Longleaf pine fort Benning 640x400
Longleaf pine fort Benning Longleaf pine near Ft. Benning © Mark Godfrey/The Nature Conservancy

Stories in Georgia

Southern Georgia Named a Sentinel Landscape

Do you know the connection between protecting Georgia’s landscapes and national defense?

Preserving key landscapes in the U.S. strengthens the economies of farms, ranches, and forests; conserves habitat and natural resources; and protects vital test and training missions conducted on the military installations that anchor such landscapes. That’s why the U.S. Departments of Defense, Agriculture and Interior created the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership in 2013. The Georgia Sentinel Landscape was designated in 2017 and contains approximately 1.3 million acres within its boundary that are critical to important natural resources, working economies, and military readiness. This designation officially recognizes the role that protecting working lands and vital natural resources plays in sustaining the military mission as well as the long-term health of local communities in southern Georgia.  

Spanning a significant portion of the southern part of the state, the Georgia Sentinel Landscape brings together more than 20 partners at the federal, state, and local levels to sustain working farms and forests; protect vital habitat for a number of important species; and promote land uses compatible with the military mission at nine of the nation’s most important installations and ranges, including Fort Benning, Fort Stewart, Townsend Bombing Range, Robins Air Force Base, and Naval Base Kings Bay. 

This designation officially recognizes the role that protecting working lands and vital natural resources plays in sustaining the military mission as well as the long-term health of local communities in southern Georgia.

The Georgia Sentinel Landscape includes important conservation lands such as some of Georgia’s best remaining stands of longleaf pine, which the Conservancy is working to restore in Georgia and other southeast states. Longleaf pine forests, once plentiful and now reduced to only five percent of its original 90 million acres, provide important habitat for a variety of vulnerable species, including the gopher tortoise, red-cockaded woodpecker, eastern indigo snake and more. Working with our partners, the Conservancy aims to protect more than 20 additional viable gopher tortoise populations in the next five years through the Georgia Sentinel Landscape. 

Freshwater conservation priorities include protecting much of the remaining, undeveloped segments of Georgia’s 100-mile coastline, which will help safeguard important wildlife corridors and provide local communities with unrestricted access to outdoor recreational opportunities. In partnership with the Savannah River Clean Water Fund (SRCWF), we aim to conserve riverbank buffers within the Savannah River watershed, thereby maintaining this waterway as a safe and reliable source of drinking water for the city of Savannah and surrounding municipalities while also reducing the need for the dredging of commercial shipping lanes in the strategically-important Port of Savannah. 

A Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis) at the restored longleaf pine forest in The Nature Conservancy's Disney Wilderness Preserve. Located south of Orlando, the 12,000-acre preserve straddles the headwaters of the Everglades ecosystem. The Conservancy works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a program to return the red-cockaded woodpecker to the preserve. Locally extinct for decades, relocated Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are adapting well in man-made cavities within the restored longleaf pine habitat. The rejuvenated longleaf pine forest – with its lush understory of native grasses and forbs, saw palmetto and other shrubs – is one result of the return of prescribed fire to the land.
Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Long-leaf pine forests provide important habitat for a variety of vulnerable species, including the gopher tortoise, red-cockaded woodpecker, eastern indigo snake and more. © Carlton Ward, Jr.

The Georgia Sentinel Landscape joins six Sentinel Landscapes in this nationwide partnership: Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington; Fort Huachuca in Arizona; Middle Chesapeake in Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia; Avon Park Air Force Range in Florida; Camp Ripley in Minnesota; and Eastern North Carolina.  At each of these Landscapes, partners are working with local landowners to promote and protect the land and livelihood of communities within their boundary, while maintaining military readiness at each installation. 

The Conservancy is proud to work with a variety of federal, state and nonprofit partners to protect land and water within the Georgia Sentinel Landscape, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the military services and the Longleaf Alliance.