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panorama GEORGIA CONSERVANCY • SUMMER 2016

The Total Conservation Picture A collaborative vision that guides our work.

On the cover: Exploring the Conasauga River with the Georgia Conservancy, August 2014. Photo by Bryan Schroeder 1

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THE MAGAZINE OF THE GEORGIA CONSERVANCY The Georgia Conservancy is a statewide, member-supported conservation organization. Our work for environmental advocacy, land conservation, coastal protection, sustainable growth and outdoor stewardship recognizes the connection between the environment, the economy and Georgia’s quality of life. BOARD OF TRUSTEES • C. Edward Dobbs,* Atlanta, Board Chair, Parker Hudson Rainer & Dobbs • • Brent Beatty, Atlanta, Primary Theory • • Mark S. Berry, Ph.D. Douglasville, Georgia Power Company • • Gregory W. Blount, Atlanta, Troutman Sanders • • Roger Bowman, Rincon, Gulfstream • Charlie Covert,* Milton, UPS • • Randy Earley, Marietta, Cox Enterprises • Greg Euston,* Marietta, McGraw Euston Associates • Steve Green, Savannah, Stephen Green Properties • Chris Hagler,* Atlanta, Ernst & Young • • Peter Hartman, Atlanta, Hartman Simons & Wood LLP • • Holden T. Hayes, Savannah, South State Bank • Chet Hurwitz,* Atlanta, Attorney • • Joann G. Jones,* Atlanta, Baker Hostetler • Jim Kibler,* Atlanta, AGL Resources • • Kirk Malmberg,* Marietta, Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta • • Leslie D. Mattingly,* St. Simons Island, Private Counsel Attorney • • George N. Mori,* Atlanta, SolAmerica Energy • Randal Morris, White Oak, GP Cellulose • • Ranse Partin,* Atlanta, Conley Griggs Partin LLP • • Russ Pennington, Brookhaven, Pennington Consulting Services, Inc. • • Geoff Pope, Atlanta, Pope and Howard • Alex Robinson,* Atlanta, Axiom • • Chet Tisdale, Atlanta, Retired Partner, King & Spalding • • Malon Wickham,* Columbus, Wells Fargo Advisors • *Executive Committee Member **Ex Officio Member

GEORGIA CONSERVANCY STAFF Robert Ramsay,** President Monica Thornton, Vice President Renee Alston, Senior Corporate Engagement Manager Laura Buckmaster, Cumberland Island Trail Restoration Fellow Leah Dixon, Advocacy Director Brian Foster, Communications Director Ben Fowler, Stewardship Trips Director Johanna McCrehan, Urban Design Lead Charles H. McMillan III, Coastal Director Katherine Moore, Senior Director of Sustainable Growth Lisa Patrick, Executive Assistant Bryan Schroeder, Senior Director of Development and Marketing Babette Swats, Interim Finance Manager Alexis Torres, Donor Relations Director Ermis Vayas, Development Director Headquarters 230 Peachtree Street, Suite 1250 Atlanta, GA 30303 (404) 876 - 2900 mail@gaconservancy.org

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Coastal Office 428 Bull Street, Suite 210 Savannah, GA 31401 (912) 447 - 5910 coast@gaconservancy.org


FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT

our past is your present Land conservation has been at the core of our work since our founding in 1967. Our founding resolution, presented and adopted at Sweetwater Creek in February of that year, read: “The purpose of the Georgia Conservancy shall be, either independently or in cooperation with government, to preserve or to aid in the preservation of areas of scenic, geologic, biologic, historic or recreational importance in Georgia in the public interest; to establish or aid in the establishment of nature reserves or other protected areas for scientific, educational, or aesthetic purposes…” Those words describe our purpose today, just as they did nearly 50 years ago. Our methods may have evolved, either in reaction to new scientific findings and a changing political climate or through proactive and creative measures that forward our mission, but our core purpose as an organization remains – the preservation, conservation and protection of Georgia’s lands. Our methods are key to protecting Georgia’s water, providing habitat for threatened and endangered species, and giving our citizens a beautiful place in which to recreate. The land conservation methods that we proudly pursue include collaboration and engagement with our leaders at the State Capitol, community outreach that promotes sustainable growth planning, robust and exciting stewardship trips and service opportunities that expose thousands a year to both protected and highly threatened landscapes, and oneon-one meetings with private landowners to educate them on conservation options. In this issue of Panorama, we will discuss the various aspects of our work to conserve our state’s land, from our early grassroots efforts to protect Douglas County’s Sweetwater Creek in the late 1960s to our successful work in promoting conservation-minded legislation to our unique land conservation initiative, now in its sixth year. With a nearly 50-year history of protecting and conserving our state’s land and water, we step into our second half century with the knowledge, partnerships and reputation to confidently advance conservation in Georgia. In our five decades, much has been accomplished in our mission to protect and conserve our state’s natural resources – but more work remains. As you will read, our recent strategic plan has laid out a number of goals for land conservation. Whether we are meeting with a legislator in downtown Atlanta, touring a working forest with a landowner in Miller County, collaborating with our conservation partners in Savannah or exploring the Ogeechee River with a first-time paddler from Tyrone, we are working every day to achieve these goals. You will conclude after reading Panorama that these goals for land conservation are ambitious, but, so was the creation of Cumberland Island National Seashore, the establishment of the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act, the protection of the Cohutta Wilderness and the conservation and restoration of more than 54,000 acres of ecologicallyrich acres in just a five-year period. Our past is your present. What were once ambitious strategic goals (some may say piein-the-sky goals) are now tangible successes for our state’s natural resources. Our present goals will one day prove the same.

Robert Ramsay President rramsay@gaconservancy.org

THE GEORGIA CONSERVANCY MISSION To protect and conserve Georgia’s natural resources through advocacy, engagement and collaboration.

This year we will be kicking off our 50th Anniversary. Look forward to new stories and events in the near future!

