off peak” EV charging, which can help you save even more money on fueling.

Patrick Keegan writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives. Write to energytips@collaborativeefficiency.com for more information.

Alabama People: Renee Simmons Raney

PHOTO BY MIKE McCRACKEN

Teaching nature the imaginative way

Renee Simmons Raney grew up on a farm near Choccolocco, Ala., where she learned about the wonders of nature. Ever since, she’s dedicated her life to educating people about nature in unique ways.

Recently, she left a job with the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust to accept the position of park operations supervisor and director of events with Cheaha State Park near Talladega. When not leading a hike or telling stories to children, she writes books, including her most recent, Hairy Scary but Mostly Merry Fairies: Curing Nature Deficiency Through Folklore, Imagination and Creative Outdoor Activities. – John Felsher

How did your upbringing influence your career?

I was blessed to grow up on my grandfather’s dairy farm nestled in the valley just between the Choccolocco Mountains and the Cheaha Mountain range. My family encouraged me to be creative and to respect even the tiniest portions of the natural world. My imagination had no boundaries. I thought all children had this experience until I started school and realized that many children lacked the opportunity for outdoor play.

As I grew up and began my career in environmental education, my passion for merging science with art and creative play became my mission. Most people lose touch with the enchantment of youth, but I never did! I still live on a corner of that farm with my husband, my son, four happy dogs, 10 content chickens and a few hives of joyful honeybees.

How did your interest in fairies, folklore and storytelling transfer over into your career?

Albert Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.” I believe every moment in nature is a “Once Upon a Time” moment. I have spent many years working with inner city and underserved youth in Alabama. Most of these children don’t have opportunities to connect with the natural world. When we take them to national parks or forests, they are terrified.

Once I have shared my natural history fairy tale stories, explained that they can pretend to be the size of their pinky finger and allow them to create their own nature home or fairy house, they become comfortably fearless. The insects and creepy things are no longer enemies.

In my book, I share my fairy stories from childhood through present day. I include lists of activities for each chapter to make it easy for parents and grandparents to play outside with their young folks. I have developed an “enchanted curriculum” for teachers to use these techniques to teach science, math, literature, physics and other topics. After reading my first book, Calico Ghosts, Alabama’s own Kathryn Tucker Windham handed me her old black click pen and said, “Take my pen and continue to inspire imagination across the South.” It was an epic moment in my life!

People say you have a unique way of presenting your environmental education programs. How is that?

I merge my skills as a biologist and anthropologist with my passion for creative drama and storytelling to create exceptional experiential place-based education programs for vast audiences. I’ve watched the magical joy spread across a child’s face when she holds her first glob of frog eggs in her hands and witnessed an 80-year-old man transform into a mesmerized 8-year-old as he listens to stories about farms and wild places not forgotten. I use live animals, or “creature teachers,” in most of my programs.

What is Nature Deficit Disorder?

I am part of the “No Child Left Inside” movement. A few years ago, Dr. Richard Louv wrote a book called Last Child in the Woods in which he coined the phrase “Nature Deficit Disorder.” Louv believed that the lack of outdoor play in childhood is causing a great disconnect between a generation of young people and the natural world. We know that 30 minutes a day spent outside can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase mental productivity and bring pleasure.

What are your goals for your new job at Cheaha State Park?

It is my goal to provide unique environmental education, cultural heritage and nature art programs for diverse audiences of all backgrounds and ages. I want everyone to ascend the cloud-shrouded mountain and discover Cheaha State Park, which we often refer to as “the island in the sky!” Our team is developing several programs such as a permanent “Fairy Trail” where families can create small structures from all natural materials while using their creativity to connect with nature.

Learn more about Renee Simmons Raney or order her books at www.reneeraney.com.

Sweet Home Alabama in New York City

Alabama’s Department of Travel and Tourism staged a week of high profile promotions on the streets of New York City in June to attract visitors to the state. Similar to promotions held in previous years, this year’s event focused on giving potential visitors a vision of what Alabama offers, and provided a vivid look at its landscape via virtual reality glasses that allowed viewers to “see” Little River Canyon National Preserve on Lookout Mountain in Fort Payne.

Tristan Dersham, 16, granddaughter of DeKalb County Tourism President and CEO John Dersham, accompanied her grandfather to New York for the experience and the two wrote about their experiences for Alabama Living:

The director of tourism for the state, Lee Sentell, invited my grandpa to serve as an ambassador for the Little River Canyon promotions, which included a 20-story tall photograph adhered to the side of a building near Madison Square Garden. It was breathtaking when we walked around the corner of 34th Street and 8th Avenue and there it was…gigantic, colorful and all lit up. It made us feel so proud of our state and our area.

