A Small Step in a Huge Landscape
The Nature Conservancy is one of the largest conservation organizations in the world, and we employ many different tools to accomplish our goals. We support the protection of endangered species, we rehabilitate and restore ecosystems, and we search for solutions to mitigate climate change. What may come as a surprise to some, however, is that one of the main tools in our conservation toolbox is purchasing, conserving, and transferring critical pieces of land.
For example, we recently transferred 2,424 acres of land located in north Georgia’s Dugdown Mountain Corridor to the State of Georgia on December 28, 2022. We originally purchased the property in February 2022 and have been conducting ecological restoration including removing invasive species, applying prescribed fire and planting native shortleaf and longleaf pine on the property until the State, acting through the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GDNR), could take ownership of the land. GDNR currently manages the property for public access as a Wildlife Management Area (WMA), a designation which combines the benefits of conservation and recreation.
The Dugdown Mountain Corridor represents one of the most significant opportunities for multi-state, landscape level restoration of the montane longleaf ecosystem, a species at risk the world over. This initiative resulted from a vision of multiple partners to connect the 21,700-acre Paulding Forest and Sheffield Wildlife Management Areas in northwest Georgia with the 392,597-acre Talladega National Forest in northeast Alabama, a critical effort to improve connectivity within the southern end of the Appalachian mountains. TNC and partners have identified this area as a high priority for land protection because it serves both as a home for rare and unique species and a corridor through which species can travel as they respond and adapt to a changing climate.
This 2,424-acre acquisition is GDNR’s first within the Dugdown Corridor outside of the Paulding Forest and Sheffield WMAs, and the partnerships with TNC and other non-profits sets a precedent for future conservation in this region. The state-acquired property includes multiple streams and more than 2 miles of frontage on the Tallapoosa River. Threatened and endangered species, including the gray and Indiana bats and the fine-lined pocketbook mussel, find habitat on the property. In addition to the ecological values resulting from protecting land, regional conservation in the Dugdown Corridor supports local communities by providing new economic opportunities, reducing climate related risk (such as catastrophic wildfires) and increasing access to recreational lands.
As we face new, growing ecological crises every single year, it is more important than ever that we bring additional lands under protection. Reconnecting these landscapes will provide immeasurable conservation benefits and help create a thriving Georgia for decades to come.