Today, the Georgia Water Coalition, Georgia’s leading water protection coalition released its Clean 13 report for 2021. The report highlights individuals, businesses, industries, non-profit organizations, and governmental agencies whose extraordinary efforts have led to cleaner rivers, stronger communities, and a more sustainable future for Georgians. 

Fayette County-based nonprofit organization, the Southern Conservation Trust was recognized for a joint project with Georgia Audubon at Sams Lake Bird Sanctuary. Learn more about Sams Lake Bird Sanctuary here.

The report states that “While Georgia Audubon’s primary focus is saving birds, it should come as no surprise that the organization, along with its partner, the Southern Conservation Trust (SCT), are being recognized for saving bugs. Birds, after all, depend on bugs. More accurately, Georgia Audubon is removing invasive plant species and planting native species at SCT’s Sams Lake Bird Sanctuary in Fayette County with the intent, among other things, of creating a habitat for more insects. The project is a reminder of the interconnectedness and fragility of the natural order. Invasive plant species—both terrestrial and aquatic—impact habitat for the insects that form the base of the food chain on which birds and other wildlife depend. When completed, the restoration project will improve prospects for year-round feathered residents of Sams Lake as well as the millions of birds that migrate over Georgia each spring and fall.

The story of Sams Lake begins with one of Georgia’s most renowned storytellers. The family of Ferrol Sams, Fayetteville native and author of the “Run with the Horseman” series of novels, donated the land to the Southern Conservation Trust in 1995. In 2008, when the City of Atlanta built a fifth runway at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, impacting some 14 acres of wetlands along the Flint River, the city was required by federal law to restore wetlands elsewhere. Sams Lake was the chosen mitigation site at which the city spent $5 million to convert a former man-made reservoir into an extensive wetland area. Today, the natural wetlands, managed as a public park by the Southern Conservation Trust, help mitigate the impacts of development in the upper Flint River watershed by storing water and slowly delivering it to Perry Creek and then on to Whitewater Creek which flows to Line Creek and the Flint River.

Trails along the wetland areas include