The Appalachians reach all the way to North Alabama—How to get involved in conservation efforts

View from Monte Sano
Monte Sano has some of the best views in the area. (Huntsville Adventurer on Facebook)

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it 1,000 times: the Huntsville area is growing quickly.

While that growth is certainly exciting for North Alabama residents, there are also consequences that must be considered, like the threat that rapid growth could pose to the natural world.

Below, we discuss the local areas that are most in need of preservation and what you can do about it.

Thrive Regional Partnership report

Cradle of Southern Appalachia Conservation Priority Model and Map
Conservation Priority Model and Map by Charlie Mix, University of Tennessee Chattanooga IGTLab (Thrive Regional Partnership)

Thrive Regional Partnership, a nonprofit that operates out of Chattanooga, released a report recently highlighting seven specific “Habitat Anchors,” or areas of highest priority for conservation efforts in “The Cradle of Southern Appalachia.” Those spots include:

  1. The Paint Rock Watershed (Jackson County, Alabama)
  2. The Cumberland Plateau (Marion County, Tennessee)
  3. Walden Ridge (Bledsoe/Sequatchie/Hamilton County, Tennessee)
  4. Lookout & Pigeon Mountains (Dade County, Georgia)
  5. The Appalachian Connector (Murray County, Georgia)
  6. The Southern Blue Ridge Mountains (Polk County, Tennessee)
  7. The Hiwasse River Corridor (Bradley/McMinn County, Tennessee)

Thrive’s Natural Treasures Alliance seeks to preserve local biodiversity and natural beauty by “(expanding) outdoor recreation opportunities and (espousing) regional conservation benchmarks,” starting with these seven spots in the Cradle of Southern Appalachia.

Thrive Regional Partnership’s goal

Thrive dashboard
This screenshot of the Thrive Landscape Conservation Priority Dashboard, taken at 1:27PM on Tuesday, Feb. 1, shows how far into Alabama the Cradle of Southern Appalachia reaches. Though conservation efforts are largely focused in Jackson and Dekalb Counties, the region stretches into Madison, Marshall, Etowah and Cherokee Counties. (Emily Phillips / Hville Blast)

Starting with the areas highlighted in the report, Thrive seeks to work alongside the business and transportation sectors to promote conservation and resilience to climate change. By 2055, the partnership seeks to achieve the following goals for the Cradle of Southern Appalachia Project:

  • Conserve at least 50% of unprotected forests in the region.
  • Improve water quality of at least 50% of polluted streams in the region
  • Keep common species common by protecting 90% of those at risk.
  • Foster conservation awareness and education.

Check out Thrive’s dashboard for the latest metrics.

Paint Rock Watershed

Paint Rock wildflowers
(Paint Rock Forest Research Center)

The Paint Rock Watershed, a 450-square-mile region around the Paint Rock River, is a treasure trove of biodiversity. Here’s some of what you’ll find in the area:

  • Alabama Lampmussel
  • Cerulean Warbler
  • Green salamander
  • Palezone Shiner
  • White fringeless orchid
  • 12 globally rare species of mussels
  • 90 species of troglobites (animals that dwell exclusively underground)

Most of the watershed is in Jackson County, Alabama, which is also known for its plethora of caves.

What can you do?

Land Trust of North Alabama
(Land Trust of North Alabama on Facebook)

Get involved in a conservation group

You don’t have to look far to find local and statewide conservation groups looking for new members. These groups know the land like no other, and they would love to have your help. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about how to conserve and preserve the natural world and maybe make some friends along the way.

Alabama residents can start here:

Enjoy nature!

Bolster your love for the natural world by getting out in it. The Huntsville/North Alabama area has lots of hiking trails, state parks and other ways to enjoy the great outdoors, like:


How have you taken part in local conservation efforts? Let us know on Facebook and Instagram.

Emily Phillips
Emily Phillips
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