Few places in the country contain such extraordinary biodiversity or face as many threats as the Southern Appalachians. In 2007, we focused in on Northwest Georgia – an especially diverse yet little protected area – to pilot a strategy for the most effective use of conservation dollars in protecting habitat in the region.
The Northwest Georgia Land Protection Fund laid the groundwork for increasing the scale and impact of land conservation efforts in the Southern Appalachians, supported by our subsequent Southern Cumberland and Southeast Resilient Landscapes funds.
Why Northwest Georgia Land Protection Fund
The mountainous northwest corner of Georgia, where the Cumberland Plateau meets the Ridge and Valley region, is characterized by long ripples of ridges and plateaus dissected by streams, springs, canyons and caves. Its tremendous variety of ecological niches makes it a hot spot for biological diversity and climate resilience.
In the past, large-scale logging and mining posed the greatest threats to wildlife habitat, but expanses of forestland still harbor abundant diversity. Today, the main causes of habitat loss and fragmentation are residential development and road building, driven by the area’s popularity as a vacation get-away.
In 2007, we launched the Northwest Georgia Fund, created with in part with contributions from the Lyndhurst and Benwood Foundations. To find the most worthwhile projects, we turned to Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan, which had already identified 204,000 acres of unprotected high-priority habitat in northwest Georgia.
Impact of the Fund
The Fund protected 5,300 acres in Northwest Georgia, filling critical gaps and creating corridors of connectivity. It increased by almost ten percent the amount of conserved habitat identified in the state’s wildlife action plan.
Through the Fund, we laid the groundwork for future effective conservation efforts by focusing on the most important places for wildlife diversity. We helped strengthen regional organizations and inspired them to focus on biodiversity protection, guided by scientific data.
The Fund also attracted renewed interest in the area from The Nature Conservancy, as well as significant funding from the State of Georgia and local county governments, which, for the first time ever, committed $3 million to a land conservation project. Our work also increased awareness of the importance of habitat preservation among landowners in priority areas.
Read the program summary report: Protecting the Best: Wildlife Habitat in Northwest Georgia.