Moultrie Observer

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February 4, 2008

Thousands of acres dedicated here to conservation project

MOULTRIE — The Pine Barrens of Colquitt County are gone. Less than 5,000 acres of “the way we were” remain, and that’s precisely why John Carlton and a handful other property owners have chosen to set aside thousands of acres in conservation easements.

Once upon a time, 30 million acres of longleaf pine extended throughout the U.S. Coastal Plain. Now in the whole country, only 3 million acres are tallied.

With more than 100,000 acres under conservation easement in the greater Red Hills Area, Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy is the largest regional land trust in Georgia and Florida. In Thomas County alone, more than 25,000 acres have been placed under conservation easement.

Of the 23 conservation easements done through Tall Timbers last year, 18 were in Southwest Georgia, Tall Timbers Land Conservancy Director Kevin McGorty said Monday. That means nearly 30,000 acres of land have been preserved from development. Carlton Farms is the first in Colquitt County to set aside property into a conservation easement.

Carlton Farms put 1,175 acres of longleaf pine and wiregrass into a conservation easement. Local attorney John Carlton’s great grandfather bought the land in 1895. Over the years, some of it was developed into subdivisions such as Carlton Woods, Countryside and Wiregrass.

When the federal government presented a new, juicier carrot to tempt landowners into creating preserves, Carlton, who has worked on numerous conservation easements for the Nature Conservancy over the years, realized the time had come. He presented the idea to shareholders and to their children, the next generation of shareholders, to see whether they would rather have the option of potentially having a lot of money or protecting a bit of the wild.

“And all the next generation said they would rather keep the property like it is. That’s the Ochlockonee River bottom right there,” he said, pointing through a break in the woods. “And a lot of turkeys come right up through this pipeline, and Mike said there were five gobblers down there the other day. This is just a wildlife haven, because nobody messes with them.”

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