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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 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.

 

Duck Derby 2015 grew a crowd to Terrapin Creek last Saturday.  Duck adoptions were brisk and even a little rain did not dampen the spirits of the kids playing in the Modern Woodmen Financial Kidz Zone. The Land Trust raised around $1,700 in duck adoptions and t-shirt sales for the Terrapin Creek cleanup project plus another $4,000 was received from a grant from Wells Fargo. The money will be used to create a map of the creek and carry-in carry-out bags for garbage. It’s the whole idea about leaving nothing but footprints when you make memories in the great outdoors.

Crowd gathers for Duck Derby 2015

Crowd gathers for Duck Derby 2015

The end of the race was exciting with some ducks leading and then getting caught in the rocks, but the winner was duck #76 adopted by Landon Burrage and he wins the kayak.  Other prize winners included, Morgan Lavender, Wade Townsend, Sonya Owens, Ryan McRae, and Bill Fuqua.

Thanks again to all of our sponsors and prize donors. They include the following:

Modern Woodmen Financial

Terrapin Outdoor Center

Redneck Yacht Club and Kayak Rental

Kids waiting on the Ducks to cross the finish line

Kids waiting on the Ducks to cross the finish line

Floating Fun.net

Piedmont Hardware

Solid Rock Cafe’

Friends of the Terrapin

Kidz Zone banner

Kidz Zone banner

 

Mini Kayak Races

Mini Kayak Races

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ducks near the finish line

Ducks near the finish line

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.”

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