Clean Water


A crowd of over a hundred gathered to learn about creek critters and watch little rubber duckies race at the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust’s third annual Duck Derby.

All the little yellow fellows crossed the finish line to the delight of the crowd, especially all the kids. Earlier in the day those same kids spent the day catching bugs, learning how to detect venomous snakes, and how to be safe on the water. One of our partners, the Anniston Museum of Natural History lent us two birds of prey, a red-tailed hawk and an owl, to teach kids about birds and bird migration.

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Renee Raney with Bobo the Owl.

Money raised at this year’s event will fund our new conservation education institute. The outreach program, led by Conservation Director Renee Raney, is an effort to educate the young about the importance of preserving special places. She says,”Today’s children spend less time outside than any previous generation. Playing outside creates a connection between life and land, building our future conservationists!”

A Big thank you goes out to all of the participants, duck adopters, volunteers, door prize donors, and our hosts, Mike and Kat at Terrapin Outdoor Center and Hank and Teresa at Red Neck Yacht Club. A special thank you to Cheaha State Park Cooperative Extension Service, and Wells Fargo for their support.  We cannot wait until next year! (Hint: It’s June 3rd, 2017!)

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Want to play in the woods and get paid to do it? This summer the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust will have a paid summer intern program funded by Legacy Partners in Environmental Education.  The program is part of the Darryl Gates Memorial Summer College Internship Program.GAALLandTrustConservationInstitute2Color

Interns will work full-time for a minimum of eight weeks and must be rising Juniors or Seniors in good academic standing.  Applicants must be enrolled full-time in a relevant undergraduate degree program at a four-year college or university in the state of Alabama. The program is looking for students who are enrolled in a variety of environmentally-related fields, such as environmental education or engineering; environmental studies; teaching degrees in science, biology, or related field; environmental law; or other related career paths.  Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 point scale as of Fall quarter/semester 2015, and are planning to be enrolled full-time through the fall of 2016.

Our intern will be working with our new Conservation Education Institute and will assit with the development, implementation, and assessment of immersion-based programs, outdoor adventure workshops, and other fun events that connect people to nature. The intern will also have opportunities to work in land protection, easement monitoring, land management practices and conservation field surveys.

For more information or an application click HERE.

The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust is proud to be a project participant in a national conservation program recently announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced $720 million in nationwide funding for another round of conservation projects in 50 states. This funding is a continuation of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), first funded by the federal government in the 2014 Farm Bill. Under this program, the USDA teams with several conservation groups, including the Land Trust, to preserve open space and natural habitats.

In last year’s funding, $1.25 million dollars were specifically allocated toward a 2,300 acre protection project near Fort Stewart, which the Land Trust is in the process of finalizing. That project not only furthers the Department of Agriculture’s RCPP program, it also contributes to a low-density, compatible use buffer surrounding Fort Stewart.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

“It’s important for us to maintain the installation where we can train the way we fight, but not be constrained with a worry of smoke or noise or dust going off the installation [and impacting our neighbors],” said Tim Beaty, Chief of Fish & Wildlife at Ft. Stewart.

“Restoration is also part of this project,” said Executive Director Katherine Eddins, “ restoring and maintaining the long leaf pine that once dominated the landscape has helped bring back the red-cockaded woodpecker, the indigo snake and the gopher tortoise. We are so excited to continue to work with Fort Stewart and surrounding land owners on this important conservation mission. “

“We put out a call for innovative and results-focused projects that will deliver the most conservation impact,” Secretary Vilsack said. “Our partners answered with creative, locally-led approaches to help producers support their ongoing business operations and address natural resource challenges in their communities and across the nation.”

The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust has been working with Fort Stewart for many years and is directly responsible for protecting over 30,000 acres of land surrounding the installation.

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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 (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 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.”

 

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