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NATURAL PARTNERS

Investing in Georgia’s Culture of Conservation

Nothing that the Georgia Conservancy has accomplished in our nearly 50 years can be solely attributed to the work of our staff, volunteers, members and board of trustees. We pride ourselves on being an organization that collaborates with a diverse range of partners - our Natural Partners - with the goal of forwarding a culture of conservation in Georgia. Our Natural Partners are some of the Georgia Conservancy’s strongest allies in the conservation and stewardship of Georgia’s natural resources. Without the support of Natural Partners that have a stake in the environmental and economic well-being of our state, our mission would not be possible. Learn more at: www.georgiaconservancy.org/naturalpartners

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IN THIS ISSUE

• Georgia Conservation Summit Our inaugural Georgia Land Conservation Summit to be held this November in Macon (p. 8) • FEATURE ARTICLE: The Total Conservation Picture The Georgia Conservancy’s collaborative and creative approach to conserving our state’s lands (p. 6), plus Coastal Director Charles McMillan’s perspective on coastal conservation (p. 9) • Strategic Plan Conservation Goals (p. 12) • Member Spotlight Dr. Johnny Bembry on why he is a conservationist (p. 14) • 2016 Legislative Recap Statewide land conservation victories and expanded transit options in Atlanta (p. 15), and Advocacy Director Leah Dixon on how our advocacy approach works (p. 17)

The Georgia Conservancy has a new Atlanta HQ! 230 Peachtree St. NW, Suite 1250 • Atlanta, GA 30303 The Georgia Conservancy is excited to announce that its Atlanta office has moved south down Peachtree – but not too far. “During our nearly 50-year history, we’ve called a number of office locations home,” says Georgia Conservancy President Robert Ramsay. “As the current lease at our Atlanta office in Midtown neared its expiration, we took a long hard look at the rental market in the city.”

“We are excited for the move 1.3 miles down Peachtree Street to Downtown Atlanta.” The change in address is just one of a number of forward-minded changes afoot at the Georgia Conservancy. A year into a new five-year strategic plan, the Georgia Conservancy has set for itself a number of ambitious goals that will be further aided by the move to downtown.

“Greater access to transit, a very competitive lease, close proximity to the Capitol and the ability to engage day in and day out with our many colleagues in conservation and with the important institutional donors that call downtown home made our decision very easy,” adds Ramsay. For the last 12 years, the Georgia Conservancy’s Atlanta office has been located at The Biltmore in Midtown Atlanta. The Conservancy’s Savannah office will remain in its current location of 428 Bull Street.

Resurrection fern photo by GC member Julian Buckmaster Migrating Northern Shoveler photo by GC member Giff Beaton

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The Total Conservation Picture From our founding in 1967 to our ambitious goals for the future, land conservation remains at the heart of our mission. By Brian Foster.

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On

any given Saturday - any day to be honest - crowds of people gather in the small, landscaped parking lot. Preparing for the day ahead, they tighten the laces of their boots, fill their packs with snacks, check to see that they have enough battery power and storage on their phones to take photos. All this in anticipation of experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of things that they may lack in their day to day lives. People of all ages, colors, shapes, sizes, politics. Hikers, fishermen, photographers, volunteers. The lake reflects the sky, the rapids rush over the boulders, the trails climb the folded landscape and the fish bite at the bait. People come here because it just feels right; they may not know why, or even think to ask – but they chose to be here for a reason. Only 15 miles from downtown Atlanta, Sweetwater Creek State Park feels like 150 miles away. But it’s not. That fact is evident once you leave. Cars fly east and west on Interstate 20. Trucks barrel down Fulton Industrial Boulevard. Commercial and residential sprawl radiates in every direction, forming a cocoon around the park’s lake, trails and namesake creek. Atlanta is called “The City in a Forest,” but Sweetwater Creek is truly a forest in the city. On a very cold nine degree day in February 1967, before Sweetwater Creek was a state park, a small group of citizens, business leaders and academics met there. They also chose to be there for a reason. Though they hiked to the creek and took in the beauty of the awe-inspiring surroundings like many do today, their presence was not for the sole purpose of relaxation and recreation. They were there because they were concerned. Concerned not only for the future of the urban oasis that we now call Sweetwater Creek State Park, but for the future of Georgia’s land and water. It was there that the Georgia Conservancy was formed and our first major land conservation victory took place with the purchase of the property and subsequent transfer to the state. “When you look at our Atlanta area and Georgia today, you cannot cite any group dedicated to the total conservation picture,” said Georgia Conservancy founder and former Congressman James Mackay in 1967. “Good people just don’t know all the other good people who have the same interest.” The total conservation picture. Good people who have the same interest. It’s a collaborative vision that remains at the heart of our work. Taking a collaborative approach with a diverse range of partners, we were successful, through effective lobbying, grassroots campaigns, creative communications, and often stubborn bullheadedness. Efforts such as these helped lead to the protection of Cumberland Island by the National Park Service in 1972 and the designation of much of its backcountry as federal Wilderness in the early 1980s. Georgia Conservancy influence also helped lead to the establishment of the Okefenokee Wilderness, Cohutta Wilderness and the Chattahoochee River National Recreations Area – all now major public sanctuaries for wildlife and the passive recreation of millions of people. continued on page 10

Photo of Sweetwater Creek State Park by Brian Foster

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Save the Date! November 10 in Macon, GA

rvation Sum e s n o C a i g r m o e i t G r v e a s tion through n o C f o e r u t l u C C o a l la g rdin Forwa

borat ion

The Georgia Conservancy is excited to announce that it will host the inaugural Georgia Conservation Summit on November 10, bringing together the state’s conservation leaders to engage in a daylong dialogue that focuses on priority issues surrounding Georgia’s natural and built environment. From the Cumberland Plateau in the northwest to the barrier islands on our Atlantic Coast, Georgia’s varied landscape has created one of the nation’s most biodiverse states. The key to maintaining such biodiversity is found in the strategic and collaborative conservation of both our private and public lands, as well as the concentrated planning for our cities and towns. Many organizations that are currently involved in efforts to conserve our state’s land and water, from nongovernmental organizations (environmental nonprofits, land trusts, planning organizations, etc.) to state and federal agencies, to large institutional land owners (REITs, timber product companies, EMCs, etc.), will have the opportunity to convene at the Georgia Conservation Summit to better understand Georgia’s conservation challenges and to develop solutions and strategies that will prioritize future conservation efforts. Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) will guide much of the discussions.

