700 Acres of Georgia Cypress Wetlands and Marsh to be Restored and Preserved
A federal court yesterday evening approved an agreement between a private landowner and conservation groups to restore and protect over 700 acres of Georgia’s iconic cypress wetlands and coastal salt marsh near Brunswick, Georgia. The agreement resolves a federal enforcement action against the landowner brought by the conservation groups and pending enforcement actions by federal and state regulatory agencies.
“Today’s agreement is a creative solution among all parties that not only restores 700 acres of valuable wetlands and marsh along the Georgia coast, but also provides a manageable plan for the landowner to comply with state and federal laws,” said Bill Sapp, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.
The Southern Environmental Law Center represented the Glynn Environmental Coalition, Altamaha Riverkeeper and Satilla Riverkeeper in the case. The environmental groups worked with the private landowner, as well as the Georgia Coastal Resources Division and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to arrive at the settlement that was approved by both the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia in Brunswick.
“We’re pleased that this settlement will lead to the restoration of wetland forest,” said Daniel Parshley of the Glynn Environmental Coalition. “Hopefully, it will be the first step towards restoring several square miles of dead forest impacted by years of unwise ditching and draining, which allowed saltwater to move inland and kill the forest.”
The agreement creates an effective plan that for the landowner to restore and protect freshwater wetlands and salt marsh damaged by approximately 2.5 miles of roads and drainage ditches illegally constructed since 2005. Wetlands and marshes are valuable natural resources in Georgia that buffer its coastal communities from storms, absorb floodwaters, provide nursery areas for fish and crabs, and help filter runoff pollution from Georgia’s waters.
Under the agreed plan, the natural flow of freshwater through the wetlands and marsh across the property will be restored, pushing saltwater back out of the wetlands so cypress trees and other wildlife can flourish again. Unpermitted roads through the salt marsh will be removed, remaining roads will be breached 20 feet wide, and certain ditches plugged to restore the flow of water. Once the road breaches and ditch plugs are in place, the landowner is required to plant 5,000 – 6,000 native wetland trees, to include cypress, on the areas of the property suitable for planting.
“Cypress is such a part of our heritage on the Georgia coast,” said Deborah Sheppard, executive director of the Altamaha Riverkeeper. “We are very happy to see that cypress will be growing again on this 700 acre tract.”
“The entire tract will be protected under a conservation easement held by the Georgia Land Trust, Inc. that will protect the 700 acres of wetlands and marsh on site forever,” said Alan Bailey, Interim Satilla Riverkeeper.
About the Glynn Environmental Coalition
The Glynn Environmental Coalition works for a clean environment and a healthy economy for citizens of coastal Georgia by forming partnerships and providing education, information, and technical assistance.
About the Altamaha Riverkeeper
The Altamaha Riverkeeper is a grassroots organization dedicated to the protection, defense and restoration of Georgia’s biggest river–the Altamaha–including its tributaries the Ocmulgee, the Oconee and the Ohoopee.
About the Satilla Riverkeeper
The Satilla Riverkeeper’s vision is a Satilla River that supports healthy fisheries, safe swimming, diverse wildlife, outstanding
recreation, clean drinking water, and sustainable human economic activity throughout the basin.