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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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 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.

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

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

Six generations of Stanleys have worked land in Georgia’s Toombs and Tattnall counties, and another generation is learning to love the land and how to work it.

The Stanley family has been living and farming in the Toombs County area longer than there has been a Toombs County and almost as long as Tattnall has been a county. The history of the Stanleys is their work on the land, including the 1,635-acre tract in Tattnall the family preserved in 2009 with a conservation easement held by the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust.

SIx generations: L-R, Bryan, Terry, Vince and R.T. Stanley

Six generations: L-R, Bryan, Terry, Vince and R.T. Stanley

“I started out sharecropping with my great uncle,” R.T. Stanley says. It was sharecropping that helped strengthen his determination to own land. “As I was growing up, I always wanted to buy land and own it. It’s in my blood. It’s always better to own it; you never know what will happen when you lease it.” The land in the conservation easement features around two miles of frontage on the Ohoopee River.

“The downturn in the economy was a two-edged sword. It hurt some people, but it helped make this tract available,” says R.T., whose sons Vince, Brian and Tracy joined him in donating the easement. “Buying this tract is the biggest transaction in my life; it’s a big step—a big chance to take.”

All the Stanleys agree that it was a chance worth taking. “It’s just so big and diverse,” Vince says. “There are a couple of hundred acres of longleaf and wiregrass, and we planted another 150 acres of longleaf. There’s a variety of hunting and fishing, and the land is good.”

Good indeed: 43 percent of the property is rated either prime soil or soil of statewide importance. Almost 300 acres are highly desirable for production of sweet Vidalia onions. In addition to growing the onions, the Stanleys now operate Vidalia Valley Farms, which produces Vidalia Valley Onion® products, including salad dressings, barbecue sauce and even a Vidalia Onion Slow Burn Peach Hot Sauce®.

When asked who created the recipes for the sauces, Vince reports that he liked combining his entrepreneurial and culinary abilities. Who created the recipes? Vince says simply, “I did.” His inspiration? “Well, I do like to make money. And they taste real good, too.”

Bottomland along the Ohoopee

Bottomland along the Ohoopee

The Stanleys’ conservation easement with the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust will ensure that the family will always have a place, not only to continue working the land, but also to gather the family in some of their favorite pursuits. Much of the property is used for hunting and abounds with deer, dove, and turkey. It also features man-made ponds that support healthy populations of bass and white perch.

Vince says, “Working with the Land Trust, we feel like we covered everything. We kept changing the easement around a good bit and got it where it was a win-win. We can continue using the land, mixing in food plots, timber and crops on a lot of the property, but there are over 140 acres of 100-year old bottomlands that will never be touched.”

And even more important to the sixth generation of Stanleys is what the conservation easement means to the seventh generation. “Now, we know our kids will grow up on this land. They love to go out on it with us.”

Vidalia Valley Farms

Stanley Farms

 

 

 

 

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.”