Northeast of the city of Birmingham in the rolling farmlands of Blount County, big days are ahead for a 111-acre swath of land in the Locust Fork Watershed. A new cooperative project between Westervelt Ecological Services and the Freshwater Land Trust, the Locust Fork mitigation bank will restore and rehabilitate this stretch of land in order to return it closer to its natural state.
Prior to Westervelt’s purchase of the land, the land served as prime acreage for farming and cattle pasturing. However, the changes that were made to suit its function left a damaging ecological impact. Native canopy trees and upland vegetation were completely removed, and the streams feeding into the Locust Fork River were manipulated to allow water to run off the fields faster. The streams and wetlands saw water quality decrease and the loss of native wildlife.
Today, the land is once again in a state of transition, but this time with a different end goal in mind. Westervelt is reshaping the land once again, this time to improve the streams and wetland forever. The project will reconnect streams to the floodplain, enhance the channel designs of the streams’ five tributaries to return them to a more natural state, and restore the land’s once forested state by planting native trees. Additionally, invasive plant species threatening local plant life have been removed, but will continue to be monitored.
In the end, however, the project has one simple goal: to bring this portion of the Locust Fork Watershed closer to the land it once was by improving the streams and wetlands’ water quality and aquatic functions, making it more ecologically suitable for the area’s native wildlife. By rehabilitating the land and bringing it back closer to its natural state, the Locust Fork mitigation project is a step to ensure that this swath of land is preserved for generations to come.