North American Land Trust (NALT) recently participated in transferring two of its conservation easement areas, The Hammersmith Landing and Indigo Sound conservation areas, to the state of Georgia to add to its Altama Plantation Wildlife Management Area near Brunswick.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages the nearly 4,000-acre wildlife management area (WMA) in Glynn County. Altama Plantation lies in the lower Altamaha River watershed, which is home to numerous rare plants and animals. The WMA also offers hunting opportunities for deer, turkey, small game, and waterfowl. The WMA is just north of the NALT conservation areas, which will increase the contiguous habitat available for wildlife.
“We are very happy to work with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to expand the Altama Plantation Wildlife Management Area,” NALT President Steven Carter said. “Georgia DNR intends to manage the Hammersmith Landing and Indigo Sound conservation areas just as it would the wildlife management area, which will protect and enhance wildlife habitat values. This is entirely consistent with the conditions required under the conservation easements.”
Georgia DNR manages more than 100 wildlife management areas (WMA), comprising more than 1 million acres of wildlife habitat and providing for hunting and other outdoor recreation opportunities. Acquiring the tracts will conserve critical habitat for wildlife and offer more hunting options.
“DNR is very thankful for NALT’s partnership in expanding Altama Plantation WMA by the 640 acres that is Hammersmith Landing and Indigo Sound,” said Jason Lee, a program manager with DNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section. “These two tracts are biological treasures abundant with native plants and animals that add considerably to Altama’s overall importance for wildlife and public recreation.”
The NALT conservation areas provide contiguous habitat that will reduce fragmentation in this ecologically sensitive region. The previous property owners, Hammersmith LLC and Indigo Sound LLC, chose to conserve the property instead of developing it and donated the conservation easements to NALT. These entities support the conveyance to the state, and are thrilled the properties are becoming part of Altama WMA.
“The protection of these two tracts added another important conservation win for the Altamaha River, ensuring they would be out of reach for the intense development going on in the region,” said Patty Kennedy of EcoVest Capital. “Now with the state as owner, the habitat enhancement efforts – especially prescribed fire that is critical for many imperiled species – will be assured, adding another win for conservation.”
The WMA is part of a larger effort to protect the lower Altamaha River watershed, the third largest watershed on the East Coast. More than 100 rare plants and animals occur here. Of these, 15 are federally listed as threatened or endangered and 17 are state listed and considered globally rare or imperiled, including endangered Atlantic sturgeon, the threatened West Indian Manatee and the gopher tortoise, a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
For many years, federal and state conservation organizations have worked to protect this threatened resource. Currently, more than 200,000 acres are protected. Hammersmith Landing and Indigo Sound Preserve are part of this protection corridor.
The state acquired the conservation areas using grant funds from the Pittman-Robinson Wildlife Restoration Program and other sources. The ecological, wildlife management and access benefits to the public will enhance the conservation purposes and value of the protected areas.