Phillips encourages Alabamians to take care of state

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Andalusia’s Rotary Club got a crash course Tuesday on the state of Alabama’s outdoors, as Dr. Doug Phillips, host of the PBS show, “Discovering Alabama,” served as the meeting’s special guest.

“They told me dress was casual,” Phillips joked from the podium, while sporting a full camouflage outfit. “I worked before I came here, and I have to go back to work afterwards.”

And his work, Phillips explained, has spanned three decades with his Emmy-award-winning television show alone.

“Part of the reason I’m here is to celebrate the grand wonder of our state,” he said. “Everyone sees things from a different perspective. There are some people who have come to appreciate our perspective, and that includes the Solon and Martha Dixon Foundation right here in Andalusia. We appreciate them as one of our sponsors.”

Phillips, who helped begin the Forever Wild program in Alabama in 1992, said that currently more than 200,000 acres have been set aside as trust land – a mere drop in the bucket compared to the 53 million acres that makes up the state. Phillips also said that number, as of 2012, still represented the smallest amount of public conservation land, at 3.66 percent, in the southeastern U.S.

“I am a big proponent of Alabamians taking care of their state,” Phillips said.

But he also warned about the threats mass urbanization pose to Alabama.

“We’ve done almost 100 shows, and I’ve kind of realized Alabama is a sitting duck for a lot of things if we don’t get our act together.”

While much of Phillips’ time with the club was spent humorously Tuesday, his tone became more serious when outlining the negative consequences of too much urban progress.

“People say it’s inevitable to end up like Atlanta,” he said. “I say, ‘Is that really what you want?’”

Phillips said Alabama is a treasure trove of natural wonders that should be preserved for generations to come – a task he says is one of the most important missions of “Discovering Alabama.”

“It’s for the future,” he said. “Kids are not bonding with nature during those critical years anymore. They’re bonding with the mall.”

Phillips also pointed out the 70,000 miles of rivers and streams; myriad of habitats; and a geological diversity that is second only to California as just a few of the natural amenities the state has to offer.

“Alabama is in my heart,” he said. “The sky’s not falling, but lets think 30, 50, 100 years down the road.”