All posts by Bill Jones

About Bill Jones

Founder and Executive Director of Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land.

Georgia Southern University establishes first scientific field station on 1,400-acre gift from Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land

MAY 15, 2017

Georgia Southern University’s expanding campus just got 1,400 acres larger.

While the University is working on the upcoming consolidation with Armstrong State University located in Savannah and Hinesville, and an enlarged student population of 27,000, the Statesboro-based University has acquired its first permanent scientific field station.

Known as the Effingham Wetlands, the parcel measures about 1,400 acres and was recently donated by the Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land (STPAL) to the Georgia Southern University Foundation with the express purpose of using the property as a vibrant living laboratory.

Georgia Southern President Jaimie L. Hebert, Ph.D., explains, “Because this large tract of undeveloped natural wetland is embedded in one of the most rapidly developing areas in Georgia, just 12 miles northwest of downtown Savannah, we felt compelled to take advantage of the opportunities this property provides for the University.  It will become a tremendous resource over time for our student and faculty scientists, especially those in the College of Science and Mathematics.”

According to STPAL’s field studies, the property located in Effingham and Chatham counties, is approximately 841 acres of cutover and regenerating pine; 231 acres of riparian wetlands; 68 acres of hardwoods; 40 acres of mature pine; 15 acres of open grasslands and about 7 acres of small ponds. The major water feature is St. Augustine Creek, a tributary of the Savannah River.

The site will soon become a rich resource for ongoing scientific research where long-term field experiments will monitor the property’s varied ecology. Examples of natural features to be studied include its native plants, surface and sub-surface water flow, soil biota, insects, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, fungi, bird migration and potentially many other learning opportunities. The site is even ideal for studying the region’s tick and mosquito populations.

While the property is largely a wetland habitat, it’s also a marvelous mix of forest and other Coastal Plain habitats lending itself to meaningful research that could yield answers for real-world issues. As Georgia Southern faculty and students collect valuable data in a protected setting, their findings could result in better policy decisions on how natural resources are managed for economic benefits while preserving cleaner water and healthier soils. Georgia Southern scientists will have the ability to take control of the site without fear of theft or disturbance of their scientific equipment.

“This wetland extends and enhances the learning environment beyond the classroom giving faculty, graduate students and undergrads advanced training in the scientific method by doing actual hands-on research in their chosen field of study,” says Martha Abell, Ph.D., dean of the University’s College of Science and Mathematics.

Stephen P. Vives, Ph.D., department chair and professor of biology, says, “Restoring previously logged areas is a growing field with an emphasis on returning habitat to its previous condition and increasing species diversity. Research performed here can be a valuable contribution to the larger body of knowledge on this important subject.”

Another hot topic among forest experts is the symbiotic relationship between soils, fungi and trees related to forest health – “one more fruitful line of research now available to Georgia Southern student scientists,” Vives adds.

Kelly Pope, senior director of development for the University’s College of Science and Mathematics, represented Georgia Southern University Foundation throughout the process.

Charles McMillan, coastal director of the Georgia Conservancy and a member of STPAL’s advisory board, commends STPAL and Georgia Southern for taking the lead in crafting such an innovative partnership. “The Georgia Conservancy would like to see similar arrangements between land trusts and universities in Georgia,” adding, “This is certainly a step in the right direction.”

McMillan reminds us that ecology is a relatively young science with most discoveries taking place in the last 50 years. “It’s possible that Georgia Southern student scientists can make significant, new contributions to existing knowledge on how wetlands function.” He explains, just like “the liver and lungs of the body,” wetlands remove toxins and provide oxygen.  He believes “the more we know, the better informed we will be to set public policy to manage water resources more effectively.”

About Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land
STPAL has acquired 35 properties in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina totaling about 15,000 acres. The Georgia Southern Effingham Wetlands site was donated to STPAL by a generous individual.  STPAL then placed deed restrictions on the parcel to ensure it would be conserved perpetually and never developed.

All STPAL properties are protected with various forms of conservation statuses; many are slated to become public parks.

