Georgia's most populated barrier island is protecting a slice of it valuable maritime forest from development.

The 3.1 acres bordering the marsh on St. Simons Island form one of the few undeveloped tracts remaining on the island's south end. The St. Simons Land Trust announced it has acquired the property to add to more than 1,000 acres the group already has in conservation.

Susan Shipman of the Land Trust says a recent appraisal showed four private homes could have been built on the property. She says undeveloped maritime forest is becoming rarer on the southern Atlantic U.S. coast and the island tract will provide habitat for rare species such as painted buntings and diamondback terrapins.

More than 12,000 people live on St. Simons Island near Brunswick.

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