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.

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CVLT LOGOGeorgia Land Trust affiliate Chattahoochee Valley Land Trust is seeking a new program director.  The CVLT Program Director oversees the land protection program for the sixteen county region around Columbus, Georgia, including three counties in Eastern Alabama. Key responsibilities include: implementing urban conservation initiatives; working with landowners to protect land through conservation easements; and implementing CVLT’s sub-award agreement for the Army Compatible Use Buffering Program at Ft. Benning.

The director also cultivates landowner relationships in furtherance of the CVLT mission and ACUB Program. These relationships are crucial and it is desired that the applicant have ties to the Columbus area and prior dealings or contacts with community landowners, professionals, officials, and other interested stakeholders. Additionally, a degree in or substantial experience related to natural resources and/or environmental science, law, or policy is desirable. Depending upon the selected applicant’s skill set, responsibilities may also include the preparation of baseline documentation reports and/or conservation easements.

If you are interested, please submit your letter of interest and résumé to Hal Robinson at hrobinson@galandtrust.org. Email inquiries only, please. We look forward to reviewing your materials. To view the complete job description, click here.

Choccolocco Creek

Choccolocco Creek

Mark your calendars for April 28th from 1pm – 5pm, the Choccolocco Creek Watershed Alliance will host a hike through the Choccolocco Creek Watershed. The trek will be lead by Jacksonville State University’s own Francine Hutchinson. She is the Assistant Herbarium Curator as well as a seasoned Ethno-botanist. She will bring a wealth of knowledge with her on our hike. Come prepared to learn some interesting things about the forest as well as the plant species that have been an important resource for hundreds of years.

Trailhead Location:  Dugger Mountain Rd within the Talladega National Forest.
Directions: From Piedmont, AL head East on Vigo Rd. for approximately 2.5 miles.
                         Turn right onto Hebble Hwy heading South towards Dugger Mountain.
                         Turn left onto Dugger Mountain Rd (also called CR 500), still heading South.
                         Stay on Dugger Mountain Road for approximately 1.5 miles as it bends through the Vigo  community  and enters Talladega National Forest (there will be a sign)
                         Once you enter Talladega National Forest, the trailhead will be another 1.5 miles.
                         The paved road becomes dirt and you will pass a “One Lane Bridge”sign.
                         Continue another 1/4 mile down Dugger Mountain Rd.
                         Look for the Dugger Wilderness sign on the right, at the tree-line.
                         Park along the side of the road.
Please Register for this free hiking event and bring a friend, water, snacks and your camera.

This will not be a difficult or fast-paced hike. To register or for  more information, go to www.choccoloccocreekalliance.org

2009 has been a busy year for the Alabama Land Trust, Chattowah Open Land Trust, the Georgia Land Trust and their affiliate organizations. We’ve blown past our strategic goal of protecting 125,000 acres of land by 2011, instead protecting nearly 156,000 acres by the end of 2009. In this last year alone we’ve protected 38,000 acres of land, breaking our previous record of protection of 35,000 acres in 2007. To give our readers and the conservation-minded public in general a better grasp of how much land we’re talking about, we’d like to try put things in perspective for you.

The 38,000 acres we protected in 2009 is roughly equivalent to 59 square miles of land or an 8 by 7.5 mile box. In that amount of land one could squeeze in 4,175 (with an acre or two to spare), 9.1-acre Georgia Domes. Our total land protected, 156,000 acres, comes out to 243 square miles of land. If you’re familiar with the multi-armed, writhing morass that is the Atlanta Metropolitan Area, 243 square miles is nearly the size of DeKalb County, at the heart of the Atlanta metro area. If you’re an Alabaman, 243 square miles is roughly one quarter the size of Jefferson County, or more than 2/3 the size of the entire Birmingham Metropolitan area. And all of this has been protected with a staff of only 13.

What’s most incredible about this accomplishment? The first is that we revisit every acre of land we protect every year. For two months of each year, land trust staff reviews the documents that delineate the land’s protection, fire up their GPS units, unsling their cameras like weapons of war and take to the roads and the air to monitor our protected properties (almost 185 square miles in 2009).

The second incredible thing is the sheer diversity of the habitats, people and situations our land trusts work with to accomplish all this land protection.. Conservation easements in the land trusts’ area of coverage are so far flung that it could take a person 11 hours to drive from one end of the coverage area to the other. Despite that vast range, every single acre of protected land was visited and monitored to ensure the land has been maintained as intended.

These monitoring activities took place while we were protecting a further 59 square miles of land. This means that in 2010, when our land trusts once again take off on their annual monitoring, they will being monitoring 243 square miles as they continue their protection work.

The land area our land trusts operate in is so large and diverse that it stretches from the rocky crags and streams of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Cumberland Plateau to the coastal Tupelo and Cypress Swamps. They hold easements in the Piedmont, Coastal Plain, Fall Line, and the Blackbelt. In fact, our land trusts hold conservation easements in every ecological region of Alabama and Georgia. (To get a pdf of a beautiful map showing the ecoregions, you can go to the EPA webpage.)

These easements are intended not only to preserve the incredibly diverse flora and fauna of our region, but also the bounteous food and timber its farms and forests provide. In addition to protecting critical habitat, riparian corridors and other environmental assets, our land trusts protect historic family farms, valuable soils, productive forest plantations, hunting lands and more. They work with farmers, foresters, and, in general, landowners concerned with the future of their land.

In fact, landowners have been the biggest reason for the land trusts’ success. Every year dozens of landowners contact our land trusts because of the recommendation of other individuals who have previously protected land with us. Landowners take a big leap in protecting land with us by agreeing to a permanent relationship with the trusts and so far our landowners have been active participants in the protection of their land.

So, the land trusts have been successful so far, and given our efforts to refine our operating procedures, should remain so in the future; however, we can only continue to do so with the help of caring, conservation-minded individuals. If you’d like to learn more about us or are considering protecting your land in 2010, look us up at galandtrust.org. Or if you would like to give us a call you can reach our Northeast Alabama Office at (256) 447-1006; our Columbus, Georgia Office at (706) 662-2211, or our Savannah, Georgia office at (866) 656-5263 or (912) 231-0507.

-Marc-