Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Black Belt Adventures founder Thomas Harris named conservationist of the year

Thomas Harris thinks Alabama’s Black Belt region has more to offer than people think, and he’s spent years making sure that they learn just how great a place it is. 

Harris, the founder of the Alabama Black Belt Adventure Association, received the Conservationist of the Year award on Friday in Montgomery from the Alabama Wildlife Federation’s Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards for his work in developing outdoor recreation and economic growth in the state’s Black Belt region. 

“We’ve been working on this initiative a long time,” Harris told APR on Tuesday. “And I really felt like so many people worked hard on it to get it where it is. I was kind of amazed that they singled me out.” 

Harris has lived his entire life in the Black Belt, 11 million acres over 23 counties that stretches across southern Alabama. He founded the association in 2009, which promotes fishing, hunting, canoeing, rafting, birdwatching, biking and hiking. 

“When I was in high school, there was a country store about every three to four miles,” Harris said. “And they had a lot of influence in those little crossroads.” 

But the Black Belt has suffered economically, and many of those little stores are gone. Harris watched as the area fell into decline and decided to act. 

Hunting and fishing contributes almost $1 billion annually to the Black Belt region, supports more than 10,000 jobs and generates $60 million in state and local taxes, according to the association’s estimates. 

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

There’s so much the Black Belt has to offer those who love the outdoors, Harris said, so the association works with other big-named icons in hunting and fishing to promote the area through commercials and advertisements.

“We’ve just got to change the narrative,” Harris said. 

Asked if that work is showing results, Harris said that it is. 

“To use a football analogy, we’re moving the chains,’ He said.

Other 2019 AWF Governor’s Conservation Achievement Award winners: 

Wildlife Conservationist of the Year: Chris Cook, Northport

Fisheries Conservationist of the Year: Steve Krotzer, Centreville

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Forest Conservationist of the Year: Chris Erwin, Wetumpka

Land Conservationist of the Year: Alabama Forest Resources Center, Mobile

Water Conservationist of the Year: Renew Our Rivers, Birmingham

Air Conservationist of the Year: ExxonMobil, Theodore

Conservation Educator of the Year: Doug Darr, Prattville

Conservation Communicator of the Year: Marla Ruskin, Montgomery

Conservation Enforcement Officer of the Year: Joel Glover, Rockford

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Judicial Conservationist of the Year: Judge Lillie Jones-Osborne, Greene County

Hunter Safety Instructor of the Year: Butch Intravartolo, Winfield

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

More from the Alabama Political Reporter


Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Tourism Department recently approved funding for the program.


The council is comprised of young professionals who are advocates and champions for the Black Belt region.


Seven-year-old Roberts Griffin of Montgomery emerged as the winner.


Former Auburn University coach Joe Whitt and Fran Pearce of Browns are the newest board members of the organization.


To enter, contestants must upload a photo of a buck harvested within the 23-county Black Belt region.


Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association (ALBBAA) is pleased to announce the Feed Your Adventure—Flavors of the Black Belt Trail. Adventure awaits on the nine themed trails...


UAB’s hospital in Birmingham was recently named one of the top fifty hospitals in the country for cardiovascular conditions by IBM Watson Health. This...


Representative Martha Roby, R-AL, today announced that Caroline Franklin has been named Communications Director in her Washington, D.C., office. “Throughout my time in Congress,...