Bill Jones, STPAL’s executive director, remarks, “We are thrilled to be part of this creative partnership which maximizes the benefits of such a large tract.  Now Georgia Southern scientists will elevate its value as conservation land to an even higher level by conducting meaningful scientific research here with long-term implications.”

In fact, university-held properties, field stations and marine labs are playing valuable roles around the world to study climate change, biodiversity loss, pollinator decline and invasive species biology.

Over time, Georgia Southern scientists plan to restore the property to natural habitat types and divide it into management zones with restoration targets.

Eventually, the property will also be shared with local K-12 students as an educational resource, and guided field trips will be encouraged for targeted groups like the Ogeechee Audubon Society whose members can assist with annual bird counts.

According to an advisory board with extensive land management experience who analyzed the site on behalf of Georgia Southern, their report concluded, “This property is large and diverse and would have value for field trips in at least 10 upper level courses. The Effingham Wetlands property will strengthen the potential for meaningful field-based research experiments by students and faculty. “

Only time will tell what they might discover.

About Georgia Southern University
Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/Research University founded in 1906, offers 119 degree programs serving 20,673 students. Through eight colleges, the University offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs built on more than a century of academic achievement. Georgia Southern is recognized for its student-centered and hands-on approach to education. Visit GeorgiaSouthern.edu.

We are done designing and flagging 12 miles of new multi-use trails at Talking Rock Nature Preserve!

BTJ map of TRBig News! We have now completed flagging for 11.86 miles of multi-use natural surface trails at Talking Rock Nature Preserve. Our cost to do this was about $1,000 per mile.

We are working with Pickens County to get their approval to build the first 5-6 miles of trails! We have about $75,000 allocated for that and can’t wait to get it going.

Something good is happening in Pickens County Georgia!

Follow the progress here and on the Talking Rock facebook page and give it a LIKE while you are there.

2016 Quick Recap

Thanks to many generous supporters we were able to acquire 12 new properties and 3 conservation easements totaling 5,000 acres protected at sites across our service area.

We earned accreditation by the Land Trust Alliance. This rigorous 18 month process improved and verified our organizational excellence. Learn more about Accreditation: http://www.landtrustaccreditation.org/

We donated The Boot Nature Preserve to Douglas County, Georgia. The 80-acre tract is beautiful natural land along a little lake. Douglas County has already begun transforming it into a passive recreation park for the public.

We became the presenting sponsor of the 2017 Georgia Trail Summit. Registration is open at GTS2017

We began our first major park build at Talking Rock Nature Preserve. Phase 1 will about 6 miles of natural surface multi-use trails. We plan to add 6 additional miles of trails, a disc course, and park amenities.

At Bald Mountain Creek Nature Preserve in Northwest North Carolina, we funded the removal of a culvert stream crossing and replaced it with a bridge.  Local “friends of the nature preserve” completely handled the project for half of the expected cost.  It’s an important improvement for the stream and its native brook trout.

Happy holidays to you and yours!

We care about you on GA Gives Day

gacnp_cmyk_logo_2016_990STPAL cares about you on Georgia Gives Day and that’s why we conserve land.

Funding will support our efforts to design a story map about STPAL properties, lead a volunteer build of park trails, plant pollinator gardens, host nature programs and more. With dozens of parcels of conserved land envisioned for public use and environmental education, we are committed to conserve and activate these Georgia spaces for you!

15,000+ acres
23 properties (19 more coming)
in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina.

To donate, visit https://www.gagivesday.org/c/GGD/  and type STPAL in the search bar!

A new park in Douglas County Georgia!

On June 15, 2016 we donated 85 acres of conservation land to Douglas County, Georgia for a new passive recreation park. Douglas County budgeted funds for a new passive park. We had land available for a new park. And now they have the land and the money. A new public park will soon be built!

This is a great deal for current and future Douglas County residents. Free is a fine price for their taxpayers! And the trees and critters that live on the site don’t mind either!

