Thursday, February 26, 2009

Callaway Gardens Places Thousands of Additional Acres Into Permanent Conservation Project

Pine Mountain’s Beauty and Biodiversity Protected Forever

In partnership with Harris County and the State of Georgia, Callaway Gardens® once again demonstrates its commitment to the environment with the placement of another large tract of land into a conservation easement.

Through the Georgia Land Conservation Program (GLCP), the Ida Cason Callaway Foundation™ (ICCF), the non-profit parent organization of Callaway Gardens, has worked with the government of Harris County to protect 2,078 acres of ecologically important green space. The GLCP is a program created by Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue that offers competitive grants, low-interest loans and tax incentives for land acquisition or conservation easement purchases. The goal is to bring together private and public entities to conserve our natural resources for current and future generations to use and enjoy.

“We were excited to partner with Harris County’s Board of Commissioners and Development Authority as well as the State of Georgia to protect this ecology significant tract of land for future generations,” Edward C. Callaway, ICCF chairman/CEO.

This GLCP project accomplishes several important goals: connects 2,507 acres of ICCF land that was designated as a Georgia Forest Legacy conservation easement in December 2004 with the existing green space of Georgia’s largest state park, Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park; maintains forever the natural view shed of the Pine Mountain Ridge; and protects three miles of the ecologically important Pine Mountain Ridge and its adjacent watershed from future development. Remnant stands of rare, mountain Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) can be found across this tract of land. The protection and restoration of this key species and its associated habitat are a high priority for this project.

In addition, there are approximately 25 acres of land set aside as permanent green space as part of three LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) projects at Callaway Gardens as certified by the U. S. Green Building Council.

This transaction brings the total amount of land to 4,610 acres that the ICCF has placed under permanent conservation protection. While relinquishing the developmental rights, Callaway Gardens retains the rights to implement wise land stewardship and environmental education to fulfill our mission of connecting man and nature in a way that benefits both.

The Georgia Forestry Commission holds the conservation easements on both tracts. These tracts together create a portion of The Preserve at Callaway Gardens™. Today, The Preserve encompasses over 10,000 acres of forested land adjacent to the Gardens, resort and residential living areas of Callaway Gardens, which have existed for over 50 years near the town of Pine Mountain, Georgia. The management of the easement tracts is designed to be holistic and fit seamlessly with the management of the adjacent, non-easement portions of Preserve area.

A conservation easement is a legally binding agreement transferring a negotiated set of property rights from one party to another, without removing the property from private ownership. Under this type of easement, the ICCF is giving up development rights while retaining accessibility for ecological restoration, environmental education, responsible recreation and appropriate active land management which supports the conservation values of the property.

So what does this mean for the public? LuAnn Craighton, Preserve executive director, said, “We don’t want to lock this land up and throw away the key. Our objectives are to get visitors on the land and educate them about the natural world through guided programs; be a role model of wise land stewardship and land management techniques; host conservation-minded groups, share what we learn; and last but not least, re-establish the population of Longleaf Pine.”

“It is very exciting to know that this land will continue to provide future visitors with a better understanding of the living world as my grandparents Cason and Virginia Callaway, founders of Callaway Gardens, dreamed,” Callaway said.

Callaway Gardens, a premier travel and meeting destination in the South, is owned and operated by the non-profit Ida Cason Callaway Foundation™. For more than 50 years Callaway has provided “a place of relaxation, inspiration and a better understanding of the living world” for millions of visitors. Callaway Gardens is committed to its mission of environmental education and land stewardship for the benefit of future generations.

Callaway Gardens is in Pine Mountain, Ga., 60 minutes southwest of Atlanta and 30 minutes north of Columbus. For additional information, call 1-800-CALLAWAY (225-5292) or visit www.callawaygardens.com.
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