The Alabama Rivers Alliance has joined the Center for Biological Diversity and seven other groups to formally petition the Secretaries of Interior and Commerce under the Endangered Species Act to list over 400 aquatic, riparian, and wetland species from the Southeastern U.S. as threatened or endangered and to designate critical habitats to receive increased protections. This will require local, state, and federal governments to consider the impacts to these species before allowing further destruction of the environment.
Alabama’s freshwater ecosystems and the many species that they support are some of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet. Recent scientific studies have found that, the variety of species in North American rivers and streams is “diminishing as rapidly as that of some of the most stressed terrestrial ecosystems on the planet” with a projected extinction rate “comparable to the extinction rates for tropical rainforests.”
In the southeast, demands for freshwater for electricity production, irrigation, agriculture, and industrial and residential development are increasing. Limited water supply is already an area of conflict in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia in particular where rapidly growing metropolitan areas Southeast Aquatic Species such as Atlanta, Birmingham, and Nashville have drastically increased the demand for freshwater for residential and industrial uses. In the agricultural sector, the construction of numerous large Confined Animal Feeding Operations throughout the southeast has led to an increased demand for inter-basin water transfers. Increasing drought due to global climate change is expected to exacerbate the threat of limited water availability to aquatic and riparian species in southeastern states.
As Alabama positions herself to lead our nation into the 21st century, we must insist that we choose a path of development which sustains and protects our natural heritage for our future. Given the destruction that we have witnessed in environment in the last century, it is now clear that the “Damn the Torpedoes” approach of development at any cost is no longer possible if we want to continue to refer to this state as “Alabama the Beautiful.”