Much thanks to Douglas County Commissioner Mike Mulcare who came to us with a vision and for seeing it through to this great day. He is a big fan of parks and green-space and is leading the way for Douglas County to become known as a parks community.

We are thrilled and can’t wait to visit the new park once it is completed!

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Newsletter Spring 2016

Stpal newsletter spring 2016 pdf

It has been an incredible 6 months for STPAL! 
We are accredited! STPAL undertook the important process of applying for Accreditation status through the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. This process took us about two years from the very start until we were notified in February. The process is rigorous, time consuming, and challenging. It takes a deep look into all aspects of our work including our finances, policies, procedures, transactions, and acumen. It involved submitting hundreds of documents, interviews, and then more documents. It uncovered our weaknesses and provided a process for systemically addressing them. The end result of being Accredited is a nice feather in our cap, but the process itself has made us a much better organization. Because we own land that is permanently conserved we need to be permanent too. The Accreditation process has made us into an organization that will be just as permanent as our conservation lands. Check back in 5 years when we do it all again with the Reaccreditation process!

We are Accredited!

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Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land Earns National Recognition

Accreditation Promotes Public Trust, Ensures Permanence

 Marietta, GA (Feb. 23, 2016) – Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land (STPAL), a grass roots organization formed to facilitate the creation of new parks and land conservation across the Southeast, today announced it has achieved accreditation – a mark of honor in land conservation. The Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded accreditation, signifying its confidence that STPAL’s lands will be protected forever.

“Accredited land trusts across the country have permanently conserved more than 15 million acres of farms, forests and natural areas that are vital to healthy, vibrant communities.

“Accreditation demonstrates STPAL’s commitment to permanent land conservation and to organizational excellence,” said Bill Jones, STPAL’s Founder and Executive Director. “We’re a stronger organization for having gone through the rigorous accreditation program and this strength will help make STPAL even more effective and beneficial to communities across the Southeast.”

STPAL was among 37 land trusts across the United States to achieve accreditation or to have accreditation renewed in February. STPAL joins the 342 land trusts that demonstrate their commitment to professional excellence through accreditation, helping to maintain the public’s trust in their work.

“It is exciting to recognize the Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land with this distinction,” said Tammara Van Ryn, executive director of the Commission. “Together, accredited land trusts stand united behind strong national standards ensuring the places people love will be conserved forever. In all, over 75 percent of private lands conserved by land trusts are now held by an accredited land trust.”

Each accredited land trusts meets extensive documentation requirements and undergoes a comprehensive review as part of its accreditation application. The process is rigorous and strengthens land trusts with systems that help landowners and communities achieve their goals. More information about land trust accreditation can be found at www.landtrustaccreditation.org.

The Commission is an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, a national land conservation organization working to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America. More information about the many benefits of land conservation is available at www.landtrustalliance.org.

 About STPAL

The Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land (STPAL) was founded in Georgia in 2012 and is a 501-C-3 trust based in Cobb County dedicated to responding to the need for preservation of undeveloped or restorable land in various areas and making it available for responsible use by local communities.  STPAL has taken ownership of over 9,000 acres of natural land across 23 properties in various counties in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.  For more information or a complete list of properties visit the STPAL website at www.stpal.org.

About the Land Trust Accreditation Commission

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission inspires excellence, promotes public trust and ensures permanence in the conservation of open lands by recognizing organizations that meet rigorous quality standards and strive for continuous improvement. The Commission, established in 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, is governed by a volunteer board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts. For more, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org.

About the Land Trust Accreditation Commission

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission inspires excellence, promotes public trust and ensures permanence in the conservation of open lands by recognizing organizations that meet rigorous quality standards and strive for continuous improvement. The Commission, established in 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, is governed by a volunteer board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts. For more, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org.

About the Land Trust Alliance

Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people love by strengthening land conservation across America. The Alliance represents more than 1,100 member land trusts supported by more than 100,000 volunteers and 5 million members nationwide. The Alliance is based in Washington, D.C. and operates several regional offices. More information about the Alliance is available at www.landtrustalliance.org.