Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Montgomery Advertiser Editorial Supports Clean Water/Cancer Risk Proposals

Montgomery Advertiser Editorial (Below) Supports Clean Water

Will ADEM follow...?


Stricter rules well justified

March 27, 2007
Alabama has one of the nation's highest cancer death rates. There are multiple reasons for that, but the sobering statistic plainly argues for efforts against known risk factors -- and thus for more stringent environmental regulations.

Alabama should adopt the recommendations of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which are used in most other states and which provide a significantly greater degree of protection than the standards of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. In the Southeast, only Alabama and Tennessee employ less protective pollution standards than EPA recommends.

The Alabama Environmental Management Commission, which oversees ADEM, was presented last week with three petitions calling for the adoption of the stricter standards. The petitions deserve the commission's serious attention.

The Press-Register reported that the petitions presented by environmental organizations urge ADEM to revise the cancer risk level used in the calculation of allowable pollution discharges and to cut the permitted levels of water pollutants. There are strong cases to be made for all the petitions.

Perhaps the most powerful argument is for changing the cancer risk calculations. Alabama's water quality rules are based on a 1 in 100,000 cancer risk from exposure to carcinogenic materials. In most states, the calculations are based on a 1 in 1 million risk -- 10 times more protective than Alabama's regulations.

One petition calls on ADEM to adopt a "relative source contribution" policy on some cancer-causing pollutants found throughout the environment, not only in water. This would take into account exposure in the air and in food. Current regulations address only exposure in water, meaning that Alabamians could have an overall exposure to these pollutants that exceeds levels EPA deems safe. Yet again, most states use this factor in establishing water quality formulas.

Another petition supports adopting EPA's "reference dose" rules on phenol, used in manufacturing nylon and plastics, and acrolein, used in making many chemicals and pesticides. This refers to the amount of a pollutant EPA deems safe to consume per day. ADEM's current regulations allow significantly more discharge of these materials than EPA recommends.

The fact that most states already have higher water quality standards should tell Alabamians something. Claims that stricter standards hurt economic development are nonsense. They certainly didn't prevent Georgia's landing the Kia plant or Mississippi's getting the Toyota plant, to name but two recent examples.

With the nation's sixth highest cancer death rate, Alabama clearly does not lack for justification in adopting stricter water quality standards.

Times Daily Editorial - Safe Water - Published 3/25

Times Daily Calls for Clean Water. Below is their editorial.

Will ADEM follow....?


It probably comes as no surprise to those who follow state government that Alabama has some of the most lax water quality laws in the nation, allowing industries to discharge chemicals into state waterways at much higher levels than other states allow.

A group of environmental advocacy groups last week submitted three petitions to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, encouraging the regulatory agency to adopt the strictest regulations recommended by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Other southeastern states -- with the exception of Tennessee -- already adhere to the stricter guidelines.

It's time for ADEM to join other state regulatory agencies and insist that the state's water be as clean as possible.

The petitions, filed by the Alabama Rivers Alliance and other groups, focus on chemicals that cause cancer. About 60 chemicals are identified in the petitions.

The goal, according to the environmental groups, is to sharply reduce the risk of cancer in Alabama residents.

"The goal of is to improve the regulations at ADEM and get them to comply with their own policies," Adam Synder, director of the Alabama Rivers Alliance, told the Mobile Register last week. "We want them to meet the recommended standards that EPA has produced."

That's not a radical or unreasonable request. Alabama is rich in inland waterways, which makes it attractive to manufacturers. ADEM and its controlling board, the Alabama Environmental Management Council, should act quickly to adopt these guidelines.

Alabama allows residents to eat fish with comparatively elevated levels of PCBs, and uses a cancer risk ratio of 1 in 100,000 in its water quality rules. Other states, using the EPA regulations, allow a 1 in a million risk ratio.

Tennessee Valley residents have experienced their share of water quality hazards in the past. Mercury has been an especially troubling pollutant in Tennessee River fish. The heavy metal was discharged by manufacturers along the Tennessee River in years past.