The Georgia Conservation Summit will include presentations by Georgia conservation professionals, in addition to panel discussions and workshops focusing on conservation challenges and solutions. Topics will include: • existing state and federal programs that incentivize conservation activities • the endangered species list and the case for proactive habitat conservation • establishing a sustainable soure of funding for conservation in Georgia • symbiotic relationship of conservation and outdoor recreation • the role of corporations in conserving our land and water • opportunities for voluntary conservation in Georgia • highlighting land conservation priorities as identified by the Georgia SWAP Participants will leave with an understanding of the current state of conservation in Georgia and of the roles that various organizations and groups play in conservation. Most importantly, we believe that the summit will facilitate the collaborative relationships necessary to achieve strategic goals in statewide land conservation.

Learn more at www.georgiaconservancy.org/summit

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Gopher tortoise photo from Willowin Plantation White eyed vireo photo by Giff Beaton


A Coastal Perspective on Conservation in the Low Country by Charles McMillan

From day one

in my role as the Georgia Conservancy Coastal Director, there has been a steady stream of land conservation activity on our coast. It has been nothing short of exciting to come out of the starting block and be “boots on the ground” for notable conservation efforts in the most biodiverse part of Georgia. The Georgia Conservancy has been a key player in the robust conservation and ecological restoration community on the coastal plain for almost 50 years. In its early years, the Georgia Conservancy helped protect barrier islands and large public lands, including the Okefenokee Swamp and Cumberland Island. These large wilderness areas come to mind when you think of south Georgia’s notable land conservation successes. More recently, much of our focus has been on less heralded, but equally effective, emerging practices which enhance ecological function. These include working with landowners on Wetland Reserve Easements (WREs) along our streams or coordinating ecological corridors to enhance the longleaf pine ecosystems. The timing of my arrival worked well with the implementation of new conservation goals described in the Georgia Conservancy’s 2015 Strategic Plan and the recently adapted State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP). The SWAP will drive much of the private, state and federal funding for landscape scale conservation and restoration over the next five years. This plan will also be used by the Georgia Conservancy to spotlight “Precious Places” and develop opportunities to collaborate with other organizations. Over the last few months, I have met with the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to review specific priorities and candidate sites. I have been impressed by the consensus of support for the science and policy expressed for the SWAP by all private, nonprofit, state and federal groups.

Macon photo (left) courtesy of Michael Williams Coastal photo courtesy of Georgia DNR

I have had the benefit of working from a strong backlog of diverse conservation inquiries during the last few months due to the long-term outreach of other Georgia Conservancy staff and from our statewide reputation. While we have had plenty of opportunity, choosing priorities is just as difficult in the “not-for-profit world” as it was in my previous role at an engineering firm. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my work at the Georgia Conservancy has been the universal cooperation and support I find among the other groups that work in land conservation. An example of such support was the warm reception I have had with our coastal riverkeepers collaboration on identifying specific conservation opportunities in their respective drainage basins. In early May at our Savannah office, the Georgia Conservancy hosted a convocation of 15 land trust and ecological restoration organizations working in coastal Georgia. This meeting was an opportunity to delve into each group’s conservation values and common areas of coordination, collaboration and partnering. This meeting was a wonderful precursor to our statewide Georgia Conservation Summit in November. It’s no accident that our coast is among the most protected in the nation. It’s the result of proactive work from a handful of individuals and organizations. We look forward to continuing this legacy. Please let us know if you or someone you know has an interest in conserving property in Georgia’s lowcountry. We would be more than pleased to discuss and work together to assess the opportunity. To contact Charles, please email cmcmillan@ gaconservancy.org, or to learn more, please visit: www.georgiaconservancy.org/coast

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The Total Conservation Picture

Sustainable Growth

conservation and the built environment

Back then it was a hard thing to get the state to protect a large tract of land like Sweetwater Creek, especially one so close to Atlanta, or for the federal government to garner support for land acquisition or strong conservation designations. And the fact is, today it’s not much easier. Many of the mechanisms that would benefit state-funded conservation are still being realized and remain at the top of our advocacy goals, but in order to buttress our advocacy efforts, we had to ask ourselves - are we dedicated to the whole conservation picture? Outright purchase of land or lobbying for it, though models still used successfully today by government bodies and conservation groups, never proved to be the silver bullet with which to achieve our ambitious conservation goals, especially for an organization solely focused on Georgia. For us, a model that is inclusive of a broad range of landowners proves to be the best approach. It is also a state of landowners who are historic stewards of their properties - both large and small. As a result, other options have presented themselves into the conservation picture. A picture that now also includes statewide sustainable growth planning, year-long advocacy efforts and outreach to private landowners and local land trusts, all coupled with our longstanding strategic engagement with diverse partners. The founders and first members of the Georgia Conservancy worked to raise funds for the purchase of iconic locations such as Sweetwater Creek and Panola Mountain State Parks. Today, our financial support is utilized in a host of other ways to increase the total conservation footprint in Georgia.

