Hank and Wendy Paulson protect Little St. Simons Island forever

By Maria Saporta

One of Georgia’s most fragile and significant natural locations – Little St. Simons Island – will be protected in perpetuity – as in forever.

The island is owned by Henry “Hank” Paulson Jr., the former U.S. Treasury Secretary and the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, along with his wife, Wendy. The Paulsons, who are both longtime environmentalists, have placed the 11,333-acre barrier island under a permanent conservation easement with the Nature Conservancy – which has been working on the Georgia coast for decades.

Little St. Simons Island

Little St. Simons Island (Photo by Marc Del Santro)

“Little St. Simons Island is one of the most significant natural areas remaining on the eastern coast of the United States,” said Deron Davis, executive director of the Nature Conservancy in Georgia, in a statement. “The Conservancy’s story began in Georgia on the coast in the 1960s, and we have now played a role in protecting 12 of the state’s 13 barrier islands.”

The island is widely recognized as an excellent example of unique and well-managed coastal habitat. The conservation easement encompasses the entire island, which is located at the mouth of the Altamaha River in Glynn County.

A conservation easement is a voluntary, legally binding agreement that limits certain types of land use. It can also prevent development from taking place now and in the future while protecting the property’s ecological or open-space values.

The Nature Conservancy and many partners have actively pursued conservation of Little St. Simons Island by working with landowners and managers there since the 1980s.

Little St. Simons Island

Salt marsh and hammock along Mosquito Creek border on Little St. Simons Island (Photo by Marc Del Santro)

In the 1990s, the Conservancy identified the island as the highest priority coastal conservation land in Georgia. The island includes extensive areas of salt marsh, freshwater wetlands and other important coastal habitat types.

The property is owned by Whimbrel, a limited liability company owned by the Paulsons, who have had a role in the ownership and management of the island since 2003. They will retain ownership of Little St. Simons Island, and the Conservancy will ensure that the conservation values outlined in the easement.

“Hank and I have cherished the hope since our first visit that Little St. Simons Island would be protected in perpetuity,” said Wendy Paulson. “It is pretty extraordinary that the island has survived in the condition it has for so many generations. Previous owners have cared for it, and we are grateful and privileged to carry forward this remarkable ethic of conservation.”

Little St. Simons

Brown pelicans on the beach at Little St. Simons Island, (Photo by Marc Del Santro)

Mark Williams, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said Little St. Simons Island has an incredible diversity of ecological communities.

“It harbors endangered and rare species including loggerhead sea turtles, provides haven to thousands of migrating shorebirds, and serves as habitat for many rare plants,” Wiiliams said in the release. “Protection and management of LSSI will serve as a model for conservation and coastal restoration for many other marine sites in Georgia and beyond.”

An eco-tourism lodge on the island will continue to operate much as it has since 1979, in full compliance with the conservation easement. Recreational, volunteer and educational experiences are available to guests of the lodge, day visitors, researchers and local conservation organizations.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

3 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    What happens with Whimbrel when both Paulsons are dead? According to the Nature Conservancy’s website, “A http://www.nature.org/about-us/private-lands-conservation/conservation-easements/index.htm is a voluntary, legally binding agreement that limits certain types of land use.” The key word is voluntary.

    According to an earlier post (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?sid=aKOzg9Bu3H_o&pid=newsarchive), the Paulsons own only 3/4 of LSSI. The rest is owned by relatives of Philip Berolzheimer; are they party to the easement?Report

    Reply
  2. DebAz says:

    Burroughston Broch  The article you site is from 2009, so my guess is that they bought the remaining 1/4 between now and then. Also, it states that ” It can also prevent development from taking place now and in the future while protecting the property’s ecological or open-space values.” 

    BTW, my fraternal grandmother was Charles Berolzheimer’s private secretary and one of her jobs was to go to LSSI and  get it ready before the family arrived. It is because of this that my parents were able to have their honeymoon there in 1964.Report

    Reply

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