There is no reason ADEM and its board should hesitate adopting EPA guidelines. Earlier recommendations to the board for stricter environmental guidelines and enforcement have received little attention, which probably has something to do with the state's poor funding for the agency.

Alabamians deserve a better regulated environment than the one they are now living in. Adopting the EPA water discharge regulations would do much to correct that problem.

BEN - March 23, 2007 #281

1) Alabama Undisputed Crawfish King
2) Alabama's EPA Performance Track Members
3) Fort Morgan On Endangered List
4) Tennessee Valley Sets 117 Year Drought Record
5) BEN Notes: Position Open At 4H Center, Spring Burst Hike Series, Alabama Rivers Alliance Ongoing Online Auction, AEC Green Tie Affair, Earth Fest Run for the Crest, Discovery Day at Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Tallapoosa State of the Watershed, Earth Day at the Hays Nature Preserve


1. Alabama Undisputed Crawfish King - Here is a story that can be used to tout Alabama's abundant biodiversity.

Last month, according to the Mobile Register, nationally recognized crawfish scientists identified the state of Alabama as the "most biologically diverse" in the number of crawfish species in the country. Here are some of the findings:

* Alabama has 83 species of crawfish, six (6) more than Tennessee, the next most diverse state.

* Some creeks in Alabama have more than twice as many species of crawfish as are known in all of Europe.

* 2/3 of the world's species of crawfish are found in the U.S. and 95% of those are in the Southeast.

* Alabama has 46 more species of crawfish than mudbug farming Louisiana.

Interest in crawfish diversity, especially in Alabama, has grown since 2004 when Press Register reporters captured a thought to be extinct crawfish species called the "rusty gravedigger". Steve Rider, aquatic resources coordinator with the Department of Conservation has also been instrumental for securing funding to do a crawfish survey in the state. According to Rider, there may be an additional 10-12 species of crawfish that have never been identified.

2. Alabama's EPA Performance Track Members - Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Environmental Performance Track Program had reached the 470 member mark. This innovative partnership program recognizes facilities that set three year goals for continuous improvements in environmental performance beyond their legal requirements, have internal systems in place to manage their environmental impacts, engage in local outreach about their performance and publicly report results.

The following Alabama companies and one governmental agency are members:

3M Decatur - Decatur, Alabama
3M Guin - Guin, Alabama
Aaron Oil Company - Saraland, Alabama
BF Goodrich Tire Manufacturing - Opelika, Alabama
BF Goodrich Tire Manufacturing - Tuscaloosa, Alabama
International Paper Courtland Mill - Courtland, Alabama
JJefferson County Commission General Services Department
Louisiana - Pacific, Hanceville OSB - Hanceville, Alabama
Michelin North America, Inc - US4 Dothan AL - Midland City, Alabama
Tate & Lyle Sucralose. Inc. - McIntosh, Alabama
Washington Group International - ANCDF - Anniston, Alabama

Since it's inception in 2000 Performance Track members nationally have collectively reduced their water use by 3.5 billion gallons, reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 88,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent and conserved more than 14,000 acres of land. For more info about EPA's Performance Track Program visit, http://www.epa.gov/performancetrack

3. Fort Morgan On Endangered List - Last week, the Civil War Preservation Trust ranked Fort Morgan as one of the nation's top 10 most endangered battle sites for the second straight year.

The group cited neglect, storm damage, staff shortages, insufficient maintenance and concerns that the 173 year old installation has fallen into significant disrepair as it's reasons for the rankings. The owner of the facility, the Alabama Historical Commission is also facing potential budget cuts, but may see some relief with $3.3 million in one-time money for repairs and construction resulting from a potential state bond. Despite that one time shot in the arm, the master plan adopted two years ago by the Commission recommended some $21 million in work on Fort Morgan over the next decade.

