Land Conservationists to preserve Arabia Bay

Published: Aug. 8, 2012 at 9:26 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 11, 2012 at 9:26 PM EDT
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CLINCH CO., GA (WALB) - A year and a half ago, a swamp fire burned for months in the Arabia Bay region of Clinch County.

Today, a huge $8 million project was announced to hopefully prevent a repeat and preserve that wetland area.

Arabia Bay will be the largest Carolina Bay ever restored in the country. The nearly 6,000 acre wetland base will be restored to reduce the impact of wildfires and protect the habitats of many species, including some endangered and threatened animals.

"You have the wood stork, the flat land salamander, the gopher tortuous, as well as a host of other creatures that are going to have homes forever. It's really a win win for the environment, the community and for the local economy," said David White, Chief of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

White says the 2011 Arabia Bay fire caused $8 million in damage to timber resources and cost the local community $500,000 to fight the fire. He says this restoration project will prevent another disaster that costly.

"You're talking about huge avoided costs in the future. The taxes that won't have to be paid to fight fires are going to be huge, and that's money that Clinch County can put back into their schools or roads or some other uses," said White.

The project includes planting hundreds of thousands of trees to harvest in the future that will help fight potential fires.

The loblloly trees are susceptible to fire damage but the new long leaf pines to be planted will act as a fire barrier.

Dotty Porter's family has owned a piece of the bay for years and says this project means a lot to her.

"I'm very passionate about the land and Arabia bay has a very soft spot in my heart because for years and years we have said 'ugh what are we going to do with Arabia bay,'" said Porter.

Arabia Bay is owned by 13 private land owners, and without their support this restoration project would have never happened.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Georgia Forestry Commission, and The Conservation Fund will oversee the project which will begin in a few weeks.

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