By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The nation’s oldest and largest gun rights group, the National Rifleman’s Association is urging that its many members and supporters vote “YES” on Amendment 1 to Continue Alabama’s Forever Wild Land Trust.
The NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) in their endorsement said, “Sportsmen have benefited immensely from this critical program, opening up tens of thousands of acres teeming with wildlife. At a time when finding places to hunt is more and more difficult for many sportsmen, the acquisition of public hunting land is essential to the preservation of our hunting heritage. Specific language in the constitutional amendment designating that the lands acquired should provide for hunting opportunities.”
The NRA said, “Since its establishment by constitutional referendum in 1992, the Forever Wild Program has secured more than 227,000 acres with numerous opportunities being available for hunting. At a time when finding places to hunt is becoming more and more difficult for many sportsmen, the acquisition of public hunting land is essential to the preservation of our hunting heritage. Despite Alabama’s undeniable natural beauty, it still lags behind other southeastern states in the amount of accessible public conservation and hunting land. The vast majority of funding for the Forever Wild Land Trust is generated by the interest earned from natural gas royalties, with no monies coming from the taxpayer. Additionally, the trust may purchase lands only from willing sellers at fair market value. “
According to the NRA more than 96% of the land, including 17 Wildlife Management Areas, is open to some form of public hunting. The NRA says that because the majority of game species in Alabama live exist on private property it is necessary for the government to acquire public land under the Forever Wild program to provide the hunting public with access to affordable hunting.
Furthermore the NRA-ILA argues that no taxpayer monies are used for the program as a large portion of funding comes from natural gas royalties. The Forever Wild Land Trust also collects money from its special state license plate. Alabama motorists can purchase Forever Wild license plates for $50 per year, with $42.50 from each sale going toward supporting the program’s mission.
The NRA-ILA urges that their friends and supporters become a “Fan” or “Like” “Forever Wild Alabama” (www.facebook.com/foreverwildal) on Facebook and encourages them to ask their friends to do the same. They are also promoting Amendment 1 bumper stickers and encouraging everyone to vote yes for Amendment One.
Critics of the Forever Wild Program argue that the state is already depleting the Alabama Trust Fund by $437 million and can no longer afford the program. Conservatives worry that putting more land under government control will diminish individual freedoms going forward.
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