For more information about top ten ranking go to http://www.civilwar.org

4. Tennessee Valley Sets 117 Year Drought Record - According to the Tennessee Valley Authority, the time span between December, January and February in the Tennessee Valley has been the driest in the 117 years of record keeping. Beyond the Tennessee Valley region, National Weather Service hydrologist Brian stated in the Birmingham News that northeast Alabama and the southern Cumberland Plateau counties in Tennessee are even drier and are in a severe drought.

Moving South, in the Birmingham region, January and February were the driest since 1986 and is 7 inches below normal rainfall, according to Scott Unger, a meteorologist for the Weather Service. The dry weather has resulted in a number of wildfires. Since the beginning of wildfire season on March 1, there have been 780 fires that have burned over 18,500 acres according to the Forestry Commission.

5. BEN Notes: Position Open At 4H Center, Spring Burst Hike Series, Alabama Rivers Alliance Ongoing Online Auction, AEC Green Tie Affair, Earth Fest Run for the Crest, Discovery Day at Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Tallapoosa State of the Watershed, Earth Day at the Hays Nature Preserve

Positions Open At 4H Center - There are a number of seasonal and full-time positions open at the Alabama 4-H Center. Visit for details - http://www.aces.edu/4hcenter/JobOpportunities.php

Spring Burst Hike Series - The Land Trust of Huntsville and North Alabama recently launched their annual "Spring Burst" Hike Series. Check out their scheduled hikes at

Alabama Rivers Alliance Ongoing Online Auction - The Alabama Rivers Alliance has been holding an innovative online auction this month to support their efforts. One of their auction items includes an Toyota Prius. Check it out at http://www.cmarket.com/catalog/landingPage.do?vhost=alabamarivers

AEC Green Tie Affair - The Alabama Environmental Council will be holding its 11th Annual Green Tie Affair Dinner and Party on April 13th, 6:00 at the B&A Warehouse in Birmingham. For details about this exciting event go to - http://www.aeconline.ws .

Earth Fest "Run for the Crest" - Alabama Earth Fest will be holding "Run for the Crest" and Music Festival on April 14th at Oak Mountain State Park. For information on how to register for the event go to: http://www.AlabamaEarthFest.org

Discovery Day at Dauphin Island Sea Lab - Come celebrate Discovery Day - Dauphin Island Sea Lab's Annual Open House - and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's 200th year of programs on April 14th, 9:00 AM at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, North Campus. For information about the day's activities visit, http://www.disl.org .

Tallapoosa State of the Watershed - The Tallapoosa Watershed Project will be holding their 3rd Annual State of Our Watershed Conference on April 20th at the Oscar C. Dunn Rotary Environmental Education Center, Camp ASCCA, Jackson Gap, Alabama. For complete conference information and registration go to http://www.twp.auburn.edu

Earth Day at the Hays Nature Preserve - Celebrate Earth Day at the Hays Nature Preserve on the Flint River in Huntsville, Alabama, 10:00 AM to 3: 00 PM on April 21st. This family friendly event will include eco-hikes, lectures and exhibitors. For more information, including maps and directions, call Soos Weber at 256-427-5116 or visit http://www.huntsvillepreserves.com


The Bama Environmental News is edited and published by Pat Byington. To receive back copies of BEN go to http://www.BamaNews.com . If you would like to be removed from this e-mail listserve contact BEN at pkbyington@aol.com .

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Malcolm Pierson

Many people in the environmental community were shocked to learn this weekend that Malcolm Pierson had passed away.

One of Alabama's finest biologist, Malcolm was also a wonderful nature photgrapher. In fact, one of his photos of a beautiful green frog hangs in my daughter's bedroom.