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In 1995, overwhelmed by the unchecked sprawl of Atlanta, an incredible growth that truly took off in the 1960s, and understanding that Georgia’s natural resources were under great pressure, Georgia Conservancy leaders again looked at other models to conserve and protect our lands. How can our cities and towns, places that need to grow, become better stewards of our landscapes and environment as a whole? “Planning for growth and its impact on natural resources seemed to be the logical progression in the work of the Georgia Conservancy,” said Georgia Conservancy President Robert Ramsay in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Blueprints for Successful Communities in 2015. “Growing from the recognition that the form of development has a direct relationship to the loss or retention of critical natural resources, Blueprints puts natural resources first when considering growth management issues.” Designed to facilitate community-based planning efforts across the state, Blueprints may not seem to be, at first glance, a natural progression of our genesis as a land conservation organization. The benefits that our planning and design efforts provide those already living in an urban environment are clear, but what is often overlooked is Blueprints’ proactive approach to retain what open spaces we do have, especially the forests and fields at the urban rural interface. Our work in sustainable growth as whole – our Good Urbanism courses, our school siting workshops and rural resiliency research – boils down to our dedication the protection of our natural resources and the conservation of our environmentally-sensitive lands by working toward development practices that are resource efficient, healthy, and capable of accommodating future needs. Downtown Rome / Oostanaula River photo from the Coosa River Basin Initiative


LAND CONSERVATION INITIATIVE protecting and exploring georgia since 1967. In 2011, under the direction of then-Georgia Conservancy President Pierre Howard, former Vice President of Advocacy Will Wingate and Land Conservation Outreach Director Shannon Mayfield, the Georgia Conservancy launched a dedicated land conservation program, known as the Land Conservation Initiative (LCI). More than 90% of Georgia’s 38 million acres are privately owned, meaning that the protection of our natural resources will more often than not fall on the stewardship efforts of Georgia land and forest owners. If our precious, biodiverse and beautiful lands, farmlands and forests are to be protected, land conservation initiatives that support private landowners are necessary. Designed to help landowners find conservation solutions which are right for their properties, LCI plays matchmaker, bringing landowners, various conservation programs and suitable land trusts together. It’s a classic win-win scenario. Landowners who qualify for state and federal programs may be able to pocket cash or take a large writeoff on their taxes as long as they agree to protect their land from development. All the while, they keep control of their property and are still able to hunt, fish and farm their land. Without committing large public or privatelysourced funds, tree canopies are preserved, carbon dioxide is pulled from the air, and streams and wetlands are protected. The Land Conservation Initiative was immediately recognized by our supporters as an innovative and potentially effective tool for conservation. Without their support, we could not staff the talent necessary to fully engage landowners across the state. Sweetwater Creek State Park photo by Brian Foster

“The land conservation initiative seemed like an unusually good opportunity to our board,” said David Weitnauer, president of the Dobbs Foundation, which has provided the Georgia Conservancy’s Land Conservation Initiative with $195,000 of support since 2011. “From helping landowners take advantage of incentive programs that might otherwise go unclaimed to carefully prioritizing parcels that have the highest conservation values, it’s a very smart, methodical initiative, and it’s also a very entrepreneurial project. You had all the pieces in place to conserve land – incentive programs, conservationminded landowners, and land trusts (and others who hold conservation easements). But somehow this informal system wasn’t working up to its potential. The Georgia Conservancy recognized the opportunity. Based on early results, the land conservation initiative looks like it’s the catalyst that was needed.” In just five years, our Land Conservation Initiative has helped to protect nearly 54,000 ecologicallyrich acres through direct and strategic contact with Georgia landowners, or through engagement with local and state officials. And our engagement at the State Capitol is also paying off for Georgia’s natural resources and for Georgia landowners. During the 2016 legislative session, we helped to introduce and pass legislation that reauthorizes the state land conservation tax credit, providing property owners with further economic incentives to conserve their lands. We’ve been extremely proud of the conservation successes produced by the Land Conservation Initiative in its five short years, and we are aggressively and ambitiously planning to forward this work into the next five. con’t on next page georgiaconservancy.org

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The Total Conservation Picture

What’s in Store?

collaborating, advocating, and educating

Our strategic plan has laid out some ambitious goals for land conservation, including the annual placement of 11,000 acres of public and private land into programs for natural habitat restoration and the permanent conservation of 500,000 additional acres of Georgia’s private and public land. To obtain these outcomes, we will continue to build a strategic and collaborative approach to conservation with our partners, we will continue to advocate for strong and smart conservation measures with our legislators and we will increase engagement with Georgia’s landowners and with our members. We continue to collaborate. As a statewide leader in land conservation outreach and advocacy, the Georgia Conservancy will convene its first ever Georgia Conservation Summit this November (page 8) with the goal of coalescing strategies around collaborative land conservation in Georgia. Workshops, panel discussions and extensive

networking will allow for a host of land conservation and planning professionals to discuss and plan for Georgia’s greatest land conservation challenges. We continue to advocate. Founded in 2010, the Georgia Legacy Coalition, which is comprised of the Georgia Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy, the Conservation Fund, the Trust for Public Land, Georgia Wildlife Federation and Park Pride, has been working to establish a dedicated source for conservation funding in Georgia. During the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions, the coalition was successful in having legislation introduced that proposed such a funding mechanism. Both the Georgia Legacy bill and its partner resolution did not pass its originating chamber, but the coalition continues to move forward with additional strategies to achieve such an important long-term goal for statewide conservation.

STRATEGIC PLAN CONSERVATION GOALS Here’s how:

Protect 15% of Georgia’s precious natural places by 2024

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No Rollbacks on Conservation Laws and Regulations

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Full Implementation of State Tax Credit for Land Conservation

Establish and enact the land legacy program (Georgia Legacy)

Broxton Rocks Preserve photo by Chris Niswonger


We continue to engage. The Georgia Conservancy is always in search of the next conservation success such as Sweetwater Creek or Panola Mountain. What precious place today could become the Cumberland Island of tomorrow? A group of conservationminded individuals met at Sweetwater Creek at what was in 1967 an incredible resource lacking the protection that it truly deserved. And today, almost every weekend, we paddle down Georgia’s Heartland Rivers and break bread around the campfire with the modern-day version of our founders – other dedicated groups of conservation-minded individuals from across Georgia and across party lines. We not only introduce these thousands of people every year to some of our state’s most precious places (of which many do not yet have necessary conservation protections), but we get to experience along with them the passion that many of us have for our land

and water. A love, not unlike our founders felt nearly 50 years ago when they hiked the trails of Sweetwater Creek. Found within our state lines, whether by providence or foresight, is an incredible bounty of natural resources. A bounty to be measured not by the monetary riches that it can create, but by the lasting nourishment that it can provide our diverse citizens and our state’s spectrum of flora and fauna. The nourishment of water and food, the nourishment of shelter and retreat, the nourishment of reflection and recreation. Without our natural lands, whether in preservation or in continued restoration, our state and its inhabitants would be starved of the resources necessary for life. We’ve fought for these resources – our land and our waters - for nearly 50 years and we are excited to fight for another 50.

