Tall Timbers saves nearly 7,000 acres with new conservation easements

By Kevin McGorty, Land Conservancy Director

Before the 2011 year’s end, Tall Timbers closed on four donated conservation easements totaling nearly 7,000 acres of land. Three of the easements are in the Red Hills. 

Flowers family members

The largest easement (3,165 acres) is Merrily Plantation which straddles the Georgia-Florida border in Thomas and Jefferson Counties. The property lies at an important geographic interface in the eastern Red Hills region, adding significant connectivity among existing conservation easements. The property has been owned by the Flowers family since the 1940s. Under their stewardship, Merrily Plantation is primarily managed for sustainable timber production, agriculture, and traditional sport hunting and shooting. Throughout the property, many older pine stands were carefully planted by the late William H. Flowers, Jr.; and after decades of quality stewardship, these planted stands have matured into a beautiful open pine forest. Merrily’s lowland habitats include forested wetlands associated with Connell Creek, Linton Lake, and the Aucilla River. Tall Timbers is honored to hold this very significant conservation easement.

In the above photo, some of the Flowers family members gather at Thanksgiving at Merrily Plantation. TOP ROW: (from left to right) Jameson McFadden, Benjamin McCollum, J. V. Shields, Jr., C. Martin Wood III and Guinness McFadden, Jr. SECOND ROW: Knox Miller, Haile McCollum, Anne-Fontaine McFadden, Daphne Flowers Wood, Lisa McFadden and the baby is Oliva McFadden. BOTTOM ROW: Caroline Miller, William McCollum, Eliza Miller, Parker McCollum, and Maury Flowers Shields.

Thorpe McKenzieIn Leon County, W. Thorpe McKenzie added a 2,477 acre easement tract (formally a portion of Loveridge Plantation) to his beautiful Sunny Hill Plantation. From 1997 to 2000, Mr. McKenzie donated to Tall Timbers four phased conservation easements totaling 5,144 acres. With this newly added tract, Sunny Hill Plantation becomes the largest easement property in the Red Hills. In addition, this new easement provides a linear conservation corridor from the village of Miccosukee (National Register Historic District) north to Thomasville, Georgia, closing the gap between protected and unprotected lands in the Red Hills. The newly acquired tract is a shining example of a well managed, prescribed fire maintained, open pine forest that provides excellent habitat for northern bobwhites and other wildlife dependent upon frequently burned habitats. Additionally, Sunny Hill encompasses a portion of the Dry Creek floodplain, which has been designated as a Special Natural Area. The protection of the creek is important to the health of Lake Miccosukee and the Floridan Aquifer, a primary drinking water source for the region.

Shade FarmTall Timbers third easement in 2011 was Shade Farm (621 acres) in Gadsden County, Florida. Like its name suggests, the history of land use on the property was primarily farming and agriculture in the 1900’s. Shade tobacco was a huge industry in Gadsden County. In 1946 Quincy, Florida was the third ranking city in Florida in the manufacturing of cigars. The property was purchased in 2005 by a group of ten partners mainly for quail, deer, and turkey hunting and productive forestry. Of significant conservation value are the approximately 173 acres of high quality bottomland forest that provide a buffer to Ziegler Mill and Smith Mill Creeks that flow south into Quincy Creek—once the main water supply for the city of Quincy. The protection of these creeks is important to the water quality of the Ochlockonee River Basin, which supports many species of rare plants and animals.

Outside the Red Hills, Tall Timbers completed a Phase I Easement for Leary Farm (417 acres) bordering Ichawaynochaway Creek in Calhoun County, Georgia. Tall Timbers holds other easements in this section of Southwest Georgia. The property was heavily stripped of timber in the 1950s. Since 1975 – under the DuPre family ownership – plantings of loblolly, slash, and longleaf have been ongoing. Mr. William DuPre IV and his sister Lelia DuPre Reynolds’ management goals for the property include sustainable forestry and wildlife management focusing on northern bobwhite, eastern wild turkey, and whitetail deer. Leary Farm supports high quality bottomland and floodplain forest associated with Ichawaynochaway Creek in the Flint River Basin. Due to the number of rare plant and animal species found in the Flint River watershed, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has designated the Flint as a high priority watershed throughout its entirety.

Leary Farm

With these new easements, Tall Timbers has now protected over 120,000 acres in the Red Hills and Southwest Georgia.

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