We will all miss Malcolm.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

BEN - March 12, 2007 #280

1) Bill to Ban Gill Net Fishing Introduced
2) Groups to Petition ADEM on Cancer Risk
3) Canal Cut Through Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Proposed
4) BEN Notes: Camp ASCCA Dir. of Environmental Education Position, World Wildlife Fund Southeast Rivers and Streams Grants Available, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program's New Updated Website, AWF's Governor Conservation Achievement Awards, Chevrolet Sponsors AWF Wild Game Cook-Offs, Audubon Mountain Workshop, Commute Smart in Birmingham


Jerome Ringo, Chair of the National Wildlife Federation's Board of Directors will be speaking at Birmingham Southern College on Thursday, March 15, 4:00 at the Norton Theater on Campus. His topic will be "A Changing Environment, A Sense of Urgency." The lecture is free to the public.


1. Bill to Ban Gill Net Fishing Introduced - According to the Mobile Register, state legislators Rep. Jamie Ison of Mobile and Sen. Pat Lindsey of Butler plan to introduce a bill that will ban commercial gill nets, a controversial form of fishing that is largely unrestricted in Alabama, but has been curtailed and or banned in other states.

As described by the Register, commercial gill nets in Alabama can be almost a half mile long, The clear monofilament nets hang like curtains in the water, trapping and killing most large fish that swim in them. On any given night, 54 miles of nets can be stretched out along Alabama's 55 mile long coastline by Alabama's 120 licensed gill netters. Since the mid 1990s commercial gill net harvests have dramatically increased, while the practice has been effectively ended in neighboring Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida.

The ban is supported by scientists with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, who believe gill net fishery is to blame for a "localized depletion" of mullet, Spanish mackerel, pompano and other species of fish from Mobile Bay and the nearshore areas in the Gulf of Mexico. The Coastal Conservation Association Alabama Chapter has launched a website and statewide campaign supporting the ban. You can visit their website at http://www.bangillnets.com .

2. Groups to Petition ADEM on Cancer Risk - Last month, at the Alabama Environmental Management Commission meeting in Montgomery, the Alabama Rivers Alliance and a coalition of groups, announced their plans to petition the Commission to start rulemaking on three proposals to strengthen and improve Alabama's cancer risk and public health standards.

On the first petition, the groups are asking the Commission to upgrade and strengthen Alabama's cancer risk standard to that of every Southeastern state except for one. On the second and third proposals, the groups are asking the Commission to follow the Environmental Protection Agency's recommended standards and criteria for regulating pollutants.

The following are the rule changes being discussed and proposed by the Alabama Rivers Alliance:

# Revision of the cancer risk level in formulas used to calculate water quality criteria for 58 carcinogens. This revision would result in a 90% reduction in authorized pollution levels for these carcinogens. The majority of states in the country and all but one other state in the Southeast have already adopted the cancer risk level being proposed.

# Inclusion of a "Relative Source Contribution" factor in the formulas used to calculate water quality criteria and designation of "Relative Source Contribution" values for 14 non-carcinogens. Typically, this revision would result in an 80% reduction in authorized pollution levels for these non-carcinogens. The EPA recommends the use of the "Relative Source Contributions" factor and values being proposed.

# Revision of the Reference Dose values for Acrolein and Phenol. These revisions would result in a 97% reduction in the authorized levels of Acrolein and a 50% reduction in the authorized level of Phenol. EPA reevaluated and revised the reference dose values for these pollutants several years ago.

For more information about these rulemaking proposals, contact the Alabama Rivers Alliance at 205-322-6395.

3. Canal Cut Through Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Proposed - According to the Decatur Daily, the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge has received a permit request to cut a waterway through a narrow portion of the refuge to serve barges hauling petroleum gas products from a proposed fuel port. Permission for the request is unlikely according to refuge manager Dwight Cooley because the canal is incompatible with the refuge's purpose as a wildlife sanctuary.

The request was made by the Huntsville-Madison County Mariana and Port Authority. The proposal calls for a 300 foot wide canal stretching 800 feet across the refuge to private property. It would be directly south of Huntsville International Airport. The fuel port facility would have two pipelines, one directly serving the airport and another pumping fuel to a gas tank farm near Interstate 65 and Interstate 565.

