The Nature Conservancy recently announced its efforts to protect 1,117 acres along the Altamaha River in Long County, known as the the Morgan Lake tract, according to a news release on the conservancy’s website.
With the addition of Morgan Lake, The Nature Conservancy and many partners have protected more than 140,000 acres in the Altamaha River basin. The Morgan Lake tract represents a critical link between the state’s Griffin Ridge Wildlife Management Area and the protected corridor stretching along the river for more than 40 miles, from the Townsend Wildlife Management Area to the Wolf and Egg Island National Wildlife Refuge in the Altamaha delta.
The wetland forests of Morgan Lake are made up of a wide range of native tree species including bald cypress and swamp tupelo. Herons and egrets take refuge on the hidden lakes and swallow-tailed kites fly overhead.
“The Altamaha River is lifeblood for a tremendous part of our state, from streams in metropolitan Atlanta to the marshes of St. Simons Island,” said Deron Davis, executive director for The Nature Conservancy in Georgia. “Healthy communities, recreation opportunities and strong natural systems are all worthy of protection. Thanks to our supporters and partners, we’ve contributed to that goal here, and we look forward to doing much more.”
The Nature Conservancy purchased Morgan Lake at fair-market value from a local private landowner whose family had owned the tract for many years, using it for commercial recreation, timber harvesting and other business ventures.
The conservancy then sold the property in two steps. First, the U.S. Navy purchased a restrictive conservation easement with funding from the Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program. Second, the state of Georgia purchased the property from The Nature Conservancy below market value to add to its system of wildlife management areas.
Funds to purchase the land came from a variety of sources, including private donors such as the Isdell Family Foundation, The Knobloch Family Foundation, U.S. Navy funds, state funds and a National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Morgan Lake will offer great recreational opportunities for the citizens of Georgia and we look forward to working with Long County to determine the best way to accommodate the public,” said Mark Williams, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Commissioner. “We are also very grateful to our partners for their financial support of this project.”
Georgia DNR is working with Long County on collaborative strategies to operate an existing campground area and access to the waters of Morgan Lake.
“We look forward to seeing this site opened to the public,” said Robert Long, chairman of the Long County Board of Commissioners, “for the recreational benefit of our people, as well as the protection of our natural resources.”