I recently watched the PBS Special on Muscle Shoals. It reminded me of the diamonds we have here in Alabama, in terrain, beautiful cities, country lanes, beaches and mountains, and then there is the music. Watching acts like Bono, The Almann Brothers and the Stones talk about the “magic” in Alabama almost brought tears to my eyes.
I got the same feeling recently when I got to hear Chuck Leavell speak his heart about music and forestry in the South.
Chuck was guest speaker at the Savannah Book Festival, which I was able to read at during the Ossabaw Island Writer’s Retreat. His love for forestry won my heart. He and his wife share a special bond of love for nature and forest landowner as a profession as well as stewardship for the US..
By Allison Adams
Chuck Leavell is no stranger to America. World tour keyboardist for he Rolling Stones, a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award winner for work with the Almann Brother’s Band and in recent years, Chuck has been pianist on John Mayer albums, with Eric Clapton and even Miranda Lambert. He is also no stranger to Tuscaloosa, where he grew up after moving here at the age of nine. Many remember his band, the Misfitz, who performed on Friday nights at the YMCA just blocks away from The Bama Theatre when Chuck was back in town on November 8 with the Randall Bramblett Band to play a benefit concert for the Bama Theatre Restoration Fund.
The vibe was electric as Chuck sang a few Rolling Stones favorites and his originals. From the balcony to the stage, fans sang along. His fingers were in overdrive on songs like “Jessica” and the communication between him and fans in the audience resembled that of “coming home.”
Chuck and his wife, Rose Lane, who have been married more than 40 years, greeted guests, old friends and chatted with some new fans after the show while he showcased his newest passion, writing.
His latest, “Growing A Better America,” was showcased at the Savannah Book Festival. Songwriters such as John Denver, Jackson Browne and bands like U2 have been singing to the world about global issues, and like these, Chuck and his wife live out their message. They live on Charlane Plantation, 2,500 acres outside of Macon, Georgia, that were left to his wife by her parents. After years paying inheritance taxes to “buy back what was theirs,” they vowed to have it as a self-sustaining property. They have won numerous awards through the state of Georgia for their research and stewardship, and Chuck has been made an honorary Ranger.
“Growing A Better America” highlights his research and ideas to make more productive in developing our greatest asset, land, with examples of projects that “do it right”. As a Georgia resident, it concerns him that the state is losing 19,000 acres of natural land a year. He has co-founded Mother Nature Network with 222,000 followers on Facebook.
In recent months in Alabama, a “secret” private investor acquired 73,000 acres of prime timberland mainly used now for hunting and timber surrounding Birmingham. Perhaps that will remain green but who is to say? Unless we all take heart, we too may find ourselves without green places to roam.
Alabama has the third most timberland acreage (22.9 million acres/ nearly 68% of the total land area) behind only Georgia and Oregon, according to the Alabama Forestry Commission. Being one of the only states with navigable waters that flow to the Gulf, there are also logistical advantages.
Alabama is in the forefront for reforestation (begun in Alabama by pioneer E.F. Allison with Allison Lumber Company in Bellamy) as well as game management tactics he devised to assure that dwindling populations would turn into the boom of deer populations we see today. Timber expansion in Alabama is ahead of removal by 23 percent with 1.1 million acres since 1978 when numbers were at 650,000 acres according to amazingalabama.com.
In Alabama, everyone has the opportunity to experience the woods, aspire to own land and cultivate the green space that God has given us. If we each, according to Chuck, just consider our individual carbon footprint we can make great strides in the right direction. To learn more about Chuck’s book or his endeavors, find him at chuckleavell.com or charlane.com.
Author Allison Adams is a forest landowner, photographer/writer and Realtor with Duckworth Morris in Tuscaloosa. http://www.allisonpadams.com
Photo credit: Allison Adams