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Landmark Georgia Land Conservation Act Becomes Law

Thursday, April 14, 2005  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774


$100 Million in Funds will help Protect Georgia’s Natural and Cultural Resources

ATLANTA – Today Governor Sonny Perdue signed into law the Georgia Land Conservation Act (HB98), a landmark initiative to encourage the long-term conservation and protection of the state’s natural, cultural and historic resources.

“By enacting this legislation today, we have made a commitment to our children and grandchildren that we will preserve Georgia’s valuable land and water resources so that they can enjoy them for decades to come,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “This bill will encourage partnerships between local governments, the state, the private sector and non profit conservation organizations to preserve our priceless assets.”

HB98, one of Governor Perdue’s top priorities in the 2005 legislature, establishes a trust fund and a revolving loan fund of $100 million in state, federal and private funding, which will be available to local governments and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to protect conservation lands. The legislation encourages partnerships between local governments, DNR, other state and federal agencies and the private sector, with the intent of preserving Georgia’s most valued resources.

The legislation creates the Georgia Land Conservation Trust Fund and the Georgia Land Conservation Revolving Loan Fund that will be managed by the Georgia Environmental Facility Authority (GEFA) to provide a variety of funding options by which local governments or DNR may purchase conservation easements or fee simple interest in land for eligible projects. The funds are comprised of $75 million in state funds, and $25 million in private contributions. The state’s $75 million comes from GEFA loans and redirected bond money.

Governor Perdue signed the bill at the Holly Creek/Conasauga River Watershed area in Murray County in Northwest Georgia. Governor Perdue is visiting three additional locations around the state today for ceremonial bill signings of HB98 - Panola Mountain State Park in Stockbridge, Jarrell Plantation in Juliette, and the Fort McAllister Historic Site in Richmond Hill near Savannah.

“The Governor's Land Conservation Initiative promotes creative partnerships for land conservation that will benefit many interests including wildlife diversity, outdoor recreation, and historic preservation," said DNR Commissioner Noel Holcomb. "We are looking forward to celebrating the successes under this new program and expanding the resources available to Georgia's citizens throughout the state.”

HB98 also establishes the Georgia Land Conservation Council, which will be responsible for reviewing and approving all project proposals for the distribution of funds. The legislation calls for the Georgia Land Conservation Council to include the State Property Officer, the Commissioner of DNR, the Director of the Georgia Forestry Commission, the Executive Director of the State Soil and Water Conservation Commission, the Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs and four additional members appointed by the Governor, the announcement of which he released today. (Short biographies are attached below.)

DNR is establishing a state land geographic information system that will serve as a comprehensive database of all conservation properties. DNR will provide technical support to local governments during the preparation of land conservation proposals.

The Association of County Commissioners of Georgia and the Georgia Municipal Association and many conservation organizations in Georgia including The Nature Conservancy, the Georgia Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land, the Georgia Wildlife Federation, The Conservation Fund and others will play a lead role by working with state and local government officials to identify lands for protection and assisting in program outreach and the development of project proposals.

HB98 was sponsored by Representative Rich Golick and carried in the State Senate by Senator Chip Pearson. Senator Ross Tolleson and Representative Lynn Smith carried the legislation in the natural resources and environment committees, which they both chair in the Senate and House respectively.

The Georgia Land Conservation Act was developed using many of the recommendations provided by the Governor’s Land Conservation Partnership, a 19-member task force with interests ranging from natural resource conservation to historic preservation, which presented its recommendations to Governor Perdue in August 2004.

The Governor’s appointments to the Georgia Land Conservation Council include:

Joe E. Beverly, 63, Thomasville, GA – Beverly currently serves as chairman of Commercial Bank in Thomasville. He previously served as vice chairman of Synovus Financial Corporation, president of the Commercial Bank and vice president of the First National Bank of Atlanta. Beverly serves as trustee for the Archbold Medical Center, Inc. and the Archbold Foundation, Inc., trustee for the Brookwood School, Inc. and the Brookwood School Foundation, Inc., director of the Williams Family Foundation of Georgia, Inc., director of the Cherokee Foundation, Inc. and director of the Nature Conservatory of Georgia. He is the 2004 recipient of the Rock Howard Award from the Board of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Beverly graduated with both a bachelor’s degree of business administration and a master’s degree of business administration from the University of Georgia. He and his wife, Mary, have two children and five grandchildren.

Stacy Rene Patton, 45, Fairburn, GA – Patton serves as president and executive director of the Chattahoochee Hill County Conservancy and a consultant for the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. She previously worked for the La Plata County Government Planning Department, the Nature Conservancy of Georgia’s Conservation Division, Trees Atlanta, and the Oglethorpe Power Corporation. She is a member of the American Planning Association, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership and the Land Trust Alliance. She graduated with both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Georgia. Patton and her husband, Randall, have two children.

E. Wade Shealy, Jr., 49, Atlanta, GA – Shealy serves as a licensed real estate broker. He is a member of the Urban Land Institute and served on the 2004 Governor’s Land Conservation Partnership Advisory Council. Shealy is a member of the Urban Land Institute and First Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. Shealy previously served as vice president in charge of sales and marketing for Eastern US, Caribbean and Mexico for Intrawest. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree of business administration from the University of Georgia. Shealy and his wife, Joy, have three children.

John William Bembry, 52, Hawkinsville, GA – Bembry serves as owner of Bembry Veterinary Clinic and practices veterinary medicine. He serves as co-owner and managing partner of Bembry & Bembry Farm, a certified tree farm and wildlife management preserve, and R.T. Bembry Family Limited Partnership, a Georgia Forestry Commission-certified Stewardship Tree Farm. Bembry serves as a member and on the board of directors for MidState Banks, Inc., a member and on the board of directors for PlantersFirst Bank and member and past chairman of the Audit Committee of MidState Banks, Inc. He graduated cum laude both with a bachelor’s degree of animal science and a doctoral degree of veterinary medicine from the University of Georgia. Bembry and his wife, Latrelle, have two children.