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MCT History and Mission: The Beginning
“…when something beautiful is threatened, people are spurred into action.”–Lynnell Reese
The Mountain Conservation Trust was born because people care about the mountain environment.
The concern in 1991 was that much of the open land in North Georgia was being irresponsibly managed and carved into pieces not suitable for sustaining natural ecosystems.
In response to plans by Georgia Pacific to clear almost 800 acres of the steep, forested slopes abutting Oglethorpe Mountain, a group of 10 like-minded people* gathered at the home of Miriam and John Kiser. Socially and economically diverse, this group’s conversation began the journey to protect the southern tip of the Appalachian Mountains they called home.
The concerned people in the room knew that Georgia Pacific held timber contracts already in process on the highest ridges connecting Burnt Mountain to Oglethorpe Mountain (the Burnt Mountain Massif). The sale of the timber by private owners was legitimate, but the subsequent damage to the land would harm the surrounding land and water for years to come. Without intervention, the removal of the abundant trees would trigger soil erosion and lead to the siltation of Grandview Lake, the fouling of the City of Jasper’s water supply, and the disturbance of five miles of Long Swamp Creek, a tributary of the Etowah River. This would render mountain slopes and soil unsuitable for many long-established plants and the wildlife that depended on them.
The group wondered: Could an honest conversation about what was at stake with all of the diverse parties involved result in a better outcome? They pledged to convene a public meeting to bring everyone to the table.
Lynnell Reese had been researching the local land trusts springing up across the U.S. and agreed to coordinate the steering committee and keep records. The trunk of her car was the group’s traveling office between her home in Atlanta and Jasper. She says, “My dominant memory of our beginnings is that we had fun and drew from each other’s strengths, and I might add – strong personalities. The humor and mutual respect kept us cooking.”
Cody Laird was another influential member of the group. As a respected leader in the Atlanta business community, people listened when he made the case for preserving the scenic beauty, natural wonders, and critical watersheds that the mountains provided for city folks. His business know-how and an unshakeable commitment to protecting the lands helped attract new members and financial backing.
The public meeting was attended largely by Pickens County residents and business owners, representatives from Georgia Pacific, and others. Introductions, nervous handshakes, and small talk got the meeting going. Attendees shared their views and asked questions.
Reese opened the meeting by telling the Georgia Pacific representatives it was understood they would cut trees as long as forest products were in demand. Our ask was that they spare the high ridges and use best management practices.
Edward Daugherty, a visionary landscape architect, also was on the agenda. He shared an overview of the value of the forested mountains. He ended his presentation with: “The most important question here is: ‘What does the land want to be?’”
His question shifted the mood in the room. The only answer was: The Appalachian Mountains are one of the most diverse and oldest mountain ranges in the world. We have a responsibility to be wise stewards of them for future generations.
The shared vision cemented at that meeting formed the foundation of the 1991 Oglethorpe Wilderness Land Trust, which in 1998 became the Mountain Conservation Trust of North Georgia. With the cooperation, collaboration, and support of Georgia Pacific, the Turner Foundation, the Pickens County government, the Trust for Public Land, the Pickens Progress, and many more, the 756-acre southern tip of the Appalachian Mountains was preserved. In addition, vital funding from the Georgia Department of Transportation Enhancement Funds created the Burnt Mountain Preserve.
The same collaborative and community spirit pervade the Mountain Conservation Trust’s work today to conserve the natural resources and scenic beauty of the mountains and foothills of North Georgia through permanent land protection, collaborative partnerships, and education.
Read about our partnerships and milestones, including these:
- Forry Farm (including Boys and Girls Club On the Right Track)
- MCTGA provided funding to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to acquire land along Amicalola Creek and further south.
- MCTGA has placed over 7,500 acres of land in North Georgia in permanent protection by working with private landowners, state agencies, and local governments and through the dedication of its members, staff, and Board.
Please join us as we continue with our mission to conserve the natural resources and scenic beauty of the mountains and foothills of North Georgia:
Many dedicated local individuals and advisors in environmental protection, banking, law, and fundraising provided invaluable support and guidance in helping to birth the Mountain Conservation Trust of Georgia, including:
- Lizanne Abreu, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
- Dennis Burnette, Community Bank of Pickens County
- Max Caylor, minister of Jasper United Methodist Church
- Lynn Cox, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
- Doug David
- Barbara Decker, volunteer and later Executive Director
- Mark Dickerson
- Ann Flewelling
- Frank Garner
- Richie Howell, Grandview Lake
- Rebecca Johnston, Mountain Communities Network
- Rick Jasperse, UGA Extension Service
- Dobbs Laird, Tate Mountain
- Tavia McCuean, The Nature Conservancy of Georgia
- Dan Pool, Pickens Progress
- John Pool, Pickens Progress
- Martha Edge Pool, Pickens Progress
- Gary Reese
- Gail Rice
- Polly Sattler
- Rand Wentworth, Trust for Public Land
- Pat Wilber
- Mark Whitfield, Jasper Banking Company