Georgia got a major conservation boost this week from the Bobolink Foundation of Chicago. Wells Fargo, present owners of the land, have announced a deal with the foundation to preserve more than 600 acres of St. Simons Island located on Cannon’s Point Peninsula. Currently, this land is the largest undeveloped piece of property on the island and houses a rich natural and cultural history.
The purchase, for an undisclosed amount, was spearheaded by former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Jr. and his wife, Wendy. The Paulsons, both Bobolink Foundation trustees, own a significant portion of real estate on Little St. Simons Island. Russ Marane, former director of the St. Simons Land Trust, told The Florida Times-Union that it was Wendy Paulson who first approached him about preserving Cannon’s Point. As Wendy Paulson told the paper, "We look forward to working with the community to establish a preserve that protects the unique natural and cultural history of the Georgia coast and will make it possible for ongoing generations of Georgians and others to better understand barrier island history and ecology.”
The Bobolink Foundation will work to preserve the land with several other agencies and individuals, including former Georgia-Pacific CEO Pete Correll, the St. Simons Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy and others. Wells Fargo is also extending the time frame for the closing of the sale to five years, enabling preservations to pull together more funding for the purchase.
Christi Lambert is the Marine and Freshwater Conservation director of The Nature Conservancy in Georgia. She says this preservation will add more value to the already preserved lands and waters of the Altamaha River Delta, a 350 square-kilometer area noted for its unique bird population. According to Lambert, "Cannon's Point is a significant example of maritime forest on a barrier island. Maritime forests are rare and threatened globally. Cannon's Point can be a model site for conservation, nature-based tourism and education, supporting a healthy and resilient natural system and community."
Cannon’s Point is known for its rich cultural and natural history. Evidence of native settlers on the land dates back to 2000 B.C., and experts note that shell rings dating back as far as 4000 B.C. can be found on the land. St. Simons Island was named “San Simone” by 16th century Spanish explorers. Later, Cannon’s Point was bought in the late 1700s by Scottish farmer John Couper, who built a plantation and farmed it with the use of slaves until the Civil War. The ruins of this farm still stand on the land. Today, the land is a natural salt marsh and tidal creek habitat for wildlife such as oysters, birds, fish, manatee, diamondback terrapin and shellfish.
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