To protect, conserve and restore Georgia’s land, water and biodiversity. To learn more about the Georgia Conservancy’s strategic plan, please visit www.georgiaconservancy.org/strategicplan

Permanently protect 500,000 additional acres of Georgia’s land

Attain public policy results in priority areas and update/reaffirm org’s position

Place 11,000 acres of public and private land into restoration programs (yearly)

Support an integrated statewide water quality monitoring network pilot program

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Doctor Conservation Georgia Conservancy member Dr. Johnny Bembry explains his reasons for conservation.

S

entimental and altruistic. When asked his motivations to conserve and restore hundreds of acres of his lands in both Georgia and North Carolina, Georgia Conservancy member and former Trustee Dr. Johnny Bembry simply says that his conservation ethic is born of a sentimental attachment to his ancestral lands and an altruistic desire to protect Mother Nature. “My environmental ethic developed through my maturation & realization that stewardship of the Good Lord’s Creation should not be limited by property lines nor political boundaries,” says Dr. Bembry, a Hawkinsville veterinarian and sustainable tree farmer. Fond memories and doing right by his ancestors have been a driving force in ensuring that his properties continue to flourish as they were originally intended. Charged with owning and managing land that has been in his family for more than 200 years, Dr. Bembry knows that he bears the burden of incredible responsibility. “While my sister & I inherited much of our family’s ancestral land,” says Dr. Bembry, “I’ve added contiguous property throughout my adult life. I view our family farm as a treasured blessing, and I take my responsibility in managing it as a welcome challenge.” But there are other benefits beyond these most obvious and compelling reasons – benefits that also provide the opportunity to ensure the financial stability of one’s property. These are benefits that Dr. Bembry is fully aware of. For many private landowners like Dr. Bembry, conservation is a double win, as it provides not only a boost for land and water, but also a boost to one’s wallet. Wetlands Reserve Easements provide financial and technical assistance to landowners who protect and restore

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the wetland functions of their lands. Through placing land into a permanent easement, land trusts will often pay 100 percent of the value of the conservation easement and the majority of restoration costs and filing fees. For those looking for a financial incentive to conserve their lands, state and federal assistance programs are often the deciding factor. Dr. Bembry brought his knowledge and enthusiasm for private land conservation to the Georgia Conservancy’s Board of Trustees in 2008, just as the Georgia Conservancy was beginning to draft a new 5-year strategic plan. At this time, the Georgia Conservancy President Pierre Howard and Will Wingate, a Georgia Conservancy Vice President, were re-evaluating the Georgia Conservancy’s role in statewide land conservation. Along with input and guidance from Dr. Bembry, the Georgia Conservancy developed its Land Conservation Initiative, placing land conservation, and specifically private land conservation, at the heart of its new strategic goals. Since the Land Conservation Initiative launched in 2011, the Georgia Conservancy has helped to protect nearly 54,000 acres of lands – many of those acres have come at the referral of Dr. Johnny Bembry. In 2015, the Georgia Conservancy helped to protect nearly 28,000 acres of land in Georgia, bringing our five-year Land Conservancy Program total to almost 54,000 acres protected. If you have any questions about our Land Conservation Program or would like to learn more, please contact Georgia Conservancy Coastal Director Charles McMillan at cmcmillan@gaconservancy.org

Bembry property photos courtesy of Johnny Bembry


2016 LEGISLATIVE RECAP

Advocating for Georgia’s Land and Water The mission of the Georgia Conservancy is to protect and conserve Georgia’s natural resources through advocacy, engagement and collaboration. That mission no better manifests itself than in our work at the Georgia State Capitol during the General Assembly’s yearly legislative session. In our pursuit to strengthen the legal frameworks that provide our state with necessary environmental protections, we must advocate for and against bills, engage with our members and with lawmakers, and collaborate with our partners. Our balanced approach at the State Capitol is key to our goal of forwarding a culture of conservation in Georgia - one in which people and the environment thrive. Our work during the 2016 Georgia General Assembly was no different. There were wins and losses throughout this year’s exciting legislative session – a session that did not disappoint when it came to last-minute bills, late-night votes and back-andforth amendments. A handful of bills remained our focus throughout the session. Some measures that we strongly advocated for, such as the establishment of the Georgia Legacy Trust Fund, never received a vote, while other legislation that we championed passed and will ideally prove to be of great benefit to our state’s natural resources. Overall, we were very pleased with the how the 2016 legislative session turned out, but along with the good there were also some measures that we consider to be a setback.

The Good

We can happily report that a number of bills had a positive outcome for our state’s land and water. One of the most highprofile of these was the moratorium on petroleum pipelines in Georgia. House Bill 1036, which passed both chambers in an amended form, will temporarily close the door to permitting and the use of eminent domain for petroleum pipeline construction in the state until a committee can review current siting and permitting guidelines and procedures. The bill was forwarded in reaction to the proposed Palmetto Pipeline, a 210-mile

