STPAL is now in the toddler stage or is it the terrible Twos? We’ve gone from an idea just a short 30 months ago to owning 3,000 acres of conservation land spread from southeast Georgia to northwest North Carolina. Like most two year olds we’ve fallen down here and there but we’ve learned how to walk. And so we walk. And occasionally we run a bit. But we want to dance and that takes partners. It takes two to tango!
We have the land. It is conserved and we are charged with protecting and enhancing its conservation value. We are doing fine with that. We’ve made a few new trails. We improved the habitat diversity in a few places. We’ve taking steps to prevent poaching and other improper uses. But these things are just walking. We want to dance and we need partners.
We want to partner with at least one educational institution for each property. We have called and emailed many public high schools but can’t seem to get a response. We had multiple meetings with a University but a shift in their personnel left us back at square one. We need help making connections at schools. We have no preconceived limits or requirements. We are open to considering any usage of our properties that advances science education and research without harming the land.
We are interested in habitat development and support. Development has shrunk the open land available for many species. We need help finding methods and funding for our properties to reach their potential as nature preserves. Our best effort to date involves the Audubon Society. We are working with them in North Carolina to create better habitat for the Golden Winged Warbler. We are also interested in creating environments that are beneficial for bats, bees, monarch butterflies and other pollinators. If anyone has relevant contacts or even just enough interest to do some research on our behalf it would help us to help these fragile populations.
We want the general public to use our properties for passive recreation and enjoyment. This includes hiking, nature observing, photography, and such. We need help creating trails, access points and signage.
Please consider if you can help in any way. Just providing relevant contacts would be enough!
These boots can tango anywhere!
We are having a work day on May 10, 2014 on the Pumpkinvine Creek property near Dallas Georgia.
Easy access from anywhere in Metro Atlanta, good parking area, good people and a free (really!) lunch!
Contact Bill (bill.jones (at) stpal.org with questions or to volunteer.
It will be Mother’s Day weekend so give a little love to Mother Earth.
Two weeks ago marked the second anniversary of a thought to start a public non-profit organization with a mission to create public parks. As the idea developed it grew to include caring for conservation land and improving science education. Since then we have discovered and embraced a new range of possibilities for creating public benefit using conservation land.
In 2013 we made progress in forming relationships with other non-profit organizations. The conversation begins with a question. “How can your use of our land enhance the public benefit of your mission?” It is a simple question for sure, but absolutely exciting. We are open to a range of ideas. Among our current projects that we are hoping to launch in 2014 in conjunction with other non-profits and educational institutions are a new farmer incubation program involving United Nations refugee immigrants, a field biology lab in conjunction with a public high school and large state university, and wetland and forest restoration projects on multiple properties.
Our fundraising efforts have been meager at best. Unlike many non-profits we are so busy doing our work that we seem to neglect raising money. This is definitely something that we have to improve, but we remain optimistic that if we create enough public good the money will follow. Is it naïve? Maybe. Does it reflect our inherent optimism and confidence? Yes.
We continue to attract new Board leadership and volunteers. In seems we have the same approach to recruiting people as we do with fundraising. If we do enough good work, good people will find us.
The 2013 Stats:
We were given fee simple ownership of 4 properties with a total of about 2,500 acres of land. They are all perpetually conserved by deed restriction.
We participated in a project that ended with us making our first land purchase and conserving it. It will become a passive public park. The Georgia Conservancy was a big help with this project.
We were given land in North Carolina which was our first outside of Georgia.
Questions and Comments: Bill Jones, Executive Director firstname.lastname@example.org
We need some help. The very idea to start this organization happened in December of 2011. A lot has happened since then but we are still a baby. We need help in all areas, but here are some specific current needs. Some are big and some are little. Some are weekend projects and some are ongoing. But there are all the things that we need to get done, but just can’t seem to get them done.
Importance and Time Frame / Urgency: Needs to be done, but we are getting by
Work Load and Process: This is an ongoing project. Step one is going back to catch us up, but we really don’t have that many transactions. Going forward we can send a monthly spreadsheet to be entered or our executive director can be taught to use it once it is set up and rolling.
Privy at Pumpkinvine Creek
Location: Pumpkinvine is the 110 acre property in Paulding County near Dallas
Importance: We are committed to public access and public benefit with our properties but to date we are still building out the needed infrastructure.
Time Frame / Urgency: We put in a parking area and access trail into the heart of the property. We engaged Kennesaw State to be involved with the property. We told the land donor family that we would have an event and open the property this year. We committed to the State that we would have public access. We need publicity. But to be fair we don’t need the privy to be open the property. But to have the privy really shows that we are serious and ambitious about creating a valuable public asset. We will make it ADA compliant because we are that committed.
