From the 1960s to today, The Nature Conservancy has worked to protect Georgia’s deep forests, mighty rivers and envied coast. With several land deals closing in the final days of 2011, The Nature Conservancy has now helped protect 304,352 acres in Georgia.
“The Nature Conservancy has always been that quiet organization, working behind the scenes to make sure the most special places in Georgia remain for future generations,” said Mark Abner, the Conservancy’s executive director in Georgia. “With this 300,000-acre milestone, we are proud to look back on the many places our organization and its supporters have helped protect.”
The Nature Conservancy, the world’s leading conservation organization working in all 50 states and more than 30 countries, plays various roles in land deals. Many lands are bought outright by the Conservancy and then transferred to partners, sometimes following a period of ecological restoration and management. Other properties are retained by the Conservancy and managed as preserves. In other cases, the Conservancy provides technical support like grant facilitation, legal services and ecological evaluation.
From the iconic Chattahoochee National Forest to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and many preserves, parks and wildlife management areas in between, the overwhelming majority of the lands in the total are open for hiking, fishing, birdwatching, and in many cases, hunting, through the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and various state, federal and private entities.
The Nature Conservancy owns and manages 15 of its own preserves across the state, which make up 6,920 acres of the grand total. Maintained for their sensitive natural values, research purposes and as demonstration sites of best management practices, many of these sties like Marshall Forest in Rome and Moody Forest near Baxley, co-owned and managed with the Georgia DNR, are open for recreation.
Some privately held lands are also among the total. Working with private landowners, the Conservancy holds conservation easements on 28,597 acres. These agreements allow landowners to retain property ownership and receive tax benefits for protecting the natural value of their property in perpetuity.
As 2011 drew to an end, the Conservancy closed on several land deals that pushed the total number of acres over the 300,000 mark. For example, 7,496 acres were purchased near Columbus and Fort Benning in Talbot and Marion counties, prime Chattahoochee Fall Line habitat for rare species including the state’s official reptile, the gopher tortoise. This expansive tract also features some old-growth longleaf pine, other rare plant communities and unique sandstone outcrops. This land was purchased with federal funds in partnership with the Army at Fort Benning but will ultimately be transferred to a public or private entity for long-term protection.
The grand total is now 304,352 and continues to grow.
“The people of Georgia are the real beneficiaries of The Nature Conservancy’s work,” said Mark Williams, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “Protected lands improve our quality of life and support a sustainable economy.”
The Nature Conservancy in Georgia is also celebrating another milestone: although the organization worked in Georgia as far back as the 1960s, an office was opened and staff were hired in Atlanta 25 years ago. This move formalized the Conservancy’s commitment to Georgia and significantly increased the organization’s efforts in the state.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
The Nature Conservancy in Georgia