Sawnee Mountain (GA) Protection Completed

Forsyth County, GA–Forsyth County joined the Trust for Public Land (TPL) today to permanently protect Sawnee Mountain – one of metro Atlanta’s largest remaining natural areas – through a conveyance of 295 acres known as “Indian Seats”. Following the 1999 closings of the first two Sawnee tracts, the third part of the assemblage closing on Monday completes the protection of the mountain’s ridgeline and boosts the land protected to 631 acres – an area more than three times larger than Atlanta’s Piedmont Park.

“This is nothing short of a miracle,” says Mary Helen McGruder, past chairman of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce and a founding member of the Sawnee Mountain Foundation that The Trust for Public Land is creating to help fund the improvement and maintenance of the new county preserve. “Thanks to the vision of the Forsyth County Commissioners, the spirit and beauty of this land will be preserved forever. The Trust for Public Land helped us pass a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) and acquired this land so that nothing will happen to the treasure we have in Sawnee Mountain.”

Forsyth County Administrator Stevie Mills is also elated. “The preservation of Sawnee Mountain with its natural beauty and local history is important to Forsyth County,” he says of the Cumming land. “The mountain is more than just a natural landmark; it’s a part of our heritage and history of our county – and it is our obligation to preserve it for future generations. The voters echoed that sentiment with the passage of the SPLOST in 1998 that helped support this acquisition.”

According to TPL State Director Rand Wentworth, the work completed Monday represents a model for how metro-Atlanta communities can proceed when they want to accomplish visionary land conservation goals.

“Forsyth County is the fastest-growing county in the United States,” Wentworth says, “and it has recognized that greenspace is good business. Economic benefits come to communities that grow in balance with nature.”

Wentworth notes that homes adjoining greenspace are often valued at 15 to 20-percent more than houses not near such land.

“There’s no question that a community protecting greenspace improves its quality of life and in both personal and economic ways,” he says. “Forsyth County has clearly made that a priority and set itself up as a model for the rest of the state.”

Kevin Johnson, the TPL senior project manager working with the county, hails the hard work of Forsyth County officials. “The county leadership made this happen, period,” says Johnson, who expects that some 900 acres of Sawnee Mountain will be saved by the time the preservation project is complete. Through their effort, people will be able to turn to Sawnee Mountain any time they want to enjoy some peace and quiet.”

As in the protection of Sawnee Mountain, TPL is helping communities throughout metro-Atlanta to plan, fund and acquire natural lands through its “Greenprints for Growth Initiative”.

The Trust for Public Land, recently ranked by the Wall Street Journal’s SmartMoney magazine as the nation’s most efficient conservation charity, is the only national nonprofit working exclusively to protect land for people to enjoy and to help build livable communities. Throughout the country, the Trust has saved approximately 1.5 million acres of land valued at more than $2 billion – including land to protect George Washington’s Mt. Vernon, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, and the Florida Everglades. In Georgia, the TPL has protected land on Cumberland Island, St. Simons Island, the Chattooga River, the Ocmulgee River, and, with its partners, over 40 miles of frontage along Chattahoochee River. TPL is on the web at