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A lone pine tree stands tall on a narrow peninsula along a bay
Information icon Weeks Bay marsh, Alabama. Photo by Weeks Bay NERR.

Gateway to Weeks Bay conserved for future generations

Whether gliding through the mouth of Weeks Bay by motor or paddle craft, the first strip of land that catches a voyager’s eye is the East Gateway Tract. The tract is roughly 175 acres of critically important and diverse land that includes micro-dune habitat, tidal streams, marshland, and forested wetlands. The water surrounding East Gateway is a prime fishing location with a prevalence of redfish and speckled trout, which is not to be outdone by the bird watching opportunities on the tract, as it provides wonderful habitat for migratory birds. Frequent sightings include bald eagles, ospreys, herons, egrets, and rails.

A half dozen small white and grey birds on a beach covered in shells
Piping plovers. Photo by USFWS.

Other frequent visitors to Weeks Bay and the lands and waters surrounding the site include manatees, piping plovers, Alabama red-bellied turtles, and gopher tortoises. West Indian manatees are known to swim into Weeks Bay as they move from Mobile Bay during the winter months. Piping plovers often use small dunes like the habitat that can be found there. Alabama red-bellied turtles swim in and nest along side channels and small tributaries of Mobile Bay. Gopher tortoises have been found close to the area. All four of these species are listed as either threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Similarly, the diamondback terrapin, an Alabama state species of concern, has been found in upland areas of the site. All of these species will benefit from the recent land acquisition project which conserves this land for future generations.

A turtle on sandy soil hiding within it's shell
Alabama red-bellied turtle. Photo by Josh Roswell, USFWS.

“The East Gateway tract is the front porch of Weeks Bay. The acreage provides incredible habitat for fish and wildlife and invites people into the Bay. The water surrounding East Gateway is a prime fishing location with a prevalence of redfish and speckled trout,” said Yael Girard, Weeks Bay Foundation Land Consultant. “The Foundation and East Gateway owners worked for years to find a way to protect the land from development. This acquisition is a tremendous achievement for conservation, recreation, and future research.”

The East Gateway Tract was purchased with Deepwater Horizon settlement funds through a land acquisition project approved by the Alabama Trustee Implementation Group in September 2018. The land is now owned and will be managed by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources State Lands Division. As a part of the project, money also will be dedicated to examining an old bulkhead that is on the property to determine the best way to address the old structure.

A man on a stand-up paddleboard on a calm bay in front of a sunset
A paddleboarder on Weeks Bay. Photo by Weeks Bay Foundation.

“Restoring and protecting the shoreline is vital to the project,” said Dianne Ingram, Restoration Biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Gulf Restoration Office. “As a member of the Alabama Trustee Implementation Group, the Service and our partners worked to get this project from proposal to implementation. It’s been wonderful to see this project cross the finish line, especially given its proximity to our Fairhope office.”

Conservation of the Tract will keep the front facing land of Weeks Bay, and its associated hydrology, intact for generations. Learn more about the project.

Contact

Taylor Pool, Public Affairs Specialist
taylor_pool@fws.gov

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