Work Load: This is a 2-3 day project. We have three volunteers that have offered to help. They are all old and retired but they have game. One is a master carpenter and frequent builder of nice tree houses for friends and families. One is an architect. And one has built and installed these privies on the Appalachian Trail. He and our executive director went and did maintenance on the one in the Blood Mountain WMA this past winter.
Process: Go to the site to evaluate placement and size of the privy with our executive director and these three guys. Then go eat BBQ and decide how to proceed. Get the blueprints off the internet and figure out the materials needed. The guys will help determine material need or may just do it. Probably build the walls, floor and roof somewhere off site. The roof is optional. There is no plumbing. It works through organic composting. Have a privy-raising on the site. Bonus Points: get someone to donate the material cost ($2-3k I think) in exchange for the right to name the privy. Double Secret Bonus Points- we need privies on other properties too.
Location: All properties
Importance: We are committed to public access and benefit with our properties but to date we have yet to create public use on any.
Time Frame / Urgency: The one for Pumpkinvine needs to be done when the privy is ready. The others can wait.
Work Load: This is a quick project
Process: Figure out what the sign should say. The obvious things are the name of the property, our logo, and in the event of an emergence call 911. We’ll also need rules and a statement. The statement should reference something about it being conservation land or a nature preserve. The rules should be common sense stuff. Look at other park signs. Figure out the best materials in consideration of cost, durability, legibility, vandal “proof” and consistent with what a sign on conservation land should look like.
Importance: time will tell
Time Frame / Urgency: whenever
Work Load: Not all that much really
Process: Help find our executive director opportunities to speak in front of groups: any group, any size, and any time. We can tailor a talk to fit the audience. We won’t beg for land, money or volunteers.
Small Donor Fundraising
Process: Make a plan and help launch it
Importance: Money matters
Time Frame / Urgency: Needs doing
Work Load: Not all that much really
Process: Figure out a process to go after small donors ($50 to $250). This can be done with an email that we can forward to our networks with a link to our soon to be launched new web site’s fundraising page. The key is creating an email that is compelling, concise and motivates the click through to the site.
Large Donor Fundraising
Process: Make a plan and help launch it
Importance: Big money really matters
Time Frame / Urgency: Needs doing
Work Load: Not all that much really
Process: Figure out a process to go after large donors ($1000+). Develop a strategy and stories. One example is the privy. The privy message is great. We need it to further science education. This is the first property that this ambitious new group has opened. It is quirky and fun. Naming it after a friend in honor of a big birthday or such would be hilarious among the right crowd. Look for other stories. Go to the Kennesaw State Foundation and see if they or their members will help since their science department and one their clubs will be using the property. Set our executive director up with meetings with generous people that might appreciate our mission.
Location: Our Oconee County property on Boyd Road
Importance: the weeds are growing
Time Frame / Urgency: Needs doing by year end
Work Load: Not all that much really
Process: It is a 50 acre former pasture. It needs bi-annual cutting just to stay in control. There are very nearby and even contiguous neighbors that have or could get the equipment. We have been meaning to meet these folks and tell them that we are fine with their kids riding bikes and playing on the property. So one option is to go scout around one Saturday with one of our board members and attempt to speak to folks and hope someone offers to do it for free or cheap. Or look at Craigslist in that area and other sources to try to find someone that does it. We have no idea how much it should cost so step one may be to get an idea of that.
Annual Aerial or Satellite Photos of each Property
Importance: would be great to have
Time Frame / Urgency: Needs doing by year end
Work Load: Not all that much really
Process: We are required by the State and Fed to create and store an annual monitoring report of our properties. We would like to include an aerial or satellite for each year with the boundary shown. Sometimes we’ll get lucky and Google Earth will have the current year image. Part of the trick is overlaying the boundary and having a way to easily drop it on each subsequent annual image. We have done it but it was trial and error. What we need is to get it done for now and create instructions so it can be done again.
Schools and Scout Groups
Location: all of our properties
Importance: want not need
Time Frame / Urgency: none
Work Load: really depends
Process: We’d like to connect either a school or Scout group with each of our properties. The relationship will vary based on the age of the kids involved and the property. If you know someone involved in a school or Scout group tell them about us and see if they can think of how we could connect.
by Marvin Bell
We need some pines to assuage the darkness when it blankets the mind, we need a silvery stream that banks as smoothly as a plane's wing, and a worn bed of needles to pad the rumble that fills the mind, and a blur or two of a wild thing that sees and is not seen. We need these things between appointments, after work, and, if we keep them, then someone someday, lying down after a walk and supper, with the fire hole wet down, the whole night sky set at a particular time, without numbers or hours, will cause a little sound of thanks--a zipper or a snap-- to close round the moment and the thought of whatever good we did
Farm land is not the first image that comes to mind when thinking about conservation land. There are two aspects to conservation on agricultural land. The first involves programs that foster sustainable farming practices. The other provides financial incentives that keep agricultural land from being transferred into other uses.
