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.

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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.

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.

 

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.”

 

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.

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

When you own “the prettiest little mountain farm you ever saw,” and your work—raising pure-bred Salers Cattle— is the passion of your life, you start to think about how to protect a place.

Jo Colmore’s Walker County, GA. tract is one of the largest unbroken tracts in an area of increasing fragmentation of property. Located on top of Lookout Mountain, the land is “just full of hemlocks” and, according to Colmore, is the perfect spot for a home site and to raise his “momma cows.”

Jo Colmore with some of his Saler's Cattle

Jo Colmore with some of his Saler’s Cattle

Colmore has owned the property since 1967, when he and his brother got “a hankering to own some land.” After running a summer camp until 1983, Colmore turned to cattle breeding full-time. The calves he raises are sold to other cattle businesses for breeding purposes.

While his place is usually a portrait of tranquility, the mothers were weaning calves at the time of this interview. Colmore says it gets a little hectic during weaning but that “everyone calms down in a week or so.”

Like many donors, Colmore didn’t just leap into his conservation easement. He took his time, but came to the decision after taking in the miles of darkness untouched by electric lights. He realized it was time to “join this thing” and placed 115 acres of his property, including sensitive areas along Bear Creek, into a conservation easement.

Woodlands on the 115 acre easement

Woodlands on the 115 acre easement

Colmore enjoys sitting on his porch at night looking out at the pristine woodlands of his property and the nearby Cloudland Canyon State Park.