MACON, Ga. (September 2022)—A successful OSI-led land transaction dramatically expanding Ocmulgee Mounds National Park in Macon Georgia was hailed by national, tribal and conservation leaders during a two-day celebration earlier this month. Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute (OSI), joined U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Sen. Jon Ossoff, Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., and members of the Muscogee Creek Nation and Yuchi tribe in Macon, Georgia, for the 30th annual Ocmulgee Indigenous Celebration.
In February 2022, OSI announced an acquisition doubling the size of the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park and protecting some of the most significant prehistoric Indigenous mounds in North America. The park was under threat of industrial development until OSI negotiated purchase of 951 acres in 2021. This acquisition protected the iconic mounds, as well as providing critical protection of the Ocmulgee watershed and wetlands.
“This kind of land acquisition represents the best of what our conservation efforts should look like: collaborative, inclusive, locally led, and in support of the priorities of our country’s tribal nations,” Haaland said at the event.
“OSI is proud of our role in the protection and expansion of Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park,” said Elliman. “This land is incredibly special, holding history dating back thousands of years. OSI is proud to have played a part in ensuring this land’s permanent protection and acknowledging the Muscogee Nation’s historic and ancestral connection to this hallowed place.”
During the celebration, Haaland, Elliman, Sen. Ossoff, and Rep. Bishop, joined by tribal officials and park staff, toured the Ocmulgee Mounds, recognized as marvels of Indigenous engineering, and among America’s most important Indigenous landscapes. Seven of the mounds can be found at the park, including the 55-foot-high Great Temple Mound, located on a high bluff overlooking the floodplain of the Ocmulgee River.
And for those in attendance, the event proved to be an appropriately moving way to commemorate the project. “The full power of land protection was on display at the 30th Indigenous Festival,” said OSI’s Patrick Moore, Senior Land Project Manager who was critical in coordinating the transaction. “After 250 years of painful history, seeing the Muscogee Creek Nation, United States government, and local leaders declare these mounds protected for everyone, forever, confirms that land can address issues that words and money generally cannot. OSI is doing the most important work with incredibly capable and motivated partners.”
OSI negotiated the contract, managed the due diligence and demolition, and raised the $5.3 million dollars needed for the acquisition. The expansion of Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park was completed in coordination with partners from the Muscogee Nation, National Park Service, Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative, and the National Park Foundation. The project was funded by the NPS using Land and Water Conservation Funds, Knobloch Family Foundation through a grant to OSI, Peyton Anderson Foundation through a grant to the Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative, and the National Park Foundation. Additional partnership and support was provided by the Ocmulgee Land Trust, National Parks Conservation Association, The Nature Conservancy, and Georgia Conservancy.