By Maria Saporta
The Nature Conservancy is adding another 1,117 acres under its protection along the Altamaha River.
The property is known as the Morgan Lake tract near Jesup in Long County, Ga.
With the addition of the Morgan Lake property, the Nature Conservancy and many of its public and private partners have protected more than 140,000 acres in the Altamaha River basin.
The Morgan Lake tract is strategically located between several sensitive wildlife areas. It is a critical link between the state’s Griffin Ridge Wildlife Management Area and the protected corridor stretching along the river for more than 40 miles, from the Townsend Wildlife Management Area to the Wolf and Egg Island National Wildlife Refuge in the Altamaha delta.
“The Altamaha River is lifeblood for a tremendous part of our state, from streams in metropolitan Atlanta to the marshes of St. Simons Island,” said Deron Davis, executive director of the Nature Conservancy in Georgia. “Healthy communities, recreation opportunities and strong natural systems are all worthy of protection. Thanks to our supporters and partners, we’ve contributed to that goal here, and we look forward to doing much more.”
The Nature Conservancy purchased Morgan Lake at fair market value from a local private landowner whose family had owned the tract for many years, using it for commercial recreation, timber harvesting and other business ventures.
The Conservancy then sold the property in two steps.
First, the U.S. Navy purchased a restrictive conservation easement with funding from the Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program (REPI).
Second, the state of Georgia purchased the property from the Nature Conservancy below market value to add to its system of wildlife management areas.
Funds to purchase the land came from a variety of sources; including private donors to the Nature Conservancy – the Isdell Family Foundation, state funds, the Knobloch Family Foundation, U.S. Navy funds, and a National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Morgan Lake will offer great recreational opportunities for the citizens of Georgia and we look forward to working with Long County to determine the best way to accommodate the public,” said Mark Williams, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Commissioner. “We are also very grateful to our partners for their financial support of this project.”
Morgan Lake also has wetland forests, which are made up of a wide range of native tree species including bald cypress and swamp tupelo. Herons and egrets take refuge on the hidden lakes and swallow-tailed kites fly overhead.
Georgia’s DNR is working with Long County on collaborative strategies to operate an existing campground area and access to the waters of Morgan Lake.
“We look forward to seeing this site opened to the public,” said Robert Long, Chairman of the Long County Board of Commissioners, “for the recreational benefit of our people, as well as the protection of our natural resources.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for people and nature.
The Conservancy, which has more than one million members, has protected more than 120 million acres worldwide. In Georgia, the Conservancy has helped protect more than 300,000 acres. It continues to work to improve the health of natural systems across the state.