Georgia Land Trust (GLT) was awarded a grant from the Department of Defense (DOD), as part of the Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI), to purchase 5,500 acres from Rayonier Forest Resources. The purchase enlarges a permanent natural buffer between the Fort Stewart Military Installation and the rapidly expanding Savannah and Hinesville urban areas that will preserve open space and habitat, and prevent disruption of operations at Fort Stewart.
According to Katherine Eddins, Executive Director of the Georgia Land Trust, “This strategic acquisition supports and enhances the military mission, and at the same time enhances the quality of life for existing and future residents in the area. It takes our previous conservation mission at Fort Stewart to a whole new level.”
GLT has been partnering with DOD at Fort Stewart since 2008 under the REPI program to promote innovative land conservation solutions that benefit the environment and the military. Over 17,000 acres have already been protected through REPI along the southeastern boundary of Fort Stewart, buffering land where military staff conducts prescribed burns to maintain habitat for red-cockaded woodpeckers and other endangered species that inhabit the fire-dependent longleaf pine ecosystem.
"The value that the Georgia Land Trust brings to this process is our focus on the REPI goals at Fort Stewart and our years of experience working with landowners to conserve compatible use property around the Installation," said Justin Park, Deputy Director of the Land Trust. “With Rayonier, this cooperative approach allowed the Army Compatible Use Buffer program to achieve a long-term conservation result and Ft. Stewart to achieve compatible use of the property.”
Lynn Wilson, Rayonier’s Senior Vice President, U.S. Forest Resources, remarked, “As the second largest private landowner in Georgia, and one of the largest landowners in the U.S., our future depends on healthy working forests that provide a vital renewable resource, create good wage jobs, generate tax revenue for our communities, and preserve a high quality of life in rural areas. Working with the Georgia Land Trust and the Department of Defense’s REPI program to achieve both environmental and military goals makes this transaction doubly rewarding for us.”