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.

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.

 

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.

In case you missed it, the Georgia Land Trust and Fort Stewart were recently highlighted by the New York Times for their cooperative conservation work on and around Fort Stewart through the Army’s Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) Program. ACUB seeks to limit the complications arising from residential development encroaching on the base (for obvious reasons, military training exercises and community developments don’t mix) and to improve on the Army’s record of conservation. The program has been key in protecting a number of threatened species, such as the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, Gopher Tortoise and the habitats they call home, such as the Longleaf Pine – Wiregrass Savannas which used to be common across the South. If you want to read the New York Times article, you can find it here. However, gaining a full understanding of why the Georgia Land Trust and Fort Stewart find protecting land in this area important, and those habitats and species unique to it requires  some understanding of the region’s ecological history.

Image credit: Appalachian Woods

Historically speaking, Longleaf Pine Savannas were the dominant ecosystem of the Coastal Plain Southeast. At the time of Hernando DeSoto’s first European incursion into Southeastern interiors, Longleaf Pine Savannas stretched from Virginia to Eastern Texas, an ecosystem entirely unbroken over 2,000 miles except by the wide expanses of the Mississippi River. The naturalist William Bartram, roaming the Southeast in the 1780s and 90s, described the region as “a forest of the great long-leaved pine, the earth covered with grass, intersped with an infinite variety of herbaceous plants and embellished with extensive savannas, always green, sparkling with ponds of water.” These glowing commentaries might be surprising to the modern observer ranging over these same areas, who would see only densely planted stands of loblolly, slash and shortleaf pine, overgrown with juvenile hardwoods and  thickets of woody shrubs, the worst being the dreaded chinese privet, which renders navigation in some pine stands impossible. Considering this, it’s hard to imagine the open parks described.

The "catfaces" notched to get resin for the turpentine industry.

Yet they were there, and it took several hundred years to slowly force the longleaves to retreat into their current, vestigial pockets. First came the Tarheels, who cut and burned swathes of forest to produce tar for the naval stores industry. Then came the turpentiners, the second use for pines for naval stores, whose notching “catfaces” into the sides of the pines often killed the tree and exposed them to fire, against which adult trees were generally immune. Finally, the pulpwood industry pushed the longleaf back into 5% of their original range by preferentially selecting the faster growing loblolly, shortleaf and slash pine for use in their plantations. The nascent economies of the Southeast, often perceived as having grown up on cotton and tobacco, were as much built around the bounty of the Longleaves. Finally, as timber companies began divesting themselves of some of their vast landholdings, sprawling neighborhoods consumed large areas of prime lands. This final assault on the forests of southeast Georgia is one of the key motivations for the ACUB program.

Very few mature Longleaf Pine forests exist today, and some of those forests are found on Fort Stewart and surrounding lands. The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker and Gopher Tortoise are highly dependent on Longleaf Pine Savannahs. The woodpecker is thought to require anywhere from 60 – 300 acres of pine savannah for foraging, and will only live in the cavities of mature, living pines. The forest floor has to be regularly burned as well. Destruction of mature forests and poor fire management has reduced the number of Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers from more than 1 million birds to somewhere in the vicinity of 12,000 today. Similarly, Gopher Tortoises require the loose, sandy soils of the savanna to dig their burrows, and can’t browse in the woody undergrowth of a poorly fire-managed forest, but require the grasses and leafy plants of an open environment.  Gopher Tortoises too have been reduced across their range. Protecting both species assists more than their species alone, as reduction of their numbers has a multiplying effect across their ecosystem. Gopher Tortoises, for example, have been known to make burrows 40 feet long and nearly 9 feet deep, which is thought to help support 400 further species of animals and plants that rely on their long and deep burrows as both a home and shelter from fires. Some of these species can survive without the Gopher Tortoise, some can’t.

Image credit: Michael Rupert

The protection and management of the Longleaf Pine forests and the species that rely on it are not only important from an environmental standpoint, but also from one of our cultural history. Without their preservation into the future, it might be literally impossible to look across the land and understand the South as it used to be.

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If you would like to participate in the protection of your longleaf forest, other ecologically important lands, or lands around the Fort Stewart area in general, contact the Georgia Land Trust at: (912) 231-0507 or read more about us at galandtrust.org.

Sources:

http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/ja/ja_rudolph013.pdf

http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_bk_w7000_0013_red_cockaded_woodpecker_mgmt.pdf

http://georgiawildlife.dnr.state.ga.us/content/displaypressrelease.asp?ArticleID=1318

Though not specifically used for this article, it borrows heavily from the experience of reading Lawrence Early’s Looking for Longleaf; The Fall and Rise of an American Forest, found here.

Fountaingoats

Local landowners have permanently protected their property, conserving it for future generations. Landowners Jack & Linda Fountain have donated a conservation easement to the Georgia Land Trust on their 817 acres near Reynolds, GA.

Under the terms of the conservation easement, the Fountains still own their property and are free to use it in the same way they have in the past, but with limits on how the property may be developed in the future. The conservation easement restricts future residential or commercial development, but allows the Fountains to farm the land and manage the timber on it. At the same time, they’ve set aside their unique hardwood forests and natural areas along the banks of the streams on the property to be protected from any disturbance.

The property, which sits on both Horse and Little Vine Creek, feeds into the Flint River, the most ecologically diverse river east of the Mississippi. The scenic property features pine stands, open pastures, peach orchards, wheat and cotton fields and highly valued bottomland forests filled with several varieties of oak, ash, sweetgum, and hickory. The property contains over 300 acres of state and federally recognized productive soils, which will be protected against conversion to non-agricultural uses.

Fountainhouse When asked why he decided to protect his land Dr. Fountain cited his desire to preserve, “some of the southern self-sustaining farm life as I knew it. It is important for me to be able to pass some of this down to my children. Once the traces of this past era are gone, there is no return.” The Fountain’s home on the property was completed in 1904 by Dr. Fountain’s grandfather, who was so particular about the construction of his house that he let not a knotty board be used towards its creation. When asked about his favorite thing about the property Dr. Fountain replied that autumn and spring there “are intoxicating,” reflecting  on the “overwhelming aroma of all the new flowers,” and autumn’s “ marvelous smells in the woods with the crisp air and the rustle of wildlife.”

Marc Hudson of the Georgia Land Trust says, “the Fountain’s decision to put their property under easement adding to its agricultural uses, protecting the farm soils and special protections for their forest bottomlands will go a long way towards protecting an important public resource.” Mr. Hudson also added, “we’re very grateful for the opportunity to protect this property. We feel it is sure to be an anchor and an incentive for future conservation efforts in this area in the future.”

Gifts of conservation easements have the potential to be rewarded with tax deductions on a landowner’s income taxes and a tax credit in Georgia. To find out more about conservation easements and a possible tax deduction, check the Georgia Land Trust website at http://www.galandtrust.org