4. BEN Notes - Camp ASCCA Dir. of Environmental Education Position, World Wildlife Fund Southeast Rivers and Streams Grants Available, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program's New Updated Website, AWF's Governor Conservation Achievement Awards, Chevrolet Sponsors AWF Wild Game Cook-Offs, Audubon Mountain Workshop, Commute Smart in Birmingham

Camp ASCCA Dir. of Environmental Education Position - Easter Seals Camp ASCCA is seeking a Director of Environmental Education - Program Specialist. The director will be in charge of maintaining and developing the Dunn Environmental Education Center's programs. For additional information about this program and position call Camp ASCCA at 256-825-9226 or visit their website at http://www.campascca.org .

World Wildlife Fund Southeast Rivers and Streams Grants Available - The World Wildlife Fund is requesting proposals for it's Southeast Rivers and Streams Grant program. To learn about the program, contact Judy Takats via email at Judy.Takats@wwfus.org or 615-279-1814.

Mobile Bay National Estuary Program's New Updated Website - The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program has just re-launched a new and improved website. Check it out at http://www.mobilebaynep.com

AWF's Governor Conservation Achievement Awards - The Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) is seeking nominations for the 2007 AWF's Governor's Conservation Achievement Awards. Categories range from Conservation Organization of the Year to Educator of the Year. For additional details and information about the nomination process, contact AWF at 800-822-9453.

Chevrolet Sponsors AWF Wild Game Cook-Offs - Throughout the year, the Alabama Wildlife Federation will most likely schedule a "Wild game Cook-Off" in community near you. This year these events are sponsored by Chevrolet. Make sure to bookmark the following link - to learn about the latest event coming to your hometown - http://www.alabamawildlife.org/heritage/wildgame_cookoffs.asp

Audubon Mountain Workshop - The Birmingham Audubon Society will be holding their annual Audubon Mountain Workshop from May 10-13 in Mentone. Check out details on how to register at http://www.birminghamaudubon.org .

Commute Smart in Birmingham - This is timely. Want to combat rising gas prices by doing something that protects the environment and saves you money? CommuteSmart Birmingham maintains a regional database that matches up individuals that take similar routes to work. Currently, there are nearly 2000 commuters in the database that are seeking carpool partners. For more information, contact CommuteSmart at 1-87-RIDEMATCH or visit http://www.commutesmart.org

BEN - February 22, 2007 #279

1) Alabama Coastal Cleanup 2006 Numbers
2) Alabama Land Trust Protects Nearly 8500 Acres in 2006
3) JSU Field Schools: Over 100 Programs for 2007
4) Southern Research Institute "Clean-Up Facts" Website
5) BEN Notes: UA Seeking Museum Naturalist, WWF Report on the Tennessee, Cumberland and Mobile Basins, Mulberry Race and Festival, The Undersea Adventures of Mike deGruy, Brookside Greenway Festival, Alabama Rivers Alliance 10th Anniversary Celebration


1. Alabama Coastal Cleanup 2006 Numbers - This year's 19th Annual Alabama Coastal Cleanup numbers are in, and once again there are some pretty impressive numbers, good and bad.

"The Good" - Within a four hour morning on September 16, 2006, within 24 cleanup zones along the Gulf Coast in Baldwin and Mobile Counties, as well in Covington and Conecuh Counties, 3000 volunteers removed debris from 200 miles of coastline. Since the program began in 1987, 44,946 volunteers have participated in Alabama, cleaning 2,773 miles of coastline.

"The Bad" - In 2006, volunteers removed a stunning 80,000 pounds of debris. Since the program began a total of 923,710 pounds of debris has been removed from Alabama's coastline.

A very effective program, to learn more about the Alabama Coastal Cleanup, and how to participate for 2007, visit http://www.AlabamaCoastalCleanup.com

2. Alabama Land Trust Protects Nearly 8500 Acres in 2006 - According to the Alabama Land Trust's (ALT) latest newsletter, the group protected more than nearly 8500 acres throughout Alabama in 2006.

