DNR UPDATE - MARCH 2023
Little Tybee and Cabbage Islands Natural Area: Cleanup and Overview
The state acquired the Little Tybee-Cabbage islands complex from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) on Aug. 14, 1991. The 7,721 acres include a perpetual conservation easement that TNC still holds and monitors. The easement is designed to conserve the islands in their natural state and allow for scientific, educational and recreational use.
The islands were designated as a Heritage Preserve (the state’s highest level of protection) and named Little Tybee and Cabbage Islands Natural Area on March 27, 1992. The aim is to protect, conserve and preserve the recreational, natural and cultural resources for future generations, with the stipulation that the islands be used for recreational, educational, scientific and cultural research, as well as environmentally sound preservation and management of the ecosystems.
To help in managing the Natural Area, hunting, taking and trapping game and nongame wildlife by the public are prohibited within the boundaries of the marshes and the high ground.
Permitted recreational uses include picnicking, swimming, fishing, cast netting, beach seining, shell collecting, wildlife viewing, boating, kayaking and – in designated areas – camping. The current management plan notes that certain areas will be closed to camping and other uses as necessary to protect wildlife habitat and wildlife breeding cycles. To visit or camp at the Natural Area, a Georgia DNR Lands Pass or hunting or fishing license is now required (although hunting is not allowed, the license provides access).
Other than hunting/taking/trapping game and nongame, prohibited acts include introducing or harboring nonindigenous species (including livestock and pets – dogs are not allowed on the Natural Area); cutting or removing live or dead standing trees, shrubs or other vegetation (such as sea oats, etc.); and, the public’s use of bicycles and motor vehicles.
Historically, the Natural Area required little management on-site. For most conservation purposes, this served the property well. Many visitors practiced leave-no-trace camping and user impacts were minimal. However, at several campsites users have built structures, including makeshift bathrooms, cooking areas and other camping structures.
These structures have degraded the Natural Area. Also, trees have been removed, the maritime forest habitat has been altered and trash has accumulated, posing issues for wildlife. (Species that use the area include federally threatened loggerhead sea turtles, endangered red knots and nesting bald eagles). The primitive camping experience, which DNR encourages, has been marred by the proliferation of structures and trash. The makeshift structures pose risks to campers and wildlife. And there have been altercations among visitors, with groups claiming ownership of structures and access to parts of the Natural Area.
In 2021, to remedy the problem, DNR started planning a cleanup at Little Tybee. The first part of demolition and cleanup began in February 2023. Plans are for the second part to start this month. The work, done by a Chatham County-based contractor, has cost over $30,000 so far.
Due to the significant cleanup costs, DNR is asking groups and individuals responsible for the illegal structures and trash to help remove them.
The cleanup will improve the public’s experience and the wildlife habitat at Little Tybee and Cabbage Islands Natural Area.
For more information, contact DNR Wildlife Conservation Section Program Manager Jason Lee, firstname.lastname@example.org. To report on issue or violation, contact DNR’s Law Enforcement Division (912-264-7237 or through the ranger hotline, 1-800-241-4113 or email@example.com).