The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust announces the signing of a conservation easement with Stuckey Timberland that will create a 2,194 acre tract  in Twiggs County, Georgia.

Known as Bear Creek Reserve, the property is located in the heart of the black bear habitat in central Georgia and is home to the highest concentration of black bears per acre in Georgia.

The University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources conduct ongoing studies of the bear population at Bear Creek.

Russell Franklin,III, Mike Harrell, Wade Hall, Lynda Stuckey Franklin, Kat Nelson, with the Land Trust, and Jay W. Gould-Stuckey

Russell Franklin,III, Mike Harrell, Wade Hall, Lynda Stuckey Franklin, Kat Nelson, with the Land Trust, and Jay W. Gould-Stuckey

While retaining timber management rights on the upland portions of the tract, Stuckey Timberland’s grant of a conservation easement perpetually preserves the expansive hardwood bottom lands and the standing hardwood trees which are critical to the bear population. Additionally, the easement protects the upland areas from future development.

Based in Eastman, Georgia, Stuckey Timberland is owned by the W. S. Stuckey family. Second generation family members W. S. (Bill) Stuckey, Jr. and Lynda Stuckey Franklin and Stuckey Timberland President and CEO Wade Hall presented the easement to the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust today during a ceremony on the property. Kat Nelson, Director of Land Protection for the Land Trust, accepted the easement on behalf of the Land Trust.

“We are excited to be able to protect this very special property from development and to preserve the habitat of the black bear population,” said Lynda Stuckey Franklin. “This is a great testimony to the stewardship which our family wishes to exercise in forestland management; a legacy which was passed to us by my father. We hope to pass that legacy on to the next generations of our family.”

Katherine Eddins, Executive Director of the Land Trust said, “This is our first conservation easement protecting significant bear habitat. Thank you to Stuckey Timberland for protecting this unique and precious resource.”

Stuckey Timberland and the Stuckey family have a legacy of excellent stewardship of the land, insisting on the use of forest industry best management practices and sound silvicultural science in the management of the forest lands owned by the family.   Further, they have supported the conservation of critical wildlife habitat and environmentally sensitive properties. As a member of Congress representing coastal and central Georgia counties from 1967 through 1977, Bill Stuckey sponsored the legislation which created the Cumberland Island National Seashore and the Okefenokee Swamp Wilderness Area.

The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust is pleased to announce the launch of its new Conservation Education Institute. This new initiative will serve land owners and the general public, including adults, children, families, students, teachers, and educators. The Land Trust believes that building an appreciation for the natural environment is critical to its mission of protecting land and creating a healthier landscape.

“Expanding public outreach activities will provide quality educational experiences while benefitting our land protection mission. Our new Conservation Education Institute will focus on Alabama, Georgia, and other easement locations,” says Katherine Eddins, Executive Director.GAALLandTrustConservationInstitute2Color

The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust recently employed Renee Simmons Raney to serve as Director of Conservation. She will develop and implement  programs which will include Conservationist-in-Training courses for families and youth, a new “Wild Child” series to conquer nature deficit disorder, outdoor classroom events, educational outreach, partnership field programs, teacher workshops, environmental arts, natural heritage storytelling series, and the successful Choccolocco Creek Watershed Alliance project, which was founded in 2010 and is funded by Eastman.

“We believe that an appreciation of our natural resources and heritage is critical to our mission of protecting land and creating a healthier landscape. By providing educational opportunities to people of all ages, we increase the number of folks who understand the value of natural resources and are therefore more likely to take steps to protect these fragile resources,” says Renee Simmons Raney, Director of Conservation.

Raney served as the Assistant Director for Jacksonville State University Field Schools for the past twelve years. Prior to that she was the Education Director for ten years at the Anniston Museum of Natural History.

Allies to this new endeavor include organizations such as Legacy: Partners in EE, Environmental Education Association of Alabama, Longleaf Botanical Gardens, Alabama and Georgia Parks and Recreation, Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Alabama State Parks, Georgia’s McIntosh Preserve, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of the Talladega National Forest, private land resources, and many others.

“Growing up on a southern dairy farm, I often went fishing, swimming, and paddling with my parents. We were frequently accompanied by swarms of jewel-toned dragonflies. Once an emerald dragonfly landed on the tip of my fishing pole. Momma told me to make a wish, but before I even had time to make one, I caught a fish. At that moment, catching a fish was my wish! However, as time passed, my “wish” evolved into a hopeful passion for preserving natural places so that future generations of children will have enchanted moments in the natural world.

The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust today praised a bipartisan congressional vote that makes permanent a federal tax incentive supporting land conservation.

Farmers, ranchers and the public will directly benefit from the incentive that encourages landowners to place a conservation easement on their land to protect important natural, scenic and historic resources. Georgia-Alabama Land Trust was among the 1,100 land trusts to support the incentive through a collaborative, multi-year campaign. uscapitol-washingtondc-picture1-001

“This will have significant impact on land conservation in our community,” said Katherine Eddins, Executive Director of the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust. “We are grateful to Congress and our local representatives for this important legislation.”

The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust is a member of the Land Trust Alliance, the national land conservation organization that led the campaign for permanence.

