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

Phyllis Weaver’s 2009 conservation easement along Choccolocco Creek near Oxford, AL is an important part of achieving the ongoing Choccolocco Creek Conservation Corridor. It also helped her preserve her half-century relationship with her land.

Phyllis Weaver at the historic cemetery near her home

Phyllis Weaver at the historic cemetery near her home

Phyllis and her late husband Frank, bought their land along Choccolocco Creek near Oxford from Frank’s Uncle Elbert who owned the land “from here all the way across where Highway 21 runs and it wasn’t built yet. We purchased the first hundred acres for $50 an acre.”

Phyllis, a native of Illinois, met Frank when he was in dental school at Washington University in St. Louis. They returned to Frank’s home in the Oxford area, where his father was a doctor. Phyllis was Frank’s dental assistant and ran the office.

“Frank had the love of the land,” she says. “He would work the farm every day until noon, and then he would come in to do his dentistry from noon until five.”

“At one point we raised corn and wheat and had some pigs, on the theory they would clean up some of the aftermath of that cultivation. In the mid-50s, our county agent, Sut Matthews, said you ought to just make it pasture and now we use it primarily to raise cattle.”

Mrs. Weaver is happy she followed Sut’s recommendation, “It requires no fertilization, the cows and the manure spreader take care of that. It usually stays good and moist, although the creek doesn’t flood as bad as it used to. It grows a lot of clover, which helps keep nitrogen in. And we don’t get broom sedge.”

“The cows won’t cross the creek,” Phyllis says, “but they can smell an open gate. Just leave one open and off they go.” They have turned up at the nearby Wal-Mart parking lot on several occasions. “Fortunately, they remember where they came from and how they got out, so usually they’ll just go back they way they came with enough encouragement. I spend a lot of time riding fences.”

Pasture on the Weaver property

Pasture on the Weaver property

“I know the place will always be taken good care of. I’m planning on living forever but I have a farm manager who works with me, and will continue to keep an eye on things.”

Mrs. Weaver loves her livestock and pets. She is devoted to the 150-plus cattle she raises, which are now entirely black angus.

Phyllis says that a great many of her herd are almost like pets. She also has a small herds of pygmy goats, cats (including Sheba, who occupies a perch atop a small rug on the stove—“I have to ask her permission to cook”), and Miss Kitty, a hen who likes to brood in a planter by Phyllis’s front door. “She just picked out the spot and, of course, we don’t disturb her.” Miss Kitty purred when stroked by Mrs. Weaver.

“I’ve worked so hard on this place and loved it for so long, too. Frank and I first moved out here in 1950. I mixed the mud and Frank laid the block for our cabin out here. We hand-dug our swimming pool. It’s a shame we don’t always appreciate the beauty God gives us because we’re all so busy commercializing it.”

 

Fountain Family

Jack, Linda, Jacqueline, Katherine and Caroline Fountain with Amber

When Dr. Arthur “Jack” Fountain’s grandfather built his cabin on beautiful rolling land near Reynolds, GA. in 1904, his pride of place and sense of the value of craftsmanship led him to insist that all the lumber in the cabin be clean. There is not a knot to be found anywhere in the home, which is still impeccably preserved today. Two generations later, Jack and his wife Linda decided to protect the family home place, and they put the 817-acre property into a conservation easement with the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust.

As with most conservation easements, the Fountains retain ownership of their property. This allows them to continue to use the land as they and their family have in the past. The Fountains and future owners of the land can farm it, manage the timber on it, maintain and to some extent upgrade roads and other improvements to the property.

The conservation easement in Taylor and Macon counties protects the property from future residential and commercial development that would erode its core conservation values and the aspects of the land that the Fountains cherish and wish to see preserved in perpetuity.

The conservation easement ensures that the rich soils that comprise much of their land—more than 300 acres of the property are state or federally recognized productive soils—will remain in use and not join other “house farms” that have been appearing in this area. The easement  also protects the unique hardwood forests and natural areas along the banks of the streams on the property. These Special Natural Areas, running along two tributaries of the Flint River—Horse and Little Vine Creeks—help protect what has been called the most ecologically diverse river east of the Mississippi.

Sherpa Guides says the Flint River and areas adjacent provide habitat for many interesting and unusual plants and animals.” Of particular interest are some of the odd creatures known as troglobites that shelter in the river’s “Blue Holes,” including the blind cave salamander and the Dougherty Plain cave crayfish. Some of these creatures’ ranges are as small as a single cave or spring.