Working with nineteen different landowners, ALT secured conservation easements ranging from 20 acres to 2000 acres. Land was protected in nearly every region in the state, including the Florence area, the Tallapoosa River Area, the Black Belt Region and the Northeast corner of Alabama.In total, ALT has protected 30,953 acres in Alabama, including 9,769 acres of Black Belt Prairie Ecosystem lands.

To learn more about the Alabama Land Trust and their many programs, visit their website at http://www.allandtrust.org

3. JSU Field Schools: Over 100 Programs for 2007 - The Jacksonville State University (JSU) Field Schools just released their 2007 Calendar of Events and Programs. This year, there are over 100 programs scheduled.

Since 1989, the JSU Field Schools, through their various partners have reached out to more than 200,000 people. Along with their programs, construction of the $6 million Little River Center will be begin in 2007. The new center, which will include innovative Green Building standards, will be home to the National Park Service, a conference center and multiple environmental education displays and programs. To access the 2007 program calendar and learn more about the JSU Field Schools, visit http://fieldschool.jsu.edu

4. Southern Research Institute "Clean-Up Facts" Website - Here is a good story about a proactive voluntary cleanup effort.

In 1941, the Southern Research Institute (SRI) was founded in Birmingham as a not for profit scientific research center. In 1952, the Institute purchased approximately 200 acres in North Shelby County near Chelsea. Approximately 0.8 of an acre of this property was used to dispose of lab waste from the 1950s to 1979. At the time, in the 50s, there were no regulations or guidelines for disposal of lab wastes. Of course that changed in the late 70s and the early 80s.

Presently, Southern Research has taken significant and proactive strides to voluntarily cleanup the site, and recently secured approval from ADEM to enact a cleanup plan. SRI has even created a website to educate and update the community about the cleanup. That link can be found here http://www.cleanupfacts.org

5. BEN Notes: UA Seeking Museum Naturalist, WWF Report on the Tennessee, Cumberland and Mobile Basins, Mulberry Race and Festival, The Undersea Adventures of Mike deGruy, Brookside Greenway Festival, Alabama Rivers Alliance 10th Anniversary Celebration

UA Seeking Museum Naturalist - The University of Alabama Museums is seeking a Museum Naturalist. For more information and how to apply go to http://www.jobs.ua.edu

WWF Report on the Tennessee, Cumberland and Mobile Basins - The World Wildlife Fund has released a report on aquatic species and habitat information for 29 watersheds within the Tennessee, Cumberland and Mobile Basins. You can read the report at: http://www.worldwildlife.org/wildplaces/sers/projects.cfm

Mulberry Race and Festival - Check out one of Alabama's best whitewater races and events, the Mulberry Race and Festival, March 3 & 4. For more information visit the Friends of Locust Fork website at http://www.flfr.org . To volunteer, contact Sam Howell at 205-684-4751 or showell@brescoinc.com

The Undersea Adventures of Mike deGruy - Don't miss "The Undersea Adventures of Mike deGruy" on Tuesday, March 6th, 7:00pm at the Saenger Theater in Mobile. There will also be a special pre-reception between 5:30-6:45pm. Order your tickets today through the Alabama Coastal Foundation at 251-990-6002. For additional details visit http://www.brooksidealabama.com or contact Francesca Gross at 205-264-8464.

Alabama Rivers Alliance 10th Anniversary Celebration - The Alabama Rivers Alliance will be holding their 10th Anniversary Celebration/Watershed Leadership Conference on March 16-18 at Camp McDowell. National Wildlife Federation's Chair Jerome Ringo will be among the impressive list of speakers and guests. For more information about this event go to http://www.alabamarivers.org or call 205-322-6395. Scholarships are still available.

Mary Burks

Dear BEN Readers:

On Friday, February 16th, Mary Burks, the mother of Alabama's environmental movement and founder of the Alabama Conservancy, passed away at 86 years of age.