petroleum pipeline that would traverse five major coastal rivers and cut right through the heart of some of Georgia’s most biodiverse coastal ecosystems. Through HB 1036, a thoughtful and detailed approach to permitting would be established, a necessary safeguard to that seeks to prevent and mitigate the potentially disastrous effects of the oil spills and leaks - events that have become all too common across the country. Within days of that HB 1036’s passage, Kinder Morgan, the out-of-state company which proposed the Palmetto Pipeline and formed a robust lobbying team to advocate against HB 1036, announced that they will “suspend further work” on the project. The Georgia Conservancy fought hard for the passage of the final amended version of House Bill 1036, and we would like to thank the work of our partners, our members and members of the House and Senate who forwarded the legislation. A special thank you to House Majority Leader Jon Burns (R-159), Representative Colonel Bill Hitchens (R-161), Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill (R-4) and Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Chairman Jesse Stone (R-23). Going into this year’s legislative session, a piece of legislation that was at the top of our list to champion was the reauthorization of the state land conservation tax credit. We were more than thrilled that through our engagement with legislative members, a bill that sought to do just that was introduced at the beginning of the session. House Bill 1014 received overwhelming support from both chambers and passed the Senate before the close of the session. Only one member of the entire General Assembly voted against the measure. With the signature of the Governor, the sunset date for the land conservation tax credits is extended to December 31, 2021. The credit was set to expire at the end of 2016. Tax credits for land conservation are major incentive for landowners to protect the natural resources of their private properties, which include species habitat, wetlands and forests. The Georgia Conservancy would like to thank House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jay Powell (R-Camilla) (con’t on next page)

Downstream of the proposed Palmetto Pipeline is the Altamaha River Delta, one of the most biodiverse estuaries on the East Coast. Photo Brian Brown, Vanishing Coastal Georgia

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2016 LEGISLATIVE RECAP for introducing the bill and Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) for carrying HB 1014 in the Senate. A surprise late-minute amendment to Senate Bill 369 by the House revived the session’s earlier metro Atlanta transit expansion debate. The bill was overwhelmingly approved by both chambers before the end of the session. A previous attempt to provide a pathway to mass transit funding had stalled in the Senate before Crossover Day. The revived push through Senate Bill 369 provided legislators with a more piecemeal approach to expanding MARTA and mass transit in the region than the previous measures provided. SB 369 allows for the City of Atlanta to pursue a $0.50 sales tax for transit expansion through referendum, and will allow for the rest of Fulton County to pursue a $0.25 sales tax at a later date. The 40-year sales tax, if approved by Atlanta voters in a referendum, could be used to pursue an estimated $2.5 billion worth of transit projects in the city, including transit along the Beltline.

The Bad

There were bills that passed the Georgia General Assembly that were a rollback in the protection of Georgia’s natural resources. One of these bills, Senate Bill 346, passed both the Senate and the House, amending the Georgia Environmental Policy Act by exempting certain land disturbing activities from the act. SB 346 would exempt “any project of a department, a municipality, a county, or an authority to construct or improve a public road, provided that such project does not exceed $100 million and such project obtains no contribution from federal funds.” Though later amendments were added that addressed concerns relating to potential adverse impacts on historical sites or buildings and cultural resources, the Georgia Conservancy remains opposed to the signing of Senate Bill 346 by the Governor.

The In-Progress

A major piece of legislation to provide for dedicated funding for land conservation in Georgia did not pass the House before crossover day. Championed by the Georgia Conservancy and Georgia Legacy coalition members, House Bill 693 sought to establish the Georgia Legacy Trust Fund, wherein 75 percent of all tax revenue collected annually from the sale of outdoor recreation equipment would be dedicated for the purpose of the protection and preservation of conservation land. To allow for the dedicated allocation of tax revenue into the Georgia Legacy Trust Fund, the Constitution of Georgia would first have to be amended. House Resolution 907 sought to accomplish this through the creation of a ballot initiative presented to Georgia voters during the fall 2016 election cycle. Though legislation was not passed during this session, the Georgia Legacy coalition is continuing its efforts during the interim to work with lawmakers so that this measure, or one similar, will be introduced and ultimately passed during the 2017 session. An effort to establish an enforceable freshwater buffer along our state’s rivers and streams did not win support in the House. The bill sought to clarify the statutory intent of regulations

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regarding the control of soil erosion and sedimentation along waters of the state. HB 966 sought to replace language that establishes the existing 25-foot buffer along state waters (50 feet for trout streams) as being measured horizontally from the point of wrested vegetation, or the location of plants that are uprooted by normal stream flow or wave action, with an enforceable statute that establishes the buffer as 25 feet (50 feet for trout streams) outward from the ordinary high water mark. The Georgia Conservancy strongly supports the clarification of statutory regulations that seek to protect waters of the state. However, we did not believe that this bill, as written, would have achieved the intended goal of clarifying the line of demarcation from which the 25-foot and 50-foot buffers will be measured. We are currently advocating for a collaborative effort to strengthen the enforcement of our buffers and we are looking forward to the debate surrounding HB 966, or any similar measure, during the interim and during the 2017 legislative session. House Bill 734 sought to establish the Georgia Space Flight Act, which would limit liability for noise and passenger injuries surrounding the proposed Spaceport Camden. The bill was intended to further position Camden County as the chief candidate for the project. Though HB 734 passed the House, it did not come up for a vote in the Senate, and it has been referred to a Senate Study Committee for further review. The proposed Spaceport Camden site is located in the northeast corner of the county near the confluence of the Satilla River and Saint Andrews Sound in Georgia. This area is one of the highest functioning estuarine ecosystems on the East Coast of the United States and, as such, has extensive value to plants, animals, and the people of Camden County. The Georgia Conservancy is fully engaged in an environmental subcommittee of the Spaceport Camden Steering Committee and will continue to monitor all legislation relating to the proposed spaceport on the environmental merits. To learn more, visit: www.gaconservancy.org/advocacy/2016 Photo courtesy of MARTA


