A critical ecosystem, the Altamaha River watershed is home to more than 100 rare and endangered species including the gopher tortoise—a keystone species whose large burrow systems benefit and support around 350 other species. Proceeds from The Conservation Fund’s first-ever green bonds will enable us to protect thousands of acres of working forests along the river, while supporting the local timber economy and restoring important wildlife habitats.



Our Role

Over the past three decades we’ve protected nearly 40,000 acres and 68 miles of rivers and streams within the Altamaha River watershed. In May 2021, we purchased 6,154 acres of riverfront land, known as Beards Creek Forest, from Rayonier Inc. to ensure these lands remain working timberlands forever. Through our sustainable management and restoration efforts to improve surface hydrology and restore longleaf pine, we are committed to also improving the ecology and quality of wildlife habitat—a win-win for nature and local communities.

Our purchase and interim ownership of Beards Creek Forest provides time for the development of permanent conservation strategies that will preserve this working forestland, safeguard jobs, and help mitigate climate change. It will also protect water quality and wildlife habitat, contribute to local economies and allow traditional recreational access.

This project is part of our Working Forest Fund®—an innovative program dedicated to mitigating climate change, strengthening rural economies and protecting natural ecosystems through the permanent conservation of at-risk working forests across America.

“Protecting the integrity of forests that buffer the Altamaha River is an important and effective way to improve water quality and lessen the impacts of flooding after severe weather events because of the forests’ ability to absorb excess water."

- Andrew Schock, Georgia and Alabama State Director for The Conservation Fund



Why this project matters

Beards Creek Forest features nearly six miles of riverfront land, and its permanent protection will support aquatic species native to the Altamaha River and several endangered mussels and fishes, like the Atlantic sturgeon. Roughly half of the property is comprised of wetlands, which play an important role in protecting coastal communities from the impacts of more frequent and intense storms, such as storm surges, flooding, and erosion. Protecting and restoring the longleaf pine forest also ensures it will continue to absorb carbon dioxide—a critical tool in addressing climate change.

In addition, the protection of this land will help support the military training mission of nearby Fort Stewart Army Base, ensuring a connected corridor of undeveloped land that will buffer the fort from incompatible development. Beards Creek Forest is also of special interest to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources which is considering the overall potential for the property to become a recipient site for orphaned gopher tortoises that have been displaced from the wild.



WE NEED YOUR HELP

The Conservation Fund and its partners are actively raising funds for permanent conservation solutions for this land. For more information about how you can support the conservation of Beards Creek Forest please contact Shannon Lee.