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Sunday, January 6, 2013 - 11:00pm

Conservancy Buys Altamaha Land

The Nature Conservancy has bought an eight mile-long strip of land along South Georgia's Altamaha River.

The group plans to sell the $8 million sliver of green to the State of Georgia for about half what they paid for it.

The Department of Natural Resources plans to buy the 6,000 acre Boyles Island in Wayne County for $4 million.

It will become a public Wildlife Management Area.

The land used to belong to timber giant Rayonier.

Conservancy state director Mark Abner says he learned to shoot a shotgun on Boyles Island when he was eight-years-old.

"I'm someone who grew up in that part of the state myself," Abner says. "And I can tell you that people view the river as a very special part of their identity."

The purchase fills in a gap in a 40-mile-long corridor of protected land along the river.

It was made possible with funds from multiple public and private sources.

The funders consider the Altamaha an important waterway to protect because its large watershed includes a quarter of the state.

Conservation also might stem pollutants that drain into coastal fisheries.

"It's critical to the viability of many important species such as sturgeon," Abner says. "It's critical to making sure that the important fisheries in the lower part of the river and at the coast, particularly shrimp, crab and oysters, are healthy."

The purchase is part of an extensive multi-decade effort to protect the Altamaha River.