Dear Friend of the National Parks,

As the new Southeast Regional Director, I am fortunate to work with an incredible team dedicated to honoring the heroic, albeit sometimes tragic, stories of southern people and places that make us who we are in this region. Our founding regional director Don Barger's shoes are impossible to fill, but I pledge that NPCA's commitment to the national parks in the Southeast continues to be strong and unwavering.

To this end, we're excited to announce several staff additions. Please welcome Joshua Jenkins, NPCA's first Civil Rights Era Fellow, based in Birmingham, and Eboni Preston Goddard, our new Southeast Associate Director and NPS Diversity Liaison, located in Atlanta. We're also thrilled to have Steve Goodman, originally our Volgenau Wildlife Fellow, now become a permanent part of our team as our Conservation Biologist, working on wildlife connectivity and conservation.

Nationally, there's a lot to be thankful for as the federal infrastructure bill is implemented and we help our national parks be the best they can be. We're also pleased that Chuck Sams was confirmed by the Senate as Director of the National Park Service -- the first Indigenous leader in NPS history. We are devoted to ensuring that NPCA and the Park Service will continue to build a diverse workforce committed to leading the next generation of professional park staff and advocates that reflect all Americans.

Read on for exciting regional news…

Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area Update
The Alabama Black Belt is rich in natural resources like the red cockaded woodpecker, and known for diverse history including the growing city of Montgomery, Maya Lin’s Civil Rights Memorial and Lionel Ritchie and the Commodores' Studio. As NPCA and our partners continue to work with Senator Shelby and Congresswoman Sewell to create the Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area, we want to introduce you to a few of the Black Belt's 400+ sites to explore. 

Safe Passage for Smokies Wildlife Advances
In November, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) publicly announced their intention to build a wildlife underpass at the Interstate 40 Harmon Den exit. If you're not familiar, this exit is often used to go to Max Patch -- a popular grassy bald with 360° views crossed by the Appalachian Trail on its way to Maine. This underpass is a direct result of the work of the Safe Passage Coalition and is the first of what we hope will be several wildlife connectivity projects along I-40 in the Pigeon River Gorge adjacent to the Smokies. This work will provide Safe Passage for wildlife and improve motorist safety. A huge shout out to NCDOT for making this commitment and investment.

Connecting the Landscape in the Ocmulgee River Corridor
NPCA is working with land trust and tribal partners, such as the Open Space Institute and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, to implement a land acquisition strategy to fill in unacquired portions of the approved boundaries of Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park and Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, a potential of 13,000 acres in new conservation lands. This work builds on collaboration with the administration of former Muscogee Nation Principal Chief and new NPCA Trustee James Floyd that resulted in the 2019 enlargement of Ocmulgee Mounds NHP.

Much work is underway across our 8-state region and I invite you to learn more about the Southeast parks on our webpage or take action to protect parks.

It is an honor to work with you to advocate for the protection and funding of our national parks. I look forward to sharing our progress in 2022!



Emily Jones
Regional Director, Southeast 

Photos, from top: Joshua Jenkins, Eboni Preston Goddard, Steve Goodman © NPCA; Montgomery Civil Rights Memorial © UWA; Bears at guardrail © Bridget Donaldson Virginia Transportation Research Council; Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge © USFWS