The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust received a $100,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and International Paper. We and our partners will protect 200 acres of privately owned working forests and natural areas with conservation easements. These protected areas will let wildlife flourish and replenish 40 million liters of fresh water to aquifers and streams. This project will highlight how ecosystems are safeguarded through protected forested lands, including recharging community drinking water resources.

A Hemlock infested with Woolly Adelgid blight

A Hemlock infested with Woolly Adelgid blight

The specifics of the project include restoring 50 acres of riparian forests with bottomland hardwood species and treating 109 acres of hemlock forests to curb the woolly Adelgid, an invasive insect. In addition, we will also host a landowner workshop on shortleaf pine ecosystem restoration and the protection of lands through conservation easements and habitat management.

This grant is part of the $725,000 that was awarded to conservation organizations from around the South. “These monies will help protect and enhance critical forest landscapes, improve management of private and public forests, and restore populations of at-risk wildlife and plant species,” said Eric Schwaab, vice president for NFWF’s conservation programs.

“We are very excited to receive this grant and look forward to working with our partners on forest restoration and letting land owners know how they can preserve their land for the next generation,” said Katherine Eddins, executive director for the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust.

Every Friday we will  feature and flashback to one of our easement landowners. These stories are updates on profiles written by Frank McIntosh.

John Summerford grew up in Falkville in north Alabama. His family worked a small farm and raised chickens, hogs and pigs. In addition to the farm chores, he was head checkout clerk at the family grocery store at age 8 and worked at the family’s nursing home. Summerford quotes his father regarding all the hard work : “We get to put our feet under the table at night and eat.”

John Summerford

John Summerford

Summerford left Falkville to attend medical school at the University of Alabama. Graduating in 1986, he set up practice in Tuscaloosa. At that time, an ongoing soybean “bubble” burst, and good land was available in Pickens and Sumter counties. Summerford purchased the first half of the easement property and added adjacent properties, eventually reaching the 1713 acres protected by a 2009 conservation easement conveyed to the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust.

“The idea was to run to cattle on the property,” Summerford says, and the family herd at one point numbered 350 Beefmaster purebreds. “When my father’s health began to fail and he couldn’t help with management of the property, it became more than I could handle along with my practice.”

The Summerfords sold most of their cattle and now lease a good portion of the pasturelands on this Black Belt tract and have worked to convert 800 acres back to forest and wildlife habitat. Summerford has been devoted to wildlife management since his youth, winning 4-H and FFA Youth Conservationist of the Year and Wildlife Efficiency Awards. He continues this passion, following Deer Management Association guidelines for keeping the deer herds healthy.

Summerford’s forester also has him replacing Sawtooth oaks with Red and White Oaks, which produce acorns in the winter, when the mast is most beneficial. He is also working to improve conditions for quail on the property and has spotted three wild coveys there.

Asked his least favorite aspect of land ownership, Summerford, obviously thinking on a winter rainy spell, offered, “Cold, wet and muddy. I’ve pretty much given up driving on the properties until things dry out a bit. There’s just not enough cable in the winch.”

Summerford Property

Summerford Property

Summerford says his motivation for doing the conservation easements was in part passed on to him by his parents. “We were raised with great morals and ideals, part of which was that we should be stewards of the land. We need to be friends of the public and the land.” He takes this notion very seriously and beyond the easement has set up trusts to govern the land at the time of his death. “Generations from now we will still maintain these uses of the land.”

 

Every Friday we will  feature one of our easement landowners. These stories are updates on profiles written by Frank McIntosh.

Dr. Donnie Smith grew up on a farm in Coffee County, AL that his father worked until age 85. He says, “farming was kind of like a marriage to my father. He didn’t last too long after he finally had to stop working the farm; people die pretty quickly when they lose a spouse.”

A sister now lives in the home place that they grew up in and the original 400 acres is back in the family after being sold. “I worked real hard on that, and I’ve made sure it can never leave the family again,” Smith says.

Dr. Donnie Smith, his son and grandson

Dr. Donnie Smith, his son and grandson

Smith has protected some 1,000 acres in Fayette and Tuscaloosa counties in Alabama with a conservation easement held by Georgia-Alabama Land Trust.

Hunting was a luxury growing up in that very rural setting, but Smith has been drawn to hunting his whole life. And hunting drew him to want to own land. After finishing medical school “and I finally had some expendable cash, I started buying properties. As land became available I would purchase it—80 acres here, 80 acres there. It adds up. I now own properties from Montana to Florida. I just enjoy looking for a new place to visit.”

Smith’s 2008 conservation easement is land that is predominantly managed for timber but features intermixed hardwoods and two lakes. Smith reports the land is good for wildlife viewing, noting sightings of quail, wood ducks (15-20 mating pairs, some drawn to duck boxes around the property), foxes, and bobcats. The lakes even draw transient ospreys.

one of the lakes on the Smith easement

One of the lakes on the Smith easement

Beyond the connection with the land  and  hunting, Smith says, “land is still a good investment. It’s not too liquid, but right about now I wished I’d put my 401k in it.”

The preservation of natural environments is important to Smith, too, noting that “we want to see some things kept in a natural state. What would be happening to a place like Yellowstone had it not been protected? I would hate see what might have happened.”

And then there is another benefit of land ownership. “It is a relief valve,” Smith says. “Some people go see a psychiatrist; I go up and work the land. I enjoy managing the land for turkey. I enjoy maintaining the road and fire lanes—just running the equipment.”

 

The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust received a $123,950 grant from the Coca-Cola Company Foundation to support watershed protection in Georgia’s Chattahoochee River Basin and Alabama’s Cahaba, Black Warrior and Tom Bigbee River Basins.

“The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust is working to save water through land preservation throughout the South,” said Katherine Eddins, executive director of the Land Trust. “Funding from the grant will help us and our affiliate in Columbus, Georgia, the Chattahoochee Valley Land Trust, protect land from development in watersheds serving Columbus and Birmingham & Montgomery, Alabama.”

Job Opening

Protected lands under a conservation easement recharge groundwater and streams that provide water for nature and communities.  A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a land owner and a land trust that permanently limits the development of the land. Easements protect significant wildlife habitat by preserving open space, including natural areas, farm and forest land.

Development on these now protected lands would have caused increased runoff and the loss of drinkable water. By preserving these 4,338 acres of open space, the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust is ensuring that over 3 billion liters of water will be available for lakes, streams and faucets.

The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust, accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, was founded in 1994 by conservation-minded individuals in response to rapid development and encroachment of natural areas, farms and woodlands. We are now the largest private lands conservation organization in the Southeast, protecting over 268,000 acres of land with 775 voluntary conservation easements.

The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust received a $123,950 grant from the Coca-Cola Company Foundation to support watershed protection in Georgia’s Chattahoochee River Basin and Alabama’s Cahaba, Black Warrior and Tom Bigbee River Basins.

“The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust is working to save water through land preservation throughout the South,” said Katherine Eddins, executive director of the Land Trust. “Funding from the grant will help us and our affiliate in Columbus, Georgia, the Chattahoochee Valley Land Trust, protect land from development in watersheds serving Columbus and Birmingham & Montgomery, Alabama.”

Job Opening

Protected lands under a conservation easement recharge groundwater and streams that provide water for nature and communities.  A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a land owner and a land trust that permanently limits the development of the land. Easements protect significant wildlife habitat by preserving open space, including natural areas, farm and forest land.

Development on these now protected lands would have caused increased runoff and the loss of drinkable water. By preserving these 4,338 acres of open space, the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust is ensuring that over 3 billion liters of water will be available for lakes, streams and faucets.

The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust, accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, was founded in 1994 by conservation-minded individuals in response to rapid development and encroachment of natural areas, farms and woodlands. We are now the largest private lands conservation organization in the Southeast, protecting over 268,000 acres of land with 775 voluntary conservation easements.

Every Friday we will  feature one of our easement landowners. These stories are updates on profiles written by Frank McIntosh.

When you own “the prettiest little mountain farm you ever saw,” and your work—raising pure-bred Salers Cattle— is the passion of your life, you start to think about how to protect a place.

Jo Colmore’s Walker County, GA. tract is one of the largest unbroken tracts in an area of increasing fragmentation of property. Located on top of Lookout Mountain, the land is “just full of hemlocks” and, according to Colmore, is the perfect spot for a home site and to raise his “momma cows.”

Jo Colmore with some of his Saler's Cattle

Jo Colmore with some of his Saler’s Cattle

Colmore has owned the property since 1967, when he and his brother got “a hankering to own some land.” After running a summer camp until 1983, Colmore turned to cattle breeding full-time. The calves he raises are sold to other cattle businesses for breeding purposes.

While his place is usually a portrait of tranquility, the mothers were weaning calves at the time of this interview. Colmore says it gets a little hectic during weaning but that “everyone calms down in a week or so.”

Like many donors, Colmore didn’t just leap into his conservation easement. He took his time, but came to the decision after taking in the miles of darkness untouched by electric lights. He realized it was time to “join this thing” and placed 115 acres of his property, including sensitive areas along Bear Creek, into a conservation easement.

Woodlands on the 115 acre easement

Woodlands on the 115 acre easement

Colmore enjoys sitting on his porch at night looking out at the pristine woodlands of his property and the nearby Cloudland Canyon State Park.

The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust is looking for a self motivated person with good organization skills for administrative support in our Savannah office.  Paralegal certification or experience is preferred.  The applicant will assist the protection staff with land protection projects and assist project managers in communicating and coordinating with new and previous donors.

Job Opening

Job Opening

The applicant must be proficient in the use of Microsoft Excel and calendar programs to track projects and must be able to utilize Microsoft Access to generate data for land protection projects. Certification as a Georgia Notary Public is prefered and travel within the project area may be required. Experience with real estate transactions, title review and a commitment to land conservation in the southeast is a must.

Please send a cover letter and resume to Kat Nelson, Director of Land Protection at knelson@galandtrust.org by the end of the day on September 4th, 2015.

For a more detailed look at the job description, please click the link, HERE.

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