Finding Common Ground by Georgia Conservancy Advocacy Director Leah Dixon Given our position as a statewide conservation organization, the Georgia Conservancy takes a pragmatic approach to policy and one that incorporates our commitment in finding common ground. In a political landscape as harshly divided as the one in which we work, the Georgia Conservancy seeks to bring all sides together on issues that are important to present and future generations, while staying above the fray of partisan politics. When framing a conservation argument, part of our strategy is to gather information from as many sources as possible. We have found that we cannot frame our arguments solely on the benefits of protecting our natural resources. We must often show the economic value in taking conservation-minded stances, which resonates with some who may not be as well-versed on our issues. Six years ago, when I joined the Georgia Conservancy’s advocacy team, I was just out of an internship as a legislative aide in the Georgia House of Representatives. I had a general understanding of the world of politics, but I now realize that full immersion is required to gain a holistic understanding of the political process. Nuances, relationships and history all play a role at the Capitol and in the legislative process. There is not a handbook to bill passage or defeat. Every year, the second Monday in January marks the beginning of the legislative session. The first legislative day radiates the same feelings of the first day of school. Everyone has been at home with their families and other job responsibilities. Legislators, staffers and lobbyists enter the Gold Dome with fresh faces and a reinvigorated outlook toward the issues they are going to tackle that year. The first week is a chance to catch up with old

friends and begin working your agenda for many weeks ahead. As the legislative session progresses, you know that there will be early mornings that turn into long nights, often followed by another early morning. You will be on your feet on the marble floors all day working the ropes, moving from chamber to chamber, tracking down legislators in hopes of securing votes. A good, comfortable pair of shoes is important for these days. The tides are ever changing at the General Assembly and thinking on your feet becomes a necessary skill. The Capitol becomes your office for the legislative session’s 40 days. As you work your way through the crowds, excitement, and ultimate stress of the halls, you have to stop sometimes and take a moment to appreciate the architecture, the history, and the importance of this majestic building. I also often stop myself and remember the importance of the Georgia Conservancy’s work in this space. It is a privilege to represent and give our natural resources a voice in the state where I grew up. It is something that the Georgia Conservancy has done consistently and successfully, and I am honored to be a part of something so special. Georgia Conservancy Advocacy Director and Peachtree City native Leah Dixon coordinates our advocacy efforts throughout the year and is the voice of the Georgia Conservancy at the State Capitol during the Legislative Session.To contact Leah, please email ldixon@ gaconservancy.org, or visit our website at www.georgiaconservancy.org/ advocacy

Want to learn more about our advocacy efforts during the 2017 Legislative Session? Sign up for weekly updates at www.gaconservancy.org/advocacy/update

Georgia State Capital photo from the Georgia Conservancy

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MEMBER NEWS Support the Georgia Conservancy at home and at work! Did you know that many corporations have employee driven workplace community programs that support local nonprofits? Check out how these Georgia Conservancy members leveraged workplace charity programs to support the Georgia Conservancy and how you can do the same! Here’s how some of our members are contributing:

Tess on the Altamaha River Patti on the Chattahoochee member since 2013

member since 2008

Sam on the Flint River member since 2014

Tess Abad // Avnet Electronics Marketing

Known around the Georgia Conservancy for her paddling prowess and hard work as a trip host, Tess turned her 100 hours of volunteering with the Georgia Conservancy into $500 gift through Avnet’s “Avnet Cares” program.

Patti Horton // Bank of America

Patti has been a fantastic advocate and supporter for the Georgia Conservancy with friends and family, starting with her first service trip to Cumberland Island. Last fall she stepped it up, organizing a large group Bank of America employees to participate and help sponsor the Georgia Conservancy’s Sapelo Island Service Weekend.

Samantha Beadle // Federal Home Loan Ban Atlanta

Samantha, a mainstay on GC / FHLB service projects, leveraged her enthusiasm for the Conservancy to host the most successful “Denim Day”in FHLB history and raised more than $1,000 for the Georgia Conservancy.

Does supporting the Georgia Conservancy through a workplace program sound like something you would enjoy? Please email Alexis Torres at atorres@gaconservancy.org and let’s get the ball rolling!

JOIN • SPONSOR • VOLUNTEER • TODAY! New Membership Levels “Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow,” says the old proverb. Such successes cannot happen without support -- sun, rain, and fertile earth. Like an acorn hoping to grow, the Georgia Conservancy cannot be successful without your support. By becoming a general member of the Georgia Conservancy today, you are playing a key role in the future of Georgia tomorrow - ensuring that the seeds of change planted by the Conservancy grow tall and mighty. Join or Renew today at www.georgiaconservancy.org/membership

Benefits include: Longleaf Pine ($30) Live Oak ($50) Magnolia ($100) Cambium ($250+)

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Listing on member webpage, listing in Annual Impact Report, member-only communications, and early registration for GC Trips All Longleaf Pine benefits, plus Panorama magazine, $5 off trips and events, and access to the REI gear bank for trips All Live Oak benefits, plus a copy of our Annual Impact Report, $10 off trips and events, and free Stewardship Day Trips All General member benefits (Longleaf throug Magnolia), plus $15 off GC trips and events, invitations to exclusive Cambium trips and trip add-ons, and a GC branded thank you gift

georgiaconservancy.org


HUGE THANKS TO OUR FALL 2015 SUPPORTERS!

www.gaconservancy.org/extramile Mr. Marshall Allen Ms. Renee Alston Dr. & Mrs. John H. Angell Anonymous Mr. and Mrs. Mark Arnold Ms. Samantha Beadle Dr. and Mrs. Charles Belin Carla Bell Mr. Milton Bell Ms. Eddas Bennett Mr. & Mrs. Joe E. Beverly Alexander Bigazzi Ms. Heidi Blanck Elaine Hazleton Bolton Mr. and Mrs. C. Robert L. Brackett Casey & Garrett Bradford Janet Brooks & Joel Laseter Theresa Brunasso Mr. & Mrs. Jack Cantrell Robert Caton Scott Childs & Lisa Marie Kruse Mr. Anthony J. Clark Mr. & Mrs. Jarrett Clinton Mr. Steven Cook Mr. James L. Corey Mr. William T. Cornelius Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Covert Dr. & Mrs. Ross J. Cox Ms. Jenny Crisp

