Forever Wild Board Meeting Held
February 14, 2019
The Alabama REALTORS® Public Policy team attended the Board meeting for the Forever Wild Program in Montgomery on February 7, 2019. The Forever Wild Board heard from the public both for and against the addition of several pieces of property into the program, as well as concerns from a land owner who lives adjacent to current Forever Wild property. The Board also approved first or second appraisals for four properties, a necessary step before the Board makes a final decision on property.
The Forever Wild Program
Originally created in 1992 and renewed in 2012 by statewide referendums, the Forever Wild Program purchases Alabama land from willing sellers, protects the land from future development and opens the property to public use, including hiking, fishing, hunting, bird watching and others. Funding for the program comes from a portion of the interest on Alabama’s natural gas royalties, which is deposited in the Forever Wild Land Trust. The interest received by the Trust is capped at $15 million per year.
The Board - The Forever Wild Board manages the Forever Wild Land Trust. Chaired by the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the Board is made up of 13 Alabamians hailing from northern, southern and central districts. The Board meets quarterly throughout the state to hear from the public and consider properties that landowners have nominated to be added to the Program.
Department Oversight - DCNR oversees the properties in the program, focusing on habitat management while allowing specific activities for the public. The Forever Wild Land Trust has over 186,000 acres, with more than 286,000 acres of land managed under the program for public use (includes leased properties). According to Forever Wild’s website (view here), this is a much smaller percentage of public conservation land than the 12% average in the Southeastern U.S.
The Process - For a property to be purchased into the Program, the property owner must first nominate the property for purchase. The property is then scored by DCNR based on a variety of factors, and, if a property receives a sufficient score, the property can be placed on a priority list by a vote of the Board. Before properties can be purchased, two appraisals by certified real estate appraisers must be ordered by the Board and obtained on the property. In addition, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House of Representatives comprise the Final Approval Committee that must approve any purchase or lease of property.
Fair Market Value – The law prohibits the Board from paying more than fair market value for a property but can, in rare circumstances, pay 125% of the fair market value. To ensure acquired properties are managed appropriately, the law requires that, in addition to the purchase price, 15% of an approved property’s value be set aside for management in a stewardship fund.
For more information on the Forever Wild Program, contact Doug Deaton, the State Lands Manager, at (334) 242-3484.
The Alabama REALTORS® Public Policy team will continue to monitor the Forever Wild Program for its impact on the real estate industry and private property rights in general.