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Georgia ‘Sees the Green’ by Conserving Lands and Waterways
Georgia expanded its investment in clean water, tourism and public health this month by adding more than 9,500 acres to the Townsend and Flat Tub wildlife management areas along the Altamaha and Ocmulgee Rivers. These lands have all the types of ‘green’ for which Georgia is becoming well-known – endangered species, pristine wetlands and record-sized cypress trees. What these projects, and the many others like them, also give Georgia is the type of ‘green’ that balances budgets.
- $3 billion: The amount the Georgia Forestry Association estimates is spent in Georgia every year on hunting, hiking and other resource-based recreational activities the state’s wildlife management areas support.
- 20 percent: The decrease in costs estimated by the Trust for Public Land when a community protects an additional 10 percent of its water source area.
- Five to 20 percent: Documented land value increases within one mile of protected lands.
- $2 to $3: Documented local tax revenues for every $1 spent on working and ‘open’ lands.
The state isn’t alone in recognizing conservation’s high return on investment. Partners from across the economic spectrum contribute funding to protect Georgia’s conservation lands. Consequently, the state is able to permanently protect the natural and economic values of conservation lands for fractions of their costs. The Department of Natural Resources expanded the Townsend WMA (Boyles Island) and Flat Tub WMA (Red Oak Creek) for only half of the land’s actual value by working with these partners:
- Private landowners make properties available at discounted prices and can claim significant federal and state tax incentives for doing so.
- Non-profit organizations provide millions in funding, as well as invaluable leadership and support. The Conservation Fund borrowed $2.4 million to purchase the Red Oak Creek tract, while The Nature Conservancy gave the state nearly $3 million in grants and loans to acquire Boyles Island.
- Federal agencies, including the U.S. Marine Corps and Fish and Wildlife Service, granted the state $5 million to protect Boyles Island and more than $1 million to protect Red Oak Creek.
- Georgia state agencies, especially the Governor’s Office and DNR, efficiently coordinate these and other complicated transactions.
Not only will generations of Georgians and visitors to the state inherit these land resources to paddle, hike and hunt, but they will also reap the economic and ecological benefits they provide. I hope you will visit Georgia’s parks and natural areas, as well as learn more about the state’s efforts to conserve natural resources at our website, the Georgia Land Conservation Program.
About the Author
Andrew Szwak manages the Georgia Land Conservation Program (GLCP) at the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA). The GLCP works to protect the state’s most valuable land resources by providing project financing, technical assistance and outreach to land conservation efforts in Georgia. Szwak holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of Notre Dame, and a master’s degree in environmental planning from Rutgers University. He is licensed by the American Institute of Certified Planners.