A great egret soars along the shores of the Altamaha River.
Altamaha Egret Egret along the Altamaha River. © Blake Gordon Photography

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TNC and the Department of Defense Announce 375-acre Addition to Protected Corridor on Altamaha River near the Townsend Bombing Range

Working together to protect land that provides species room to adapt and offers people an opportunity to experience our state’s natural beauty.

TNC, a global conservation organization that has worked in Georgia since the 1960s, has purchased 375 acres in Long and Wayne counties from Rayonier Advanced Materials. The total acreage is spread across two tracts and connects existing public conservation lands.

“The Nature Conservancy is focused on protecting land that provides species room to adapt, secures unique natural features and offers people an opportunity to experience our state’s incredible natural systems,” said Deron Davis, executive director for TNC in Georgia. “Protected land along the Altamaha River shelters treasured wildlife, provides flood protection and climate resilience, and improves water quality for vulnerable and valuable coastal systems such as oyster reefs.”

This newly conserved acreage of bottomland hardwood forest is the latest addition to a decades-long effort by TNC, the Department of Defense (DoD), the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and many other partners to secure more than 198,000 acres around the lower Altamaha River, assembling a more than 50-mile-long corridor of protected land along the river. These parcels connect two other permanently protected properties, the 5,600-acre Griffin Ridge Wildlife Management Area (WMA) with the 1,117-acre Morgan Lake WMA. The property will be managed by the Georgia DNR, and it will be available for public recreation such as hunting, fishing, hiking and canoeing.

Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort and the Department of Navy’s real estate team partnered with TNC, contributing half of the acquisition cost to obtain a restrictive easement. This restrictive easement will permanently protect military mission at the Marine Corps’ Townsend Bombing Range by preventing incompatible development.

“We thank all parties involved in making this a success,” said Colonel Karl R. Arbogast, Commanding Officer, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, SC. “We are pleased to add this property to over 50,000 acres of protected land around Townsend Bombing Range and within the Georgia Sentinel Landscape. Preserving this property helps to ensure unobstructed, realistic training for our pilots and aircrews, as well as for the many other military services that train at and around Townsend. It provides important mutual benefits by protecting not only our military readiness and resiliency, but it also successfully adds to the significant protection efforts along the Altamaha River corridor and an entire landscape of permanently protected properties throughout our thriving communities. Thank you again for the outstanding support and commitment to this valuable partnership and its critical contributions.”

The Altamaha River watershed spans 14,000 square miles, making it one of the largest river basins in the United States. The lower Altamaha River watershed boasts the highest documented number of rare plants, animals and natural community occurrences in the state, with more than 100 rare plants and animals found in the area. Of these 15 are federally listed as threatened or endangered, 17 are state listed and are considered globally rare or imperiled. This particular property, including an 80-acre oxbow—Knee Buckle Island—will support shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon. It also serves as critical habitat for resident and migratory birds.

The Knobloch Family Foundation made a significant contribution to enable this acquisition. The Marine Corps’ funding for the project was awarded through DoD’s competitive Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program. The REPI program serves to promote innovation and land conservation partnerships to help fund projects that mutually benefit military readiness and resiliency, communities, and the environment.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.