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Purple and transluscent salamander on a forest floor
Information icon Red Hills salamander. Photo by Emmett Blankenship, USFWS

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources conserve salamander habitat

MONROEVILLE, ALABAMA – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources celebrated Thursday the acquisition of nearly 5,000 acres for the federally threatened Red Hills salamander.

In all, 11,000 acres of prime salamander habitat in south Alabama will be protected and opened for recreation, including hunting. The Service awarded $9 million in endangered species recovery grants – the largest ever distributed in the Southeast – to Alabama for conservation at the Forever Wild Red Hills Complex.

“This project is an excellent example of focused work, all of us working together to recover listed and at risk species,” said Leo Miranda-Castro, regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the South Atlantic-Gulf & Mississippi-Basin. “We targeted over $9 million to not only boost our chances of recovering the Red Hills salamander, but also to open up thousands of acres for recreation, including hunting and fishing. None of this would be possible without our trusted partners and state colleagues, who make up the ‘secret sauce’ for this amazing conservation success.”

The Red Hills salamander, one of the largest, lungless salamanders in the world, has been listed as federally threatened since 1977. It lives only in the Red Hills region of Alabama, spending most of its time in a burrow and venturing out at night to prey upon crickets, spiders and earthworms. The translucent, purple sallie became the state’s official amphibian in 2000.

The Service awarded $9 million in Recovery Land Acquisition grants, authorized by the Endangered Species Act, for Red Hills habitat conservation. Alabama’s Forever Wild Land Trust provided the remainder of the matching funds to seal the deal earlier this year.

If all goes as planned, the salamander will one day be fully recovered. Other at risk and T&E species, including the Bachman’s sparrow, red-cockaded woodpecker, gopher tortoise and southern hognose snake, should also benefit from the conserved lands.

“These very important land acquisitions continue the work that we and our partners began several years ago to acquire enough land to conserve habitat for the long-term success of the Red Hills salamander,” said Chris Blankenship, ADCNR Commissioner. “This project is proof that partnerships between state and federal agencies, conservation groups, and industry are vital to conservation efforts throughout the country. We are grateful for the assistance Director Miranda and everyone with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have provided to permanently protect this critical habitat and provide additional public hunting opportunities.”

Saving species while providing recreation are not incompatible. The public will be able to hunt, fish, hike, bike and bird watch across the 11,000-acre complex. In addition to the state and federal partners, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation Resources, and the Brown-Schutt Trust worked tirelessly to make the land conservation deal a reality.

“The Nature Conservancy has been working for 20 years with our partners to protect the unique habitat at the Red Hills of Alabama,” said Mitch Reid, the conservancy’s director in Alabama. “We are thrilled to celebrate the conservation of over 11,000 acres, and the opportunity to open this land to the people of Alabama. We look forward to continuing this work and to bringing new partners into this worthwhile project.”

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The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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