In a strong bipartisan action, the House voted 318-109 and the Senate voted 65-33 to pass the bills that included the tax incentive.

First enacted as a temporary provision in 2006, the incentive is directly responsible for conserving more than 2 million acres of America’s natural outdoor heritage. The incentive grants certain tax benefits to landowners who sign a conservation easement. Such private, voluntary agreements with local land trusts permanently limit uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Lands placed into conservation easements can continue to be farmed, hunted or used for other specified purposes. The lands also remain on county tax rolls, strengthening local economies.

Once signed into law, the incentive will be applied retroactively to Jan. 1, 2015. An earlier version of the incentive expired Dec. 31, 2014.

 

The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust (GALT) and Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. (SCCi) are partnering to create the largest cave preserve in Georgia. The Charles B. Henson Cave Preserve at Rising Fawn will include approximately 1,300 acres of land that has been acquired by Georgia-Alabama Land Trust over a three year period in the failed subdivision known as the Preserve at Rising Fawn in Dade County. The Land Trust recently sold its holdings at Rising Fawn to a conservation buyer who will protect the land with a conservation easement. The Land Trust will continue to manage the land and seek donations of additional lots.

Entrance to Lost Canyon Cave. Photo Credit: Alan Grosse

Entrance to Lost Canyon Cave. Photo Credit: Alan Grosse

The “Preserve“ is located in the unique and threatened landscape of Johnson’s Crook, a deep horseshoe-shaped cove with high bluffs in the Lookout Mountain ridge. Many of the slopes are underlain by limestone bedrock, in which more than 30 known caves have formed. These caves are important habitat for many types of cave-dwelling species, and also, have in the past been popular among recreational caving enthusiasts for their varied challenges and remarkable beauty.

According to GALT Executive Director Katherine Eddins, “Partnering with SCCi is a natural fit for this property given its extensive cave system.”

Ron Miller, SCCi Chair, adds: “We are very excited to work with GALT in managing one of Georgia’s most significant cave areas. We are also honored that this cave preserve is being named in memory of longtime SCCi member and benefactor Chuck Henson. Johnson’s Crook and its many caves held a special place in Chuck’s heart, and he worked tirelessly in the last years of his life to save this exceptional landscape.”

The Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. (SCCi) is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization founded in 1991 that protects cave resources in the Southeast through management, conservation and education. The largest nonprofit in the U.S. dedicated to cave conservation, SCCi owns and/or manages 30 preserves containing over 140 caves in six southeastern states.

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

George Jeter Fam pic

George Jeter with grandchildren Stewart and Brantley

Land owning in the Jeter family goes back just a little ways. The family first arrived at Port Royal, VA before 1700. The generations in between have been landowners, as Jeter says, “leapfrogging from one frontier to the next.” When Columbus, GA was founded in the 1830s, the Jeters had already arrived in the area.

Jeter grew up an avid hunter and says the appeal of the land goes back to the days when he’d grab his single shot .410 or .22 and take his bike up the road and go hunting. Although he no longer hunts, saying he “takes no great pleasure in killing,” he still loves the woods and the animals. His greatest pleasure in owning the land he says is having “free range” to roam and notes that it is ever more difficult to have that access to land without owning some.

Jeter, who worked as CFO for AFLAC, says, “I’ve been retired since 1985, but I still pretty much work full-time” as a consultant to the company and various charitable organizations. Jeter notes Columbus has “per capita probably the highest percentage of charities anywhere.

” I’ve always thought that people who’ve been fortunate should share.” One volunteer project Jeter helped bring to fruition was a 50-year lease of Department of Defense land on West Point Lake for use as a Boy Scout camp. “I had to get the Secretary of Army to sign it. He was the only person who could sign a lease that long.”

Jeter’s son Jim, an engineer at Warner Robins AFB, lives in Bonaire and with the help of some neighbors looks after the property, which has been a bit more of a chore during a recent cold, wet winter. Significant portions of the property stayed underwater for a while, in part because every let up in the rain seemingly triggers another release from the Lake Jackson reservoir upstream on the Ocmulgee.

G Jeter Snow

Cabin on the easement covered in a rare snowfall.

A goodly portion of the easement property was logged prior to Jeter’s purchase, and he intends to try to restore Longleaf pine to some of the upland areas. The balance of the property is used for hunting and to provide habitat. Among the animals that find habitat on the property are a pair of nesting eagles (“I worry about my Shih Tzu when we’re up there,”) a den of coyotes (“you should hear ‘em when the train comes through,”) black bears, bobcats and “ducks by the thousands.” Jim noted with the property’s periodic flooding you could almost hunt deer and duck from the same spot at different points in the year.

There is also a beaver pond near the lodge on the property. The pond stays wet even in the driest weather as the area’s topography area feeds water down off surrounding hills toward the pond. There is also a strong artesian well. A well bored to serve the lodge produces around 2,000 gallons an hour, flowing so freely that it needed to be capped.

Asked what is his least favorite aspect of owning land is, Jeter replies, “You don’t own land; it owns you.” Of course, his family’s known that for a few hundred years.

 

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.”

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,938 other followers