Review: JSU-produced documentary ‘Forever Wild’ highlights Alabamian James Martin’s important conservation efforts

James D. Martin, pictured, is the subject of a new JSU-produced documentary entitled “Forever Wild,” which examines the role Martin played in Alabama politics and conservation efforts. (Courtesy of Alabama Public Television)James D. Martin, pictured, is the subject of a new JSU-produced documentary entitled “Forever Wild,” which examines the role Martin played in Alabama politics and conservation efforts. (Courtesy of Alabama Public Television)

Whitney Ervin, Correspondent

The beauty of the state of Alabama is easy to take for granted if you’ve lived here your whole life. Taking in this wild life whether on the coast, hiking at Cheaha or exploring the Cathedral Caverns are staples of many of our lives. 

Yet, the man who led the vast conservation efforts in Alabama, James D. Martin, has often gone overlooked. For this reason, “Forever Wild: The James D. Martin Story” is a must watch. 

Martin served the state of Alabama for many years, including in Congress and is credited with having revolutionized the Republican Party in Alabama. 

When Martin was asked to be on the Commission of Conservation, nobody guessed he would end up once again revolutionizing the state. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Alabama was quickly becoming toxic due to waste disposal. Not to mention our state parks were in disarray. 

Martin took it upon himself to renovate every single one of Alabama’s state parks, and he did. He also helped oversee the acquisition of many other sites to become state parks, such as Cathedral Caverns State Park. His most revered achievement of all being the Forever Wild Trust Fund, an idea which he spearheaded in which 10% of the profits Alabama makes off natural gas is put into the trust for conservation purposes. 

While the documentary mostly focuses on Martin’s conservation efforts, he lived a very fascinating life overall. 

The documentary clocks in at just under an hour, but I found myself wishing it was a bit longer. I would have liked to have seen Martin’s military and political career get a bit more attention, considering we are told over and over again in the first twenty minutes how influential he was. 

As someone who doesn’t remember a time when Alabama wasn’t predominantly Republican, I feel I could have appreciated Martin’s efforts to bring the Republican party to the main stage in Alabama politics if I had more of an idea of what the political climate at that time was like. This part of Martin’s life feels a bit glossed over and rushed through, with only about twenty minutes dedicated to both his military and political careers. 

From the documentary, it is easy to see why he was able to achieve the remarkable feats he took on. Even in his personal life, Martin was willing to give extreme dedication to the things he loved. 

His wife of 52 years, Pat Martin, described how when she lived in New York City for three years to study music he visited her so often that the stewardesses knew him by name. 

Martin was a man who was always willing to take on the odds, and when he set his sights on a goal he was going to get it done. He was at his core an idealist who loved the state of Alabama. His story is an inspiring example of what one person can achieve with enough motivation. 

He is an inspiration to remember that we should all try to do things for the betterment of the future generations, even if we don’t necessarily get the praise for it that we deserve in our own lifetimes.

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