Senator Reverend Warnock Applauds Conservation Along Altamaha River Which Improves Military Readiness At Fort Stewart

Effort secures a practical solution supporting environmental protection and military training

Senator Reverend Warnock: “Today’s announcement is a victory for both our state’s ecosystem and our state’s role in military training”

Washington, D.C. –– Today, U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) applauded The Conservation Fund, Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield and the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust announcement of the protection of 3,800 acres along the Altamaha River that will preserve a corridor of undeveloped land within Fort Stewart’s Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB). A working forest conservation easement funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program ensures that the property will remain protected from any development that could hinder training operations, while supporting sustainable timber harvesting and providing wildlife habitat, recreation and climate benefits.

“As a son of Coastal Georgia, I appreciate the incredible beauty of the Altamaha River and the importance of our forestlands,” said Senator Reverend Warnock. “And as a voice in the Senate for Georgia’s military bases, I understand the strategic importance of preserving this land to protect Fort Stewart’s aerial training mission. Today’s announcement is a victory for both our state’s ecosystem and our state’s role in military training. I applaud the partnership between Fort Stewart, The Conservation Fund and the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust that made today’s announcement possible. I look forward to continuing to support these mutually beneficial efforts in Washington.”

Senator Warnock has been a stalwart champion of Georgia’s military bases and securing resources to ensure our country’s national security. In June, Senator Warnock visited Fort Stewart, where he spoke with soldiers and base leaders and toured modernized military vehicles. Senator Warnock secured $5 million through a Congressionally Directed Spending request in the Final FY22 Military Construction appropriations bill for Fort Stewart to complete the planning and design for an Unaccompanied Enlisted Personnel Housing Facility to accommodate the 372 soldiers. This follows years of reports of unsafe living conditions and a housing crisis on the base. This was later increased to $105 million for the barracks in the Army spending plan to match the authorized funding secured by Senator Warnock in in December 2021 in the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act.

Fort Stewart Garrison Commander Col. Manuel Ramirez said, “This conservation effort to ensure compatible land use on the borders of our installation is proof of the excellent relationship between Fort Stewart, The Conservation Fund, the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust and all of our southeastern Georgia neighbors. Protecting this swath of land is a benefit for the environment and a testament to our premiere power projection platform capability to provide our nation trained and ready forces.”

“Protection of The Conservation Fund’s Beards Creek Forest will go a long way towards protecting Fort Stewart’s aerial maneuver corridors from encroachment,” said Larry Carlile, Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield’s ACUB program manager. “Incompatible development is a real threat to the ability of many military installations to train to standard. Fortunately, we have strong partnerships here that ensure our borders and our neighbors’ adjacent lands are in harmony with the military mission. We could never have protected Beards Creek Forest without the support of REPI funds and funding provided by our partners.”

Urban sprawl and land conversion near installations create significant challenges for both the military and surrounding communities. Located southwest of Savannah, Fort Stewart faces ongoing risks from incompatible nearby development that could negatively impact the installation’s training and testing mission. By placing a conservation easement on the privately owned forestland, the partners are able to protect the land and create a buffer of open space near the installation while ensuring the protected land remains a productive and sustainable working forest.

The land is part of The Conservation Fund’s Beards Creek Forest, which the national nonprofit purchased for conservation and sustainable forest management in May 2021 through its Working Forest Fund using loans from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority. Dedicated to mitigating climate change, strengthening rural economies and protecting natural ecosystems through permanent conservation, the Working Forest Fund has acquired over 63,000 acres of at-risk working forests in Georgia.

Beards Creek Forest also enhances protection for Georgia’s largest river — the Altamaha — and expands habitat restoration efforts in the southeast part of the state. Now, thanks to funding from REPI, roughly half of the forest landscape is permanently protected under a conservation easement held by the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust, preserving its longleaf pine ecosystem and many wildlife species, including the gopher tortoise.

Authorized by Congress, the REPI program supports cost-sharing partnerships between the military services, private conservation groups, and state and local governments to remove or avoid land-use conflicts near installations and address regulatory restrictions that inhibit military activities. The REPI program is annually funded by the U.S. Congress, with support from the bipartisan delegation representing Fort Stewart: U.S. Senators Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff (D-GA), and U.S. Representative Buddy Carter (R-GA-01).