The Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) is Alabama's largest non-profit conservation organization. Founded in 1935 by a small group of hunters and fishermen, the AWF strives to promote conservation and management of the state's wildlife and natural resources as well as to advance the interests of hunters, anglers, and other outdoor sports enthusiasts.
The AWF is a private organization with approximately 20,000 members who represent diverse groups and all areas of Alabama. AWF creates educational and experiential learning programs throughout the state that work to preserve the state's natural areas. AWF uses its "Outdoor Classrooms" to present the programs and also hosts teacher-training workshops. All funding for the organization's efforts comes from dues and donations from members and interested parties.
Headquartered in Millbrook, in southwestern Elmore County, the AWF is controlled by a board of directors and managed by a full-time staff of 17 members. The staff manages day-to-day operations and implements and oversees the organization's programs, which include conservation programs developed for schools, educations grants, teacher workshops, wildlife seminars, distribution of educational publications, and assistance with materials for other civic organizations such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
The AWF also provides assistance to farmers and landowners who wish to implement conservation-oriented farming and land management practices that improve wildlife habitat and minimize damage to sensitive areas such as wetlands and forests. The primary program is the Land Stewardship Assistance Program, a partnership among the AWF, other private organizations, the Alabama Forestry Commission, and the U.S. Forest Service. This program focuses on such conservation efforts as border plantings along farm fields to provide food and shelter for wildlife, wetland preservation, timber management, and runoff and pollution control along waterways.
AWF headquarters is also home to the Alabama Nature Center, located on 350 acres that formerly belonged to Lanark, the estate of Isabel Hill of Millbrook. The land includes five miles of trails and boardwalks that meander through wetlands and forests and past ponds and streams. Visitors can take part in AWF-sponsored field trips and education programs at the facility.
Much of the work of the AWF is conducted through partnerships with related private organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, and the Coastal Conservation Association. For example, AWF partners with and sponsors the Alabama Black Bear Alliance, a coalition of diverse organizations dedicated to the conservation of the black bear in Alabama through research, education, and habitat management. This alliance is working to ensure the preservation and health of a small population of black bears in the southern part of the state. The Alabama Hunting & Fishing Conservation Alliance, established in 2000, is another example of a private cooperative alliance. This group of 15 participating organizations works together to lobby for legislation that promotes sustainable hunting and fishing practices and wildlife and natural resource conservation.
AWF also works with state and federal government agencies. One of the most successful such partnerships is that between the AWF, the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust, and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which resulted in the purchase and protection of 50,000 acres of prime wildlife habitat in the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta in the southern part of the state in July 1999. AWF alone was responsible for the purchase of 12,000 of those acres. The property, known as the Clearwater Tract, is adjacent to another 50,000-acre tract that had already been purchased by the state. Together, these purchases protect prime delta swamps and wetlands and form one of the largest contiguous tracts of remnant delta habitat in the United States.
Another partnership with state conservation departments and private organizations resulted in the Roads to Reefs program. This program recycles concrete rubble and other clean debris from road construction projects and, along with donated labor, uses the debris to build artificial reefs in Mobile Bay estuaries. In February 2000, the first of 10 reefs was completed at Choctaw Pass near the mouth of the Mobile River. Eight additional reefs will be constructed in Mobile Bay and a ninth in Mississippi Sound, within Alabama boundaries. These artificial reefs provide cover habitat for prey fish and crustaceans and mollusks, which in turn attract predator and game fish, enhancing recreational fishing opportunities. In yet another partnership, the AWF is working with state, federal, university, and private entities on the Alabama Quail Trail, which aims to encourage and support land-management techniques that promote nesting and cover sites for native wild quail as well as economic development in rural areas.
The AWF provides valuable assistance and expertise to private landowners in the improvement of wildlife habitat. These efforts increase populations of native mammals and birds and enhance hunting success for game animals and game birds. The organization's education outreach increases conservation awareness, especially among younger audiences, ensuring that future generations will understand the importance of Alabama's native wildlife and natural areas. The AWF is able to provide additional outreach and landowner assistance that is beyond the budget of likeminded state and governmental organizations.