Just think, Little River Canyon in New York City! It was a spot of bright green in a seemingly never-ending mile of shades of gray and black. Thousands of people were here on the streets walking around night and day and there was no way to miss this gigantic view of Little River Canyon. In addition to the skyscraper art, a miniature Lookout Mountain was built at the Flatiron North Plaza. The mountain was about the size of an average living room. You would climb steps to the top and at the top put on 3D goggles to view a 360-degree virtual Little River Canyon video.

I could not believe the sensation I had as I turned around 360 degrees looking at the canyon as if floating in the sky above, looking all around, up and down feeling like I was walking about the green lush forests below. Everyone loved it. There were lines all day to see it; in fact, we stayed an hour later than planned just to allow the line to go down.

Tristan and John Dersham helped welcome visitors in NYC.

Once visitors viewed the video, they were invited to have their picture taken in front of the mountain with the Empire State building in the background. They were emailed their picture with “Sweet Home Alabama in New York” embedded in the image. People from all around the world came to see Little River Canyon in New York City and they all were impressed. They said they’d like to visit Alabama and many who have never been to Alabama were in disbelief, as we did not look at all like they imagined.

Another Alabama tourism “Sweet Home Alabama” event during the week included a media event in Brooklyn to show and sample the Alabama craft breweries. The 360 video of Little River Canyon was shown there, too.

On another day, a large Mobile Mardi Gras float was in Times Square, with a live jazz band and costumed dancers.

My grandpa and I took lots of pictures and shared them on social media all during the week to help get the word out even more. This was a very successful week with thousands more people getting to witness our “real” Alabama. I think they will come see us.

See the 360° video for yourself. Click and drag while the video is playing to get the full effect.

Salad Days

Growing lettuces in the heat of summer and all year round

By Katie Jackson

This is such an excellent time to make cool, refreshing salads with the many summer fruits and vegetables currently available from home gardens and produce stands, but don’t forget that we can also add crisp homegrown salad greens to our plates, too.

Even though lettuces and other salad greens are considered cool-season crops, a number of heat-tolerant cultivars can be grown during the summer as long as we provide them with the proper growing conditions to weather the hot weather. Plus, it’s not too early to get ready for fall salad season and establish a growing system that provides fresh salad greens all year long.

The term “salad greens” includes several different leafy greens, most of which hail from three primary botanical families. Lettuces belong to the aster or sunflower family (Asteraceae); kale, arugula and mustard greens are members of the cabbage (Brassica) family; and spinach and chard are kin to the beet and quinoa (Amaranthaceae) family. Each of these greens has their own distinctive flavor and texture qualities, from sweet and delicate to spicy and fibrous, but the easiest of them to grow this time of year are the lettuces.

Lettuces are typically grouped into four major categories: crisphead (iceberg), loose leaf, romaine (cos) and butterhead (semi-heading). Loose leaf cultivars, which includes oakleaf lettuces, are usually the most heat tolerant followed by the butterheads. Crisphead and romaine lettuces are often the hardest to grow in the heat of summer; however, a number of heat-tolerant cultivars have been developed in all four of these lettuce categories, so the options are improving.

Since lettuce seeds are relatively inexpensive and store well (in a cool, dry place), consider buying seed for lots of different cultivars. That way you can try some now and have the others ready for use into the fall and throughout the year. This time of year it may be difficult to find prepackaged lettuce seed at local nursery centers but you can order them year-round from your favorite seed supplier.

Once you’ve got seeds in hand, the biggest challenge to growing a successful late summer lettuce crop is likely going to be soil temperature. Lettuce seeds will not germinate in soil or growing media that is warmer than 80 degrees so you may want to start the seeds in growing flats that can be kept indoors or in a cool, shaded outside area until the seedlings have emerged. They can then be transplanted into the garden, which this time of year should be in an area that gets morning sun and afternoon shade.

If you don’t have such a location or if it’s especially hot outside, cover them with a light layer of mulch or a shade cloth and keep them well watered.

Another planting option that is perfect this time of year (and any time of year) is to plant lettuce in containers that can be kept outside the kitchen door or inside the house in a warm (but not directly in the sun) location. That way you can better control air and soil temperatures and you’ll have lettuce close at hand when you’re ready to harvest some for a summer meal.

In addition, lettuces and other leafy greens are pretty so they make nice, edible ornamental plants for pots and in flowerbeds throughout the year.

If you want to have a crop of lettuce growing all the time, try succession planting. Just sow new batches of seed every two to three weeks throughout the year so as one crop tapers off, a new crop of fresh greens is coming on.

