LaFayette, Georgia – Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Noel Holcomb and Georgia Land Conservation Program (GLCP) Director Curt Soper joined conservation leaders and Walker County representatives today at a press conference to announce the collaborative acquisition of 1,839 acres of the McLemore Cove tract in Walker County. This property creates a corridor for wildlife and recreation by linking two state-owned tracts, Zahnd Natural Area (NA) and Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
“As one of the southeast’s most picturesque mountain valleys, the acquisition of McLemore Cove provides a unique opportunity to connect the several state-owned properties,” said DNR Commissioner Holcomb. “The opportunity to protect this ecologically rich area is possible because of the generous partners who have joined with us in recognizing this valuable natural resource which will further our efforts to implement the State Wildlife Action Plan.”
DNR and the GLCP are partnering with Walker County to purchase a total of 1,839 acres, of which the state is acquiring 1,544 acres and Walker County is acquiring 295 acres. DNR and the county plan to develop a management plan for all the acreage so that the land is managed as one unit for the public.
“The Georgia Land Conservation Program is proud to play a significant role in protecting the McLemore Cove property,” said GLCP Director Curt Soper. “As one of the most beautiful and biologically significant parts of our state, this property will now be conserved for the use and enjoyment of current and future generations.”
The acquisition totaled $10.5 million and includes nearly $6.5 million from the Georgia Land Conservation Program, $2.15 million from Walker County, $750,000 from a grant from the Open Space Institute, Inc., nearly $270,000 from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, $100,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and more than $730,000 in state funds.
“This property is a tremendous asset for the people of Walker County and all Georgians,” said Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell. “We are excited to be one of the collaborative funding partners to conserve this unique and biologically diverse property and look forward to the resulting increased outdoor recreational opportunities for locals and tourists alike.”
Formerly part of Mountain Cove Farms, owned by the Yancey family, the property protected by this acquisition lies within one of the state’s top six acquisition areas as determined by the State Wildlife Action Plan. The property provides habitat for rare species such as the green salamander, barksdale trillium and Georgian cave beetle.
“This project will protect extraordinary wildlife habitat and significantly advance implementation of the State Wildlife Action Plan,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s executive vice president. “We are honored and pleased to partner with the state of Georgia on this important conservation project.”
The biological diversity that the McLemore Cove property supports is a result of the site’s topography and location at the junction of Pigeon Mountain and Lookout Mountain and the transition between the Cumberland Plateau and Ridge & Valley physiographic provinces. The flat sandstone plateau top allows water to seep downward through cracks and crevices, dissolving the underlying limestone layers, creating miles of underground passages or caves and flowing out at numerous springs around the base of the mountain.
The McLemore Cove tract is located within the ecologically important West Chickamauga Creek watershed and contains a variety of habitats, including hardwood-and pine-dominated forests, sandstone outcrops, caves, springs and open pastureland.
Apart from the biological value McLemore Cove represents, the property also is historically significant. The area lies within the heart of the Mountain Cove Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places during periods of significance dating in various intervals from 1825 to 1949. Geological history dates the area’s historical significance much farther back as evidence of ocean life on top of the mountains is apparent. Native American history artifacts yield evidence of prior people. The cove also was an area significant in American history as it served as a temporary encampment for 15,000 Union troops during the Civil War.