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OSI loan helps partners protect ancient forest along Altamaha River in Southeast Georgia

ATLANTA — August 5, 2009 — The Open Space Institute announces a more-than $4 million conservation loan to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) that enabled TNC and the Georgia Land Conservation Program (GLCP) to protect several miles of land adjacent to the Altamaha River in southeastern Georgia, as well as an ancient forest containing champion trees, and rare and endangered species. 

”This conservation project will protect endangered habitat for many species of wildlife, linking it with our work elsewhere in Georgia,” said Marc Hunt, OSI’s Southern Appalachians field coordinator. “We’re happy once again to work with The Nature Conservancy and the Georgia Land Conservation Program in our collective effort to advance the cause of Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan.”

Using the loan from the Open Space Conservancy, OSI’s land acquisition affiliate, along with additional funding from the GLCP, TNC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources acquired a 7,180-acre parcel in Long and McIntosh counties from Rayonier Forest Resources, LLC. The state, which will own and manage the parcel, already owns a 300-foot buffer on the river as part of a donation from Rayonier in 1978. The land will be maintained as a conservation area and become part of the Townsend Wildlife Management Area.

“Permanently preserving tracts of land of this significance is integral to creating a culture of conservation in Georgia,” said Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. “And this is an excellent example of the state partnering with the private sector, conservation community and the federal government to make that happen.”

Earlier this year, an OSI grant helped TNC acquire several conservation easements across 572 acres on Lookout Mountain in Walker County, Georgia. In all, OSI’s Conservation Finance Program has provided eight loans and grants to partner organizations that have protected 13,564 acres throughout Georgia. Each of these projects relates to OSI’s ongoing initiative in Georgia and the Southern Appalachian region to support the goals of the various State Wildlife Action Plans in the region.

“Thanks to the continued foresight of Rayonier in protecting environmentally sensitive lands, one of the largest remaining intact tracts of land in the lower Altamaha River will be permanently protected,” said Shelly Lakly, director of The Nature Conservancy in Georgia. “Having now helped to protect more than 89,000 acres along the Altamaha, the Conservancy is grateful to our partners and supporters for their commitment to conservation—this is a unique example of how public and private dollars can be leveraged.”

Stretching 10 miles along the Altamaha River, the property contains several large specimen trees including the largest cypress tree in Georgia and surrounding states, with a circumference of 43 feet and 3 inches.

The property also contains a variety of habitats including freshwater wetlands, tupelo swamps, intertidal forest and longleaf pine forest. It supports at least 17 state-listed rare and endangered species such as the swallow-tailed kite, gopher tortoise and the federally protected eastern indigo snake.

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