With the recent protection of an enormous island in Georgia, the trend of governments and conservancies buying islands appears to be growing ever stronger.
The protection of islands has become a major focus of government and environmental groups in recent years, but rarely is a property the size of Boyles Island purchased for conservation. Found along the Altamaha River, known locally as “Georgia’s Amazon”, the island spans a vast 6,000 acres of ecologically important wetlands and swamps, providing a home for an incredible number of species.
Protecting the Altamaha has been a decades-long project for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GDNR), together with a number of private conservation partners. Between the early years of the 1990’s and 2009, the GDNR managed to consolidate and protect nearly all of the southern part of the river. One exception, however, was the large tract known as Boyles Island.
Located in Wayne County, a sleepy corner of South Georgia, the island is a natural wonderland of U-shaped “oxbow” lakes, reed-filled wetlands, and floodplain forests of leafy green hardwoods. Virtually any species endemic to Georgia can be found within its pristine acres, including turtles, mussels and a huge variety of birds.
A paradise for bird-watchers, the island is a stop-over point for many migratory breeds, giving shelter on the long journey from Canada down, in some cases, to South America. Colorful wood ducks, warblers and pretty swallow-tailed kites can all be spotted on Boyles Island, along with dozens of others.
Raising the funds to purchase such a large tract of land can’t have been easy, but the GDNR enjoyed the strong backing of Georgia’s governor, Nathan Deal, in addition to many private citizens and conservancies like the Nature Conservancy of Georgia, the Altamaha Riverkeepers, and the Georgia Conservancy.
The purchase was buoyed with a “challenge grant” from the not-for-profit Knobloch Family Foundation, and matching donations poured in from individuals and environmental groups. Intensive lobbying by members of the Georgia Conservancy brought the island straight to the desk of the governor, and a state contribution was included in the budget for 2013.
Georgia Conservancy president Pierre Howard gave unreserved accolades to Gov. Deal for his support for the island purchase, as the funding from the state was necessary to qualify for other forms of support.
“The permanent protection of Boyles Island, a rare ecological gem, is an example of what can be accomplished when Georgians work together to protect our heritage,” he said. “The preservation of Boyles Island will be a lasting legacy for Gov. Deal.”
Read more about this story: Georgia Conservancy