As you’re exploring all the late summer/early fall lettuce options, remember that now is also the time to begin buying and starting seeds for other fall crops such as bush beans, beets, carrots, cole crops (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and kohlrabi), leeks, mustards, onions, peas, radishes, spinach and turnips.

If you need guidance on what to plant when, check out the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s free Planting Guide for Home Gardening in Alabama publication, which can be found at www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-0063/ANR-0063.pdf or through your local Extension office.

Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at katielamarjackson@gmail.com.

For the future

Helping preserve critical habitats to keep them wild

With vast wild acreage of diverse habitats ranging from tidal marshes to mountain forests, Alabama offers sportsmen abundant places to enjoy the outdoors.

A little help from one non-profit organization can keep some of that habitat permanently wild. Based in Piedmont, Ala., the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust helps preserve about 325,000 acres in multiple states, with the majority in Alabama and Georgia.

“Our mission is to protect land for present and future generations,” says Katherine Eddins, executive director of Georgia-Alabama Land Trust. “We look to the future with a clear vision of our perpetual commitment to land conservation. We see a future where our rivers, coastlines and wild and working forests are preserved, cared for and cherished for the future use, enjoyment and education of generations to come.”

Ken Nichols next to a pine tree he planted when he was 14 on his family’s property in Dallas County. The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust helps preserve such lands across Alabama, Georgia and other states.

The land trust uses a legal agreement called a “conservation easement” to protect property. Under such an agreement, a landowner can continue using the property for hunting, farming or similar uses, but agrees to keep the land as natural as possible and never develop it commercially. The owner can sell the land or pass it down to heirs, but the conservation easement remains, keeping the land perpetually protected.

“A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between the land trust and the owner to protect the land,” Eddins says. “It changes the deed to the property so that the landowner keeps the land, but the owner’s intentions for that land are put into a legal document.

“An easement along the Cahaba River now protects 64 rare and imperiled plant and animal species, 13 of which are found nowhere else in the world.”

Landowners do not receive direct compensation for property put in easement. However, the land trust conducts a land appraisal. The landowner can then use that estimated value as a tax deduction.

“If people give up value like development rights from the use of their land for a conservation easement, the owners get a tax deduction for the value given up,” Eddins says. “The conservation easement donation can reduce estate, income and property taxes for the landowner.”

Most acreage preserved by easements remains private, but sometimes a government organization wants an easement for such public usage as trails, parks or wildlife management areas.

For instance, the land trust has been working to obtain easements to create a massive trail system connecting the Cloudland Canyon State Park in Georgia, just across the state line from Fort Payne, Ala., to Chattanooga, Tenn.

“We’re also working on another property just over the Georgia line where we partnered with Southeastern Cave Conservancy to create a cave preserve,” Eddins says. “We usually concentrate on more rural areas, but might work with a community to protect important property for parks or places with scenic value, perhaps for a green space plan. Even on private land, easements still help the people of Alabama because it’s conserved as wildlife habitat or for other natural uses. That benefits the quality of life for people living in that area.”

The land trust not only preserves land, but might also enhance or restore natural habitats. The organization did extensive work on restoring wetlands and critical native longleaf pine savannahs in Alabama and Georgia.

States prepare wildlife action plans that define habitat conservation priorities to protect flora and fauna within their boundaries. Sometimes, the organization seeks specific critical habitat it wants to enhance or preserve based upon those plans, but more often, individuals or groups ask for help with their lands. The organization also conducts periodic seminars on conservation easements.

“In Alabama, we need to focus on certain specific high-priority areas like parts of the Tombigbee or Coosa rivers,” Eddins says. “The Coosa River watershed, including the Choccolocco Creek watershed, is believed to support the largest number of endangered and threatened species found in any Alabama waterway of comparable size.

“We also rely upon the Alabama Forestry Commission’s guide on key working forest areas. We also look closely at soils. Food producing soils across Alabama and Georgia have been threatened by development over the past decade. Conservation easements can be used to preserve working farms and ranches.”

The non-profit organization receives funding from various sources, but most of it comes as donations from individuals passionate about conservation. Some foundations make donations. Sometimes, the land trust partners with other likeminded non-profit organizations, government agencies or corporations to collaborate on projects.

“We get a lot of phone calls from people interested in conserving their lands,” Eddins says. “The main way people find out about our work is through word of mouth. Our organization maintains a stewardship fund to ensure that we have the capacity to permanently monitor each easement annually. These funds, mainly built from contributions related to donated conservation easements, are not used for operations.”

To make a tax-deductible contribution, identify potential easement properties or obtain more information, contact the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust at 256-447-1006. On line, see www.galandtrust.org.

John N. Felsher is a freelance writer and photographer who writes from Semmes, Ala. Contact him through his website at www.JohnNFelsher.com