WOODBINE, GA (Sep. 2, 2021) – More than 24,000 acres along the southeast Georgia coast previously protected by the Open Space Institute (OSI), The Nature Conservancy, and The Conservation Fund have been acquired by the State of Georgia for public use and enjoyment. The land, which includes the Ceylon Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and a portion of the Cabin Bluff property, serves as an essential coastal buffer for Cumberland Island National Seashore and the Kings Bay Naval Base as well as other as inland communities and critical infrastructure.
Both properties include habitat for sensitive and endangered species which depend upon longleaf pine uplands, maritime forests, freshwater wetlands, and tidal salt marsh wetlands. Their transfer to the State of Georgia, along with an additional 3,000 acres that were protected by a conservation easement co-held by the State and Navy, will allow for the expansion of a fire-managed longleaf pine ecosystem beneficial to the gopher tortoise, while creating new opportunities for outdoor recreation, including wildlife viewing, fishing, hunting, kayaking and nature photography.
OSI previously protected the 16,000-acre Ceylon property with The Conservation Fund; and the 11,000-acre Cabin Bluff property with The Nature Conservancy, before selling a 3,217-acre portion subject a conservation easement to a private buyer. The Wyss Foundation provided instrumental financial support for the acquisition of both properties.
“Permanent protection of the Ceylon and Cabin Bluff properties are enormous conservation victories for Georgia and the coastal U.S. In protecting this fragile landscape from further development, we have protected inland communities from flood risks, created recreation offerings for the people of Georgia, and provided critical habitat for the gopher tortoise, migratory birds, and other wildlife, said Kim Elliman, President and CEO of the Open Space Institute. "OSI is proud to be part of this transformative effort and we offer our great thanks to the Wyss Foundation for their support. We also congratulate the State of Georgia and our conservation partners for this momentous conservation achievement.”
“Rarely do you find such an amazing piece of property that checks so many of the conservation boxes – pristine habitat for gopher tortoises, red-cockaded woodpeckers, and migratory birds; recreational access to hunters and anglers; important historical and cultural resources; connected lands and waters for a growing climate corridor – that our agency holds dear,” said Leopoldo Miranda-Castro, the regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the South Atlantic, Gulf and Mississippi Basin. “The breadth, and financial commitment, of our many state, federal, military, nonprofit, and private partners too is something to behold.”
Located just across the Intracoastal Waterway from Cumberland Island National Seashore, Cabin Bluff and Ceylon contain carbon-sequestering marshland and pines that buffer St. Marys and other coastal communities from storm surge and flooding.
This area is home to multiple game species, at least 10 federally listed, candidate and petitioned species, and 24 State-protected, rare, or species of concern, including four viable gopher tortoise populations, wood stork, Florida manatee, the bald eagle, painted bunting and the hooded pitcher plant. With restoration, Cabin Bluff and Ceylon will also provide future habitat for red-cockaded woodpeckers.
In addition to OSI and the Wyss Foundation, funding for the purchase of the properties was made possible by the Land and Water Conservation Fund, America’s most important fund for outdoor recreation in National parks, forests, wildlife refuges, local parks, and other public lands. Thanks in part to the OSI’s Outdoors America Campaign (OAC), the LWCF in 2020 became permanently guaranteed $900 million annually to protect America’s natural, recreational, and cultural resources.
Additionally, multiple partners (state and federal agencies, conservation groups, private foundations, and others) through conservation easements, grants (federal and private) and the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Program also provided funding.