The Red Hills region is a 436,000-acre area located between Thomasville, Georgia and Tallahassee, Florida. Known for its rolling hills and red clay soils, the region is rich in biological diversity, historic resources, and scenic beauty.
The Nature Conservancy has designated the Red
Hills as one of America’s “Last Great Places.”
Carefully managed for the propagation of bobwhite quail, the hunting plantations of the Red Hills contain a significant portion of the native longleaf pine forests remaining in the United States and the largest contiguous acreage on privately owned land. Through sensitive forestry practices that integrate wildlife values and prescribed burning, landowners have made a significant contribution to maintaining the biological heritage of the Red Hills. Here, some 64 threatened and endangered plant and animal species find refuge while healthy forests are selectively harvested for timber.
As the largest concentration of undeveloped plantation lands in the country, the Red Hills has been identified for special conservation efforts. The Nature Conservancy has designated the Red Hills as one of America’s “Last Great Places.” Serving as a lifeline between coastal and northern wildlands, the Red Hills provides a bioreserve that ensures habitat corridors and genetic diversity necessary for the survival of far-ranging mammals and migratory birds. Decades of active game bird management have provided local settings for such rare species as the federally endangered Red-cockaded woodpecker, the gopher tortoise, and many other animals and plants.
The national organization, Scenic America, identified the Red Hills canopy roads as one of the ten most scenic corridors in the United States in 1997. More than 300 miles of paved and unpaved public roads wind their way through the plantation lands of the Red Hills, providing travelers with a close-up glimpse of an American landscape that has remained virtually unchanged since the late 1800s. It is by way of these winding roads that the landscape unfolds as a sequence of visual experiences, from wildflower-laden pine parklands to vast open fields, from tobacco barns to historic cemeteries, and from marshes to groves of live oaks.
Today, many of these roads are protected by local ordinances in Thomas County, Georgia and Leon County, Florida.
The region’s fertile soils, abundant lakes, rolling hills, and valley terrain have for centuries attracted diverse cultures. The imprint left by those cultures is reflected in the wealth of historic sites found in the Red Hills, from Native American ceremonial mound centers, Spanish missions, antebellum plantation mansions, tenant farms, to an array of other tangible reminders of the area’s history. Many of these sites and districts are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are open to the public.
Threats to the Red Hills
Urban sprawl is the number one threat to the region, fragmenting this beautiful landscape and degrading its quality of life. Over the last few decades, Tallahassee’s sprawling growth has consumed thousands of acres of forestlands in the Red Hills. As an example, the percentage of Leon County’s population living outside of Interstate 10 and Capital Circle has increased from 21 percent in 1970 to 49 percent in 2000. Similar sprawl has also occurred south of Thomasville. This uncontrolled development threatens not only to undermine the area’s rural land uses, but to also strain the fiscal resources of local government to provide the necessary infrastructure to serve that sprawl.
Protecting the Red Hills Region
Working with landowners, the Land Conservancy of Tall Timbers strives to protect the region’s ecological, scenic, and historical resources, and land use traditions. Our Conservancy focuses on providing services via conservation easements, regional biological and cultural resource inventories, land use and community planning, advocacy, and educational outreach. You can help us achieve our goal of conserving the Red Hills by becoming a member of Tall Timbers and supporting the efforts of the Land Conservancy.