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Ossabaw Island is uniquely protected in Georgia by its status as a heritage preserve.

Many areas owned by the state have the heritage preserve designation, but are called Wildlife Management Areas, parks or natural areas.

The Georgia Heritage Trust Act of 1975 (O.C.G.A. 12-3-70) was established to “preserve certain real property…that exhibits unique natural characteristics, special historical significance, or particular recreational value,” designating these properties as heritage preserves.

Each heritage preserve is designated via an Executive Order from the Governor of Georgia, based on recommendation by the Department of Natural Resources. As the first state owned property to receive the designation, in 1978, Ossabaw Island Heritage Preserve is unique in the way the land is reserved for particular activities and controlled access by the general public, as stated in its Executive Order. Unlike many other state properties with heritage preserve status, recreational activities that do not include research, study and education are prohibited on Ossabaw.

“That Ossabaw Island be dedicated as a Heritage Preserve to protect, conserve and preserve the natural and cultural resources of this island for the benefit of present and future generations, and Ossabaw Island shall only be used for natural, scientific and cultural study, research and education, and environmentally sound preservation, conservation and management of the Island’s ecosystem, under the conditions carefully monitored and controlled by the Department of Natural Resources.” (Executive Order of Georgia Governor George Busbee, signed June 15, 1978.)

The Department of Natural Resources and the Ossabaw Island Foundation co-manage Ossabaw Island as determined in an Island Use Agreement. DNR oversees the environmentally sound conservation and management of the island ecosystems and intrastructure. TOIF is responsible for educational programming in all disciplines, and the review of cultural and educational study program applications. Both DNR and TOIF handle preservation of cultural resources, and work jointly to review applications for scientific research projects.

Sources: Department of Natural Resources website and staff.

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What is the Heritage Preserve?