Best Management Practices on agricultural land include protecting water resources from pollutants that can either cause contamination from slow buildup by long term usage or sudden accidental release. Other BMPs include the control and processing of animal waste; soil protection through grazing control, crop rotation, and nutrient management (lest we repeat the dust bowl); proper irrigation usage; silt management; and other methods that protect the land for future generations of farmers.
For more detailed information on farming BMPs see this September 2013 publication: http://gaswcc.georgia.gov/sites/gaswcc.georgia.gov/files/2013AgManual_Intro%2BCh1.pdf
The other aspect is the effort to keep agricultural land in use as agricultural land. For the last 40 years America has seen a decline in medium size family farms. There are a number of reasons for this but research indicates that one is that young people aren’t as willing to make the financial investment required, work 12-16 hours a day, and possibly earn less than a similarly situated farmer made 30 years ago. Family farmers also frequently have to work a non-farm job to make ends meet. One way to help farmers is to offer transferable tax incentives through conservation easements. These incentives can allow them to purchase equipment, provide a financial safety net, or pay off their land mortgage. We don’t currently hold any agricultural easements but we hope to have some soon. We want to be involved in helping preserve family farms. Please contact us with any questions or comments.
So, if we are supposed to be taking care of conservation land should we have forestry crews on some of our properties this fall? Yes, we should.
First let’s consider the history of forestry in Georgia. If you want the long answer go here: http://www.gatrees.org/about-us/history/index.cfm and here: http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/geography-environment/environmental-history-georgia-overview
If you want the short answer: Timber production has been very important to Georgia landowners and businesses starting in the 1930s. Timber companies owned huge portions of land across the state. Most undeveloped land has been used for pine production. Land planted as a pine plantation does not make a good forest.
Frankly a planted pine forest is really only ideal for pine harvesting. But they do offer value for water protection, soil structure and enrichment, carbon sequestration, and of course there are some animal species that thrive in such an environment. These land tracts also play an important role in alleviating pressure on natural forests for timber and fuel wood production. There is still some good environmental value in a properly managed forest plantation.
A natural forest has a variety of trees and a natural density. A natural density is such that the tree canopy keeps the forest floor from becoming thick with growth, but not so dense that trees aren’t able to reach their potential. The tree population also has a diversity of tree ages unlike our properties in which the trees were all planted at the same time.
The properties that we are thinning were clear cut and replanted with pine seedlings at some point in their history. These properties are so dense now that the trees are crowding each other which caused the forests to fall apart. The weakest trees died. Even the comparatively strong trees aren’t all that good because of all of the competition for sun, water, space and nutrients that they have dealt with throughout their lives. As trees fall they become potential hosts for pine beetles which can devastate a forest.
We have consulted with Georgia DNR foresters prior to cutting any trees and use their best practices recommendations when we plan the harvests. During the initial harvests we selectively cut between 40-50% of the trees in a pine plantation area. This allows for the remaining trees to begin reaching their potential. As a rule of thumb a pine tree lives about 40 years. Our properties haven’t been harvested for at least 20 years which is about 8 years too long. This means we will get on a cycle of thinning trees every 8 years and after two more harvests we’ll have the forests in a natural state.
The harvest process leaves behind what foresters call logging roads but we call hiking and biking trails. They also leave behind a couple of landing areas which can become parking areas, camping areas, and other uses. We also receive revenue which we reinvest in to the properties.
So yes, we are cutting trees. But our forests will be all the better for having done so.
As defined by Wikipedia:
a private, nonprofit organization that, as all or part of its mission, actively works to conserve land by undertaking or assisting in land or conservation easement acquisition, or by its stewardship of such land or easements; or an agreement whereby one party (the trustee) agrees to hold ownership of a piece of real property for the benefit of another party (the beneficiary).
As defined by Webster’s Dictionary of Law:
A trust created to effectuate a real estate ownership arrangement in which the trustee holds legal and equitable title to the property subject to the provisions of a trust agreement setting out the rights of the beneficiaries whose interests in the trust are declared to be personal property
How is it that I founded and run a Land Trust yet a Google search does not a yield a definition of Land Trust that I understand? And there begins our first challenge in telling people about our work and mission. In the first sentence “we are a land trust” most every listener probably thinks “I’ve heard of a land trust, but don’t think I know what it is”. I know when I first talked to someone about my desire to be involved in creating more parks he said “you should start a land trust”. As my mouth was saying “O.K. I’ll look into starting a Land Trust as the foundation to create parks” my brain was saying “What the heck is a Land Trust?”!
I have since found out what a land trust is and does.
It teaches the young and old. It calms the busy and inspires the inactive. It feeds bellies and souls. It cleans and absorbs water. It lets waterways flow and riverbanks grow. It tells stories of the past and waits patiently for the future. It lets trees grow and turtles nest. It heals earth and restrains man. It is good and I am not confused about that despite those Google search definitions.
So that was a lovely flowery little paragraph, not any better than the dictionary now is it? But here it is with fewer flowers and more rocks.
Land trust property:
Teaches when people walk with a child and spotting exciting things like pretty wild flowers, furry caterpillars, really tall trees and silly squirrels. Teaches when we label trees and plants along nature trails. Teaches when we partner with schools and colleges to provide field labs and hands on observation.
Calms by providing walking trails and open fields to absorb stress, soften grief, free thinking and share in joy. Inspires to exercise when a nice trail to walk is nearby. No membership to buy. No lessons to take. No special clothes or equipment needed. Bring a friend. Bring a dog. Play. Relax. Daydream.
Considerations before beginning the process of donating land or an easement
Philosophy of early American conservation movement
During the 19th century, some Americans developed a deep and abiding passion for nature. The early evolution of the conservation movement began through both public and private recognition of the relationship between man and nature often reflected in the great literary and artistic works of the 19th century. Artists, such as Albert Bierstadt, painted powerful landscapes of the American West during the mid 19th century, which were incredibly popular ages representative of the unique natural wonders of the American frontier. Likewise, in 1860, Frederic Edwin Church painted “Twilight in the Wilderness”, which was an artistic masterpiece of the era that explored the growing importance of the American wilderness.
Many American writers also romanticized and focused upon nature as a subject matter. However, the most notable literary figure upon the early conservation movement proved to be Henry David Thoreau. Throughout his work, Walden, Thoreau detailed his experiences at the natural setting of Walden Pond and his deep appreciation for nature. In one instance, he described a deep grief for a tree that was cut down. Thoreau went on to bemoan the lack of reverence for the natural world: “I would that our farmers when they cut down a forest felt some of that awe which the old Romans did when they came to thin, or let in the light to, a consecrated grove”. As he states in Walden, Thoreau “was interested in the preservation” of nature. In 1860, Henry David Thoreau delivered a speech to the Middlesex Agricultural Society in Massachusetts; the speech, entitled “The Succession of Forest Trees”, explored forest ecology and encouraged the agricultural community to plant trees. This speech became one of Thoreau’s “most influential ecological contributions to conservationist thought”.
The early conservation movement in the United States was also successful due to the hard work of John Muir. Muir was a former carriage worker who was nearly blinded by an accident at work. After almost losing his sight, Muir decided to see “America’s natural wonders”. Based upon his travels throughout Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Muir wrote a collection of articles for Century magazine, entitled “Studies in the Sierra”. In 1892, John Muir joined forces with the editor of “Century” Magazine, Robert Underwood Johnson, to establish the Sierra Club, an organization designed to protect America’s natural resources and public parks. Early Americans recognized the importance of natural resources and the necessity of wilderness preservation for sustained yield harvesting of natural resources. In essence, the preservation of wilderness and landscapes were recognized as critical for future generations and their continued subsistence in a healthy environment. The foundation of the conservation movement is grounded during this period between 1850 and 1920. Ultimately, historical trends and cultural mind-sets were united, which influenced ideas and policy towards the early history of the conservation movement in the United States.
Early American conservation movement
The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem, it will avail us little to solve all others.
America had its own conservation movement in the 19th century, most often characterized by George Perkins Marsh, author of Man and Nature. The expedition into northwest Wyoming in 1871 led by F. V. Hayden and accompanied by photographer William Henry Jacksonprovided the imagery needed to substantiate rumors about the grandeur of the Yellowstone region, and resulted in the creation of Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first, in 1872. Travels by later U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt through the region around Yellowstone provided the impetus for the creation of the Yellowstone Timberland Reserve in 1891. The largest section of the reserve was later renamed Shoshone National Forest, and it is the oldest National Forest in the U.S. But it was not until 1898 when German forester Dr. Carl A. Schenck, on theBiltmore Estate, and Cornell University founded the first two forestry schools, both run by Germans. Bernard Fernow, founder of the forestry schools at Cornell and the University of Toronto, was originally from Prussia (Germany), and he honed his knowledge from Germans who pioneered forestry in India. He introduced Gifford Pinchot, the “father of American forestry”, to Brandis and Ribbentrop in Europe. From these men, Pinchot learned the skills and legislative patterns he would later apply to America. Pinchot, in his memoir history Breaking New Ground, credited Brandis especially with helping to form America’s conservation laws.
|“||Conservation means the greatest good to the greatest number for the longest time.—Pinchot||”|
Pinchot wrote that the principles of conservation were:
In 1891, Congress passed the Forest Reserve Act, which allowed the President of the United States to set aside forest lands on public domain. A decade after the Forest Reserve Act, presidents Harrison, Cleveland, and McKinley had transferred approximately 50,000,000 acres (200,000 km2) into the forest reserve system. However, President Theodore Roosevelt is credited with the institutionalization of the conservation movement in the United States.
For President Roosevelt, the conservation movement was not about the preservation of nature simply for nature itself. After his experiences traveling as an enthusiastic, zealous hunter, Roosevelt became convinced of “the need for measures to protect the game species from further destruction and eventual extinction”. President Roosevelt recognized the necessity of carefully managing America’s natural resources. According to Roosevelt, “We are prone to speak of the resources of this country as inexhaustible; this is not so”. Nonetheless, Roosevelt believed that conservation of America’s natural resources was for the successful management and continued sustain yield harvesting of these resources in the future for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people. Roosevelt took several major steps to further his conservation goals.In 1902, Roosevelt signed the National Reclamation Act, which allowed for the management and settlement of a large tract of barren land. Then, in 1905, President Roosevelt helped to create the United States Forest Service and then appointed respected forester, Gifford Pinchot, as the first head of the agency. By the end of his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt, in partnership with Gifford Pinchot, had successfully increased the number of national parks as well as added area to existing forest reserves.
Despite these advancements, the American conservation movement did have difficulties. In the early 1900s the conservation movement in America was split into two main groups: conservationists, like Pinchot and Roosevelt, who were utilitarian foresters and natural rights advocates who wanted to protect forests “for the greater good for the greatest length”, and preservationists, such as John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club. Important differences separated conservationists like Roosevelt and Pinchot from preservationists like Muir. As a preservationist, Muir envisioned the maintenance of pristine natural environments where any development was banned. Whereas conservationists wanted regulated use of forest lands for both public activities and commercial endeavors, preservationists wanted forest to be preserved for natural beauty, scientific study and recreation. The differences continue to the modern era, with sustainable harvest and multiple-use the major focus of the U.S. Forest Service and recreation emphasized by the National Park Service.
Modern American conservation movement
The High Peaks Wilderness Area in the 6,000,000-acre (24,000 km2) Adirondack Park is a publicly protected area located in northeast New York.
Ultimately, the modern conservation movement in the United States continues to strive for the delicate balance between the successful management of society’s industrial progress while still preserving the integrity of the natural environment that sustains humanity. In a large part, today’s conservation movement in the United States is a joint effort of individuals, grassroots organizations, nongovernmental organizations, learning institutions, and various government agencies, such as the United States Forest Service.
For the modern era, the U.S. Forest Service has noted three important aspects of the conservation movement: the climate change, water issues, and the education of the public on conservation of the natural environment, especially among children. In regards to climate change, the U.S. Forest Service has undertaken a twenty-year research project to develop ways to counteract issues surrounding climate change. However, some small steps have been taken regarding climate change. As rising greenhouse gases contribute to global warming, reforestation projects are seeking to counteract rising carbon emissions. In Oregon, the Department of Forestry has developed such a small reforestation program in which landowners can lease their land for one hundred years to grow trees. In turn, these trees offset carbon emissions from power companies. Moreover, reforestation projects have other benefits: reforested areas serve as a natural filter of agricultural fertilizers even as new wildlife habitats are created. Reforested land can also contribute to the local economy as rural landowners also distribute hunting leases during the years between harvests.
In essence, projects, such as reforestation, create a viable market of eco-friendly services mutually beneficial to landowners, businesses and society, and most importantly, the environment. Nonetheless, such creative plans will be necessary in the near future as the United States struggles to maintain a positive balance between society and the finite natural resources of the nation. Ultimately, through dedicated research, eco-friendly practices of land management, and efforts to educate the public regarding the necessity of conservation, those individuals dedicated to American conservation seek to preserve the nation’s natural resources.