My relationship with Mary and Bob Burks started nearly 18 years ago in September 1989, when I became Executive Director of the Alabama Conservancy. Despite it's small office space, Kaypro computer and very modest conference room, the Alabama Conservancy was the epicenter of Alabama's environmental movement in those days. The "environmental forum" a coalition of all the environmental groups met there, mainly because it was the only place to meet. Leaders of all the groups dropped by. It was the movement's clubhouse. And then there was Mary and Bob Burks.

They volunteered weekly, always focused on the task they were there for. Bob always smiled, talked a little, even debated a little, and then focused like a laser beam on the Conservancy's financial work. Then there was Mary. She always wanted to know how things were going. She tutored me about the Conservancy, it's history and it's future, it's people, the stories, the issues, the land and the organization's mission to care for Alabama's environment, protect it and preserve it. As head of membership at the time, Mary organized mailing parties, stuffing envelopes, placing address labels on the envelopes, and sealing them.

Here was the founder of the organization stuffing envelopes!

These were golden opportunities. As we sat in that conference room, Mary would talk about the Sipsey Wilderness, Blanche Dean or how the Conservancy started recycling in Birmingham. It was such a gift. And it was always neat to see Bob walk in after completing the financial/treasurer's work, to join in sealing the letters and then chiming in with his own stories. Their stories enriched and touched the lives of the volunteers, most of whom were students - the next generation.

A little over a year ago in Anniston, we were able to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Eastern Wilderness Act, the law that created the Sipsey Wilderness. It was a grand reunion organized by Pete Conroy and his group at Jacksonville State University. Mary and Bob were there, along with two former congressmen and John Randolph, a former Conservancy Executive Director and author of "The Battle for Alabama's Wilderness." I remember former Congressman Ronnie Flippo from Florence saying that one of his greatest accomplishments in Congress was the expansion of the Sipsey Wilderness.

The idea for Eastern Wilderness was founded in Alabama. In Randolph's book, the chapter titled "It's Impossible" details how a group of Alabamians embarked on a campaign to create the Sipsey Wilderness - an Eastern Wilderness - something the Forest Service said could never be done. Mary Burks organized a Wilderness Feasibility Study Committee, a group that contained true giants in their fields of study. People like Tom Imhof, author of Alabama Birds, Blanche Dean and Louise "Weesie" Smith, (botany), Charles Kelly (game wildlife), Mike Howell (ichthyology), Dan Holliman (nongame wildlife), Mike Hopiak and James Peavey (herpetology), Denny Bearce (Geology), Dale Carruthers (history), James and Fran Alexander (speleology) and James Manasco (trails). Along with the study group, a public campaign was launched through Birmingham Audubon's Walter Coxe. A film-The Bankhead Forest - An Alabama Adventure, was produced by photographers Perry Covington and Dennis Holt, and edited by Elberta Reid.

The wilderness campaign eventually secured the support of the entire Alabama congressional delegation. Commenting in Randolph's book years later, Mary stated about the grassroots wilderness movement, "We didn't have any idea what we were doing. We learned believe me. We learned the hard way."

After the six year Wilderness campaign (1969-1975), not only was the Sipsey Wilderness created but an entire Eastern Wilderness Area System was established. In Alabama, 32 years later, we now have 41,000 + acres of wilderness and hundreds of thousands of acres designated as wilderness in the East.

Mary's ongoing struggle to protect the designated wilderness was not the sum of her effort. She strived everyday to add or enhance the beauty of Alabama from wildflowers to our Natural Wonders.In her latter years, her knees prevented her to see and touch the beauty she loved so dearly, but it never diminished the strength of her conviction to protect and preserve it.

One final quote from Randolph's book best describes Mary. "If one believes in fate, then surely Mary Burks was fated to become the mother of Alabama wilderness preservation. Passionate, tough, and resilient, a lover of all things wild and natural..."

Somewhere out there Mary is looking down on all of us. There is so much more to be done. A new champion needs to step forward. Who will that be?

I know Mary is saying "Get Busy!"

Best Wishes,
Pat Byington
BEN Publisher