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Unfortunately, the state's rapacious development, damming of rivers, chemical runoff from agricultural fields, and lack of concern for the environment have destroyed or threatened much of this priceless habitat.Alabama has not only the most diverse freshwater aquatic life of any state but also the highest extinction rate.

The most pristine areas, such as the Walls of Jericho at the upper end of Paint Rock Valley and Bee Branch in Bankhead Forest's Sipsey Wilderness (which contains one 500-year-old tulip poplar that rises 150 feet off the forest floor) can take away the breath of an intrepid hiker not only from the exertion necessary to reach the sights, but for the sheer beauty and grandeur of the landscape.The arrogance of that wealth factored into the decision to secede from the Union in 1861, with disastrous consequences.The death of perhaps a fifth of the prime-age white male population during the war, the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in capital with the emancipation of slaves, political control by a liberal outside power structure followed by the reinstitution of conservative white rule, and finally the establishment of a system of racial apartheid all shaped the state well into the twentieth century.Decades of decline and decay finally gave way to renewal in the last quarter of the twentieth century.As African Americans were mainstreamed into politics, education, and economic life, cities such as Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile experienced a renaissance, the state thrived in a globalized world economy, and a new generation of socially enlightened entrepreneurs and their allies led the way toward racial reconciliation and educational modernization.

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