Ms. Judy Davis Mr. & Mrs. C. Edward Dobbs Mr. & Mrs. John Dunleavy Mr. & Mrs. G. Edward Ellis Kayla Engle-Lewis Mr. & Mrs. Greg Euston Mr. Gil Ewing Mr. & Mrs. Rodolfo Fernandez Mr. & Mrs. Chris Fox Mr. & Mrs. Randall H. Forester Mr. & Mrs. Larry A. Foster Ms. Sara Fountain Mr. & Mrs. John Fry Mr. Gerald Gouge Stephen Green & Barbara Lynn Howell Ellen Hauck & Markham Smith Mr. & Mrs. Danforth Hagler Ms. Mandy Harvey Mr. & Mrs. John H. Head Mr. Frank Hinek Mr. & Mrs. Mike Hopkins Patti & Chris Horton Cecil & Sandy Hudson Mr. & Mrs. Norman Hulme Dr. & Mrs. Albert Ike Dr. Richard James Mr. Daniel Jessee Drs. M Riduan Joesoef & Mary Serdula

Mr. Chad Johnfroe Mr. & Mrs. Jack M. Jones, Jr. Joann Jones Mr. & Mrs. Panos Kanes Dr. & Mrs. Eugene Keferl Ms. Gail Kerr Mr. John W Kimmons Ms. Judith Klemperer George Krall and Laura Mitchell J. Lacey Lewis Ms. Karen Lindauer Ms. Francia Lindon Mr. Drue B Linton Sarah C. Lopez Mr. Robert MacGregor Mr. Kirk R. Malmberg Ms. Katherine Dickey Marbut Ms. Katha D. Massey Mr. & Mrs. Shannon Mayfield Ms. Johanna McCrehan Joe McDonough Ms. Barbara McLendon Mr. & Mrs. Charles H. McMillan, III Mr. Tommy Meyer Chris and Ward Milner Ms. Jenna Mobley Roberta Moore Jim Monacell and Tracy Trentadue Mr. Kenneth Morneault Sean Murphy

Mr. & Mrs. Charles O’Brien Mr. & Mrs. W. Henry Parkman Mr. & Mrs. Marvin Peden Mr. & Mrs. John Brittain Pendergrast, Jr. Ms. Cynthia L. Prince Ray Quinnelly and Robert Thomas Betty Russell and Jerry Glass Elizabeth Watson Russell Ms. Nedra Owens Sekera Mr. Eric Self Mr. & Mrs. Robert Sexton Mr. & Mrs. Matt Schroeder Ms. Poni Shannon Judith Smith & Rob Aaron Mr. Robert H. Spence Mr. Taylor Hud Stukes Ms. Teresa A. Theisen Mr. Tim Todd Mr. F Travis Towns, Jr Nancy & Tony Tucker Ms. Jo Veal Mr. & Mrs. Michael T. Vinciquerra Mr. Daniel Wasserman Mr. and Mrs. Penn Wells Mrs. Joseph A. Wilber Mr. Stephen Wilson Mrs. Cindy Wolfe Mr. & Mrs. David Woodburn Mr. & Mrs. Philip Zinsmeister

OUR CUMBERLAND ISLAND TRAIL RESTORATION IS (almost) COMPLETE! After eight months of hard work in paradise, Cumberland Island Trail Restoration Fellow Laura Buckmaster has returned to the mainland. Her work on Cumberland Island National Seashore was generously supported through REI's Every Trail Connects campaign and made possible by the National Park Service and everyone who took the time to vote last summer! Thank you! Your support paid off:

All 50 miles of Cumberland Island National Seashore’s trails have been restored, marked with appropriate signage and GPS mapped

• • • •

Work was performed by 33 separate service groups A total of 450 volunteers provided service on Cumberland In all, the Georgia Conservancy spent 900 hours leading volunteers. And, a grand total of 6,300 total volunteer hours were contributed to restoring Cumberland Island's trails! Plus, the first ever GPS enabled map of Cumberland's trails will be available in print and for download this fall!

Learn more at www.cumberlandtrails.com

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Headquarters 230 Peachtree Street NW, Suite 1250 Atlanta, GA 30303 404.876.2900 mail@gaconservancy.org georgiaconservancy.org Coastal Office 428 Bull Street, Suite 210 Savannah, GA 31401 912.447.5910 coast@gaconservancy.org

COMING UP IN 2016

Trips are open for registration! www.georgiaconservancy.org/trips

May 6 Ogeechee Paddle and Ossabaw Tour May 20 Three Rivers Paddle and Broxton Rocks Tour June 3 Spring Creek Bainbridge Paddle June 17 Conasauga Snorkel and Mulberry Gap Inn Adventure June 26 Verde! at General Assembly in Ponce City Market honoring Daniel Jessee with the Generation Green Longleaf Award July (TBD) Green Eggs & Ham July 8 Len Foote Hike Inn Service Weekend July 16 Flint River Deluxe Paddle at Montezuma Bluff July 23 ChattATL Paddle at Riverview Landing August 12 Cloudland Canyon Adventure and Cambium Weekend

August 27

The GRAND Columbus Whitewater Paddle

September 10 Flint River Family Adventure September 16 Ossabaw Island Service Weekend September 23 ecoBenefĂŞte 2016 at Mason Fine Art Gallery honoring Pierre Howard with the Distinguished Conservationist Award October 1 Yellow River Paddle October 14 Sapelo Island Service Weekend November 4 Ocmulgee River Water Trail Paddle November 10 Georgia Conservation Summit in Macon November 11 Okefenokee Adventure November 19 Firelight at SweetWater Brewing Company December 9 Cumberland Island Sea Camp Adventure **Georgia Conservancy members Live Oak and above receive a $5 to $15 discount on our Stewardship Trips! Become a member TODAY! georgiaconservancy.org/membership

PRINTING PROVIDED BY THE FEDERAL HOME LOAN BANK OF ATLANTA

#thisismyga 20 | panorama summer 2016 | georgiaconservancy.org @gaconservancy PROTECTING AND EXPLORING GEORGIA SINCE 1967.

Panorama Magazine - Summer 2016  

In this issue of Panorama, we discuss the various aspects of our work to conserve our state's land, from our early grassroots efforts to pro...

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