The Fountain home place

The Fountain home place

When asked why he decided to protect his land, Dr. Fountain cited his desire to preserve, “some of the southern self-sustaining farm life as I knew it. It is important for me to be able to pass some of this down to my children. Once the traces of this past era are gone, there is no return.”

The property contains visual beauty and other more sublime charms. When asked his favorite thing about his land, Dr. Fountain replied that autumn and spring there “are intoxicating,” reflecting on the “overwhelming aroma of all the new flowers” and autumn’s “marvelous smells in the woods with the crisp air and the rustle of wildlife.”

Feature Friday, from a story written by Frank McIntosh.

A friend of Dan Jeter’s in the forestry and pine straw business had been after him for a while to buy a farm. He had shown Dan a few “cutovers” that didn’t appeal, but then called and told Dan he “had to see this one.”

The tract was one of the seven parcels—a 147-tract in Colquitt County, GA. that particularly appealed to Dan. It was not too big for him to manage and had lots of bottomlands that he knew would be home to lots of “woodies” and other wildlife to hunt and just to enjoy.

Dan’s brother had put conservation easements in place in North Carolina and Southwest Georgia, so Dan was drawn to the idea of the benefits provided to donors as well as the idea of conservation.

Dan Jeter near site of an old bridge on easement property

Dan Jeter near site of an old bridge on easement property

“At some point you morph from financial to aesthetic preservation. When I signed the

conservation easement, I felt such a sense of happiness and accomplishment.” This emotion is seconded by Dan’s wife, Felicity, who expresses her feelings about land protection simply, “Why do we have to develop everything?” While the recent slump has slowed things a bit, Jeter notes that at one point not long ago there were seventeen different development projects before the local planning board.

Jeter also reports that “one of the pluses” in dealing with a land trust on a conservation easement is the care that is taken to ensure that valuable productive lands remain in production, but that the use of the land ensures that the special natural areas are not damaged by those uses and that extra protection is provided.

The Jeter conservation easement allows silvicultural and agricultural use on its uplands. Part of that land, 32 acres, is now in a longleaf restoration project that features locally grown longleaf saplings. The expansive bottomlands comprising much of the property are designated a Special Natural Area  and  will be preserved in their current condition except for incidental removal of invasive species and diseased vegetation.

The sloughs running down to Bridge Creek (so named for the old tramway trestle that crossed the creek, parts of which remain in the creek today) abound with mature hickories and white oaks. Jeter noted that the creek is good fishing, too—he allows neighbors onto the property to fish for red breast and bream.

Jeter, who mentors school children through the local Communities in Schools program, feels strongly about the role of education in shaping lives. He hopes that the property will provide an opportunity for his children and grandchildren to connect with “the way the land was for us and our forebears.”

Every Friday we will feature a different landowner who took the steps to preserve their property. We begin with Bob Harbin from a story written by Frank McIntosh.

The donor of conservation easements totaling more than 1,500 acres, Dr. Bob Harbin’s first easement, was put in place in 2001 and is in the Big Texas Valley in Floyd County, Georgia.

The easement is part of protected lands near Berry College. Beyond the valley lands, this easement also protects nearly a mile of the ridge top of Lavender Mountain.

The second of Harbin’s Floyd County easements protects nearly a mile of Coosa River bank shortly after it is formed at the confluence of the Etowah and Oostanaula and begins its 420-mile journey to Mobile Bay.

The property has 240 acres in cultivation with a portion dedicated to the Quail Conservation Reserve Program. Management practices on the land include planting warm weather grasses, doing controlled fire burns and disking the earth for the game

Bob Harbin; a field with wildflowers on his easement property

Bob Harbin; a field with wildflowers on his easement property

birds.

Bob says, “My hobby is habitat management—for quail, turkey, deer, and all wildlife. Everything you do for quail is good for everything else. We have a wildlife biologist who advises us on how to manage the habitat, a never ending job.”

Another Harbin easement is in Cherokee County, Alabama and has a mile of frontage on the east fork of the Little River on top of Lookout Mountain. “It’s an absolutely beautiful place, with unbelievable slopes to get down to river. It took eons for that river to cut its way down through that mountain,” Harbin noted.

Harbin’s devotion to the land comes in part from his father. “My father had to raise five kids. He was an ophthalmologist, like me, and he also loved land. When he bought the property in mid-60s, a banker friend said, ‘Well, if you’re determined to buy land you should get a Federal Farm Loan.’ He did that and got a long-term 3 percent loan. The farm leases on the property paid the note. Of course, that program doesn’t exist any more, but I still love land and like to own it.”

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Open Space Benefit Draws a Crowd at the Conklin Farm

Over 200 hundred people turned out for the first fundraising benefit held by the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust. It was a warm evening down on the Conklin Farm in Sandy Springs, Georgia. As the smell of the barbecue from Low Country Caterers drifted through the air, ticket holders and donors sipped beverages from the bar and chatted about the beauty of the farm located on the northside of Atlanta.

Local bands Louder Than Dirt and Pine Grove rocked the night away. The event raised money for the Land Trust to use to help save land throughout the South. In the last 20 years, the Land Trust has preserved more than 260,000 acres of forests and farmlands, making it the largest land trust in the Southeast. The Land Trust partners with landowners to execute conservation easements on their property. By giving up development rights, owners can continue farming and pass the land down to their heirs without worrying about escalating expenses forcing families off their farms and livelihoods.

Co-host Robin Conklin said she wanted to help promote the event to raise awareness of the need to save natural and open areas around the city and the Southeast.

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Land Trust Supporters Chow Down While Listening to Local Bands

Land Trust Development Director Rena Ann Stricker said that the event not only raised money but raised friends as well.

The Georgia Land Trust, Inc. is seeking qualified applicants for the professional position of Monitoring Manager. The position will be based in either a home office or in the Land Trust’s Piedmont, Alabama office with routine travel throughout the coverage area. The Monitoring Manager position provides a competitive salary, plus benefits and is supervised by the Stewardship Director. The Monitoring  Manager supervises the Land Steward, in addition to consulting with Contractual Land Stewards involved in annual monitoring for protected lands.

Maritime forest and coastal hammocks and tidal marshes are conserved in the new conservation easement to be held and monitored by Georgia Land Trust.

Maritime forests and coastal marshes are just a few of the places to be monitored by Georgia Land Trust.

The Monitoring Manager’s primary responsibility is to prepare the annual monitoring plan and make assignments to stewardship staff for implementing the monitoring of protected lands.  For a look at the job description, please click here.

The Georgia Land Trust, Inc., is a public non-profit 501(c)(3). We are committed to protecting land for present and future generations by conserving land and water through voluntary donations of conservation easements.  The organization’s goal is to provide a wide variety of benefits to society through the protection of wildlife, native species, natural communities, watersheds, forest lands, farmlands, historic sites and to enable recreational opportunities. The Land Trust has protected over 250,000 acres throughout the Southeast.

 

The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust Family is excited to announce that The Chattowah Open Land Trust, Georgia Land Trust and Alabama Land Trust are truly becoming a family, one big happy one, by merging into one organization.

The Board of Directors of our three land trusts are setting the wheels in motion to

New Logo

NEW LOGO

merge these entities into one non-profit corporation to better serve you as the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust.

Our land trusts once operated as three separate organizations before combining our staff and boards in 2005. In 1995, The Chattowah Open Land Trust was established to protect lands in the Chattahoochee and Etowah watersheds of greater Atlanta. In 2005, the board of directors for The Chattowah Open Land Trust became the board of directors for the Alabama Land Trust (formerly the East Alabama Land Trust) and the Georgia Land Trust (formerly the Coastal Georgia Land Trust).

Under common leadership and staff, our land trusts have saved over 268,000 acres of open space forever, making us the largest nonprofit conservation easement holder of private lands in the Southeast. In February 2014, all three land trusts were awarded national accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.

The merger will become effective in the Spring of this year. All of our conservation efforts will continue across our current service area of Georgia, Alabama, and adjacent states, but with the advantages of a streamlined single organization.

Landowners who donate voluntary conservation easements on their private lands are our number one ingredient for success. Our track record of establishing and monitoring over 750 conservation easements over the last 20 years makes us truly the landowners’ land trust!

Conservation easements allow the landowner to continue to own and use their land for farming, growing trees, hunting and recreation. Easements are used as a tool to help safeguard our regional’s rural farming and natural heritage, and protect high priority habitats and waters on private lands for wildlife. The donation of a conservation easement can reduce estate, income and property taxes for the landowner.

We look forward to working under our new name, the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust, and helping landowners protect their land for present and future generations with your generous support.

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