Closing the Gap

Dogwood Plantation Conservation Easement

By Kevin McGorty, Director Tall Timbers Land Conservancy

George & Cyndi WatkinsA key goal of Tall Timbers’ Strategic Plan is to work with landowners in closing the gap between conserved and unprotected lands in the Red Hills Region of north Florida and southwest Georgia. To date nearly 167,000 of the 300,000 acre Red Hills core area are permanently conserved, mostly by donated conservation easements. This is a remarkable success story, but more work needs to be done to ensure the sustainability for the future of this unique and beautiful region. 

With this goal in mind and a love of their land, George and Cyndi Watkins recently donated a conservation easement to Tall Timbers for the remaining 1,595 acres of Dogwood Plantation.  Dogwood is located on the Florida-Georgia state line, approximately 8 miles north of Monticello in Jefferson County, Florida and 10 miles south of Thomasville in Thomas County, Georgia. The property was originally part of Greenwood Plantation established in 1827 by Thomas P. Jones.       

In 2004, the Watkins’ donated a 711 acre easement protecting the Wards Creek portion of their property. The phase II easement continues protecting the broad forested floodplain associated with Wards Creek, a tributary stream to Lake Miccosukee and part of the St. Marks River watershed, which are both considered important recharge areas for the Floridan Aquifer. The uplands portion of the property contains large longleaf which are extremely rare and worthy of additional protection. Dogwood Plantation has historically managed much of their uplands in a relatively natural way including frequent prescribed fire and multi-aged timber management with single tree harvest. This has allowed the sustainability of keystone plant and animal species. These species include the Bachman sparrow and Gopher tortoise, both listed as a state threatened species in Georgia and Florida. 

Dogwood Plantation is strategically located and is adjacent to other conservation easements of similar critical habitats and management styles. At a landscape scale, this conservation easement will ensure connectively and similarity amongst these lands providing significant benefit to Tall Timbers’ efforts to conserve the greater Red Hills Region.

Reflecting the love for his land, George Watkins said it best “it is an honor to be the stewards of this property and comforting to know it is protected in perpetuity”.

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