ATLANTA - Two land preservation groups have joined forces to purchase more than 16,000 acres in Camden County, the largest undeveloped, unprotected site in coastal Georgia.
The Conservation Fund and Open Space Institute (OSI) Friday announced the acquisition for an undisclosed amount of the Ceylon property, located along the Satilla River east of Woodbine.
It was the second coastal Georgia preservation transaction of the week. On Wednesday, the Georgia Board of Natural Resources (DNR) approved the acquisition of a conservation easement of more than 3,100 acres, part of the approximately 11,000-acre Cabin Bluff property, also in Camden County. The DNR is working with the OSI and The Nature Conservancy on the Cabin Bluff acquisition.
Plans for the Ceylon property call for The Conservation Fund and Open Space Institute to eventually transfer the property to the DNR for conversion to a wildlife management area.
“Natural lands of this size are rare, and the ecological importance of this property has made it a top priority for conservation over the last decade,” said Andrew Schock, Georgia state director at The Conservation Fund.
“With the property’s proximity to Interstate 95 and the growing population centers along the Georgia and Florida coast, it was highly threatened by resort, residential and commercial development. We are thrilled to secure this land, together with OSI, and look forward to working with Georgia DNR, Georgia’s U.S. congressional delegation and critical federal, state and private funding partners to permanently protect it.”
Both the Ceylon and Cabin Bluff sites are home to once endangered longleaf pine forests and gopher tortoises. The DNR is working to permanently protect 65 of the 122 viable gopher tortoise populations in Georgia to potentially prevent the need to add the gopher tortoise to the federal list of endangered species.
“Both of these properties are critical ecologically,” said Jason Lee, Brunswick-based program manager for
the DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division.
Lee said the DNR plans to convert the remaining acreage on the Cabin Bluff property to a wildlife management area open to boating, hunting, fishing and hiking.
The U.S. Navy is also a partner in both land conservation projects, Lee said. The nearby Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base has a national security interest in obtaining easements to protect areas directly adjacent to the base from both incompatible development and certain recreational activities.
“Boat traffic can be contrary to that mission,” Lee said.
The 3,192-acre easement on the Cabin Bluff property the Board of Natural Resources approved on Wednesday is subject to a vote by the State Properties Commission, potentially as early as its next meeting.
Meanwhile, ownership of the Ceylon property is to be divided between The Conservation Fund, which will own 8,555 acres, and the OSI, which will own 7,528 acres of the site.
Funding partners for The Conservation Fund’s tract include the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation and The Nature Conservancy. The Wyss Foundation and Bobolink Foundation are helping to finance the OSI’s share of the acquisition.
“Protection of the Ceylon property represents a trailblazing achievement in large-scale land conservation for the state of Georgia and the greater Southeast,” said Kim Elliman, the OSI’s president and CEO. “We are grateful.”