Conservation Easement

Guests have been visiting Little St. Simons Island to experience its natural beauty, sweeping coastal landscapes, and abundant wildlife since the island opened to the public in 1979.  Although the Lodge has won numerous hospitality awards, the number one attraction has always been the island itself.  Conservation organizations, too, have long recognized the importance of the island’s natural, intact habitats, and healthy populations of rare and threatened wildlife.


Last week the owners of Little St. Simons Island donated a conservation easement to The Nature Conservancy on the entire 11,000 + acre island.  This easement ensures that the preservation efforts that have been practiced by the island’s owners for many years will be permanent.  Our guests and conservationists alike can now rest assured that the natural beauty and the ecological integrity of the island will forever be protected.

Along the southeastern coast, Little St. Simons Island stands out among the barrier
islands as having some of the most intact natural habitat and healthiest wildlife populations. The island has been minimally altered over the course of its human history.00134_DSC_3819
Unlike other coastal properties, LSSI’s live oaks were not extensively harvested, and the maritime forest was not cleared for agriculture.  Major Pierce Butler, the island’s antebellum period owner, set a precedent for stewardship by refusing to sell the rights to timber the island. He stated that he wished “to leave to my children the estate as perfect as possible.” Since the time of the Butler family’s ownership, the island’s owners have upheld this tradition of preservation. After the Lodge compound was built in the early 1900s, the island’s development has been contained within this small footprint, ensuring that over 11,000 acres have remained a fine example of coastal wilderness.

Little St. Simons Island has a long history of active conservation, including the nesting sea turtle monitoring and management program that dates back to the 1987.  In recent years conservation and ecological management efforts have been enhanced with guidance from the island’s Ecological Advisory Council.  00174_DSC_4418The easement ensures that the conservation guidelines and management practices that the island has been following and implementing for years will remain in place to continue to protect the island’s habitats and wildlife. Returning guests will be unlikely to notice any changes, but we hope they will celebrate with us knowing that one of the most significant natural areas on the southeastern coast has been preserved for perpetuity.

Click here to read the official press release from The Nature Conservancy.

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Sea Turtle Update: 2013

False crawl: Often turtles will come onto the beach, but turn back to the ocean without laying a nest. Photo: Carol Anne Nichols.

False crawl: Often turtles will come onto the beach, but turn back to the ocean without laying a nest. Photo: Carol Anne Nichols.

As many of you know, we are well into sea turtle nesting season here on the Georgia coast. Each year from May to August, female sea turtles (mostly Loggerheads) crawl out of the ocean under the cover of darkness and lay their eggs in the sand. The female scoops out an inverted lightbulb-shaped nest in the sand and drops an average of 120 eggs into her nest before covering them back up. During the nesting season, a female lays an average of four nests, with about two weeks between each nest.

Coordinated by the Nongame Section of Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources, members of the Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative work together to monitor and protect sea turtle nesting along Georgia’s coast.

This year, Little St. Simons Island has 101 nests on our beaches. Two of these were Green Sea Turtles, and the rest were Loggerheads. This year’s sea turtle technician, Carol Anne Nichols, has relocated a little over half the nests this year (54 nests) because they were laid too close to the high tide line. If a nest gets inundated by the tides too many times during incubation, the eggs can actually drown.

Sea turtle nests have an incubation period of about 60 days, and with our first nest laid on May 18th, they should begin hatching any day now. Wassaw had the first nest to hatch on the Georgia coast on July 15th, and our neighbors to the south on Sea Island had their first nest hatch just two days ago. Each morning, Carol Anne is checking the nests for a depression in the sand which indicates that the hatchlings are moving around beneath the sand and are ready to make their journey to the ocean.

Sea turtle eggs after they had been relocated and are ready to buried in the sand once more. Photo: Carol Anne Nichols.

Sea turtle eggs after they had been relocated and are ready to buried in the sand once more. Photo: Carol Anne Nichols.

We have also been lucky this summer to encounter a few adult turtles on the beach as well! On one of our evening turtle walks, a group of guests were able to experience an enormous female Loggerhead crawling back into the ocean! We were also able to rescue a female who was stranded at Main Beach this June. She was successfully transported to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll where she was put on an antibiotic regimen after tests revealed her red blood cell count to be very low.

The Georgia coast is having another great year with 1,923 nests. Last year was a record-breaking 2, 241 nests! Stay tuned to see how many more nests are laid in the next couple of weeks.

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