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.”
"This is the kind of win-win partnership that makes everyone proud and shows the level of commitment to sustainability," said Fort Stewart garrison commander Col. Kevin Gregory. "Conserving land like this helps protect Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield's viability as the Army's premier power projection platform on the east coast. That's good for national defense and for the local economy, because it helps ensure that the installation will continue to be a source of jobs and economic growth. And it's good for quality of life because it protects greenspace for recreation and environmental health."About Rayonier Rayonier is a leading international forest products company with three core businesses: Forest Resources, Real Estate and Performance Fibers. The company owns, leases or manages 2.7 million acres of timber and land in the United States and New Zealand. The company's holdings include approximately 200,000 acres with residential and commercial development potential along the Interstate 95 corridor between Savannah, GA and Daytona Beach, FL. Its Performance Fibers business is one of the world's leading producers of high-value specialty cellulose fibers, which are used in products such as filters, pharmaceuticals and LCD screens. Approximately 45 percent of the company's sales are outside the U.S. to customers in approximately 40 countries. Rayonier is structured as a real estate investment trust. More information is available at www.rayonier.com. About Georgia Land Trust Georgia Land Trust, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) conservation organization headquartered in Savannah, Ga. dedicated to protecting land for present and future generations, primarily by helping private landowners establish conservation easements on family and investment lands. Georgia Land Trust protects more than 130,000 acres in Georgia. Georgia Land Trust, Inc. and its affiliate and partner organizations, including Alabama Land Trust, Inc. and founding organization The Chattowah Open Land Trust, Inc., permanently safeguard more than 200,000 acres of land with more than 560 conservation easements and owned lands, thereby protecting more private land than any other regional conservation group in the southeast. www.galandtrust.org.