National Wildlife Refuge
|P.O. Box 5087
Fort McClellan, AL 36205
Phone Number: 256-848-6833
|Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
|Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge in the fall.|
Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge
Mountain Longleaf NWR is located within the Southern Appalachian Mountains between Atlanta, Georgia (90 miles) and Birmingham, Alabama (60 miles). The City of Anniston, Alabama is located adjacent to the refuge.
The refuge is situated along the rugged landscape of Choccolocco Mountain, one of the highest mountain ridges in Alabama. High elevation vistas (2063 feet ASL) provide an array of beautiful fall colors and breathtaking views of the surrounding region. Hardwood forests along mountain ridges contain species typical of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the north, while slopes and lower elevations are covered by longleaf pine and hardwoods commonly associated with the Coastal Plain.
The refuge was established on the former Fort McClellan military installation in 2003. Protection and management of old-growth and second-growth longleaf pine forests were the primary purposes for establishing the new refuge. Only in northwest Alabama and northeast Georgia do longleaf pine forests extend north of the Coastal Plain into the Appalachian Mountains. In recent years, this area has collectively become known as the Mountain Longleaf Pine Region.
A hundred years of army wildfires have maintained healthy longleaf pine forests over much of the refuge. Without recurring fire, these same forests have disappeared from much of the surrounding region. The refuge provides a unique laboratory for studying and understanding the natural composition of fire maintained second and old-growth longleaf pine forests.
Getting There . . .
Mountain Longleaf NWR is located in Calhoun County, Alabama adjacent to the City of Anniston. Visitors traveling along I-20 from Atlanta (east) can leave the Interstate at Exit 199 (Heflin), and travel 12 miles north on Highway 9 to the Joseph Springs Motorway. Turn left on the motorway at the "T" intersection with Choccolocco Road turn right and then immediately turn left onto Bain's Gap Road to enter the refuge. Visitors traveling along I-20 from Birmingham (west) can leave the Interstate at Exit 185 (Oxford), and travel 12 miles north on Highway 21 to the former Fort McClellan military installation. Turn right into McClellan and follow the roadway to Bain's Gap Road and the refuge.
Refuge headquarters is located within the former Fort McClellan cantonment area and provides information and brochures for the refuge.
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The primary purpose for establishing the refuge was to restore and maintain longleaf pine forests remaining on former army lands. While training related wildfires maintained some of these forests, many areas experienced fewer and less frequent fires, and are currently in dire need of restoration. Restoration efforts involve reestablishing a recurring fire regime and opening fire-suppressed longleaf pine forests to sunlight. Without recurring fire, many forests have developed a closed canopy of encroaching hardwoods. In the absence of sunlight on the forest floor, longleaf pine seedlings fail to germinate in this fire suppressed forest. Without aggressive restoration efforts, older trees will eventually die and the future forest will be dominated entirely by hardwoods. The longleaf pine forest that once dominated the landscape will only be a memory.
Longleaf pine forests are only one of many diverse and rare natural communities on the refuge. The mountains create a diversity of environmental conditions that support a wide variety of plants and animals. The landscape can be viewed as a mosaic of communities embedded in a fire adapted longleaf pine forest matrix. Refuge natural communities have evolved within a fire environment and are all dependent to some extent on a continuing fire regime. For example, seepage wetlands burn infrequently because of high moisture and are often not associated with fire. Without occasional fires during extreme drought, we have now learned that many orchids and other rare plants will eventually disappear from the wetland. Because fire historically affected all refuge natural communities, restoration and fire will be directed at a broad ecosystem level.