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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Coming June 4th, Terrapin Creek will be invaded by Pirate Ducks! The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust and our Conservation Education Institute will host a Third Annual Duck Derby and Wild Child education event along Terrapin Creek. No real ducks are used in this race, only the rubber kind.

The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust’s new Conservation Education InIMG_4521stitute (CEI) will be presenting diverse learning stations for kids from pre-k to grey. There will be a hay ride, bug hunt, a bird migration game, a 4-H River Kids safety course, and live animals, including reptiles and birds of prey.

Children will complete a Passport to Conservation as they engage in fun activities. Toy prizes will be awarded for passport participation. Partners include Alabama State Parks, Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, and the Anniston Museum of Natural History.

The event begins at 10am at the Terrapin Outdoor Center and Redneck Yacht Club on County Road 175 just above Piedmont, AL off of Alabama Highway 9. Live music begins at noon, plus we will serve FREE hot dogs until they are gone!

For more information call 256-447-1006 or adopt your duck HERE
and get your Pirates of the Terrapin t-shirt.  You can also check out our website at www.galandtrust.org for the latest information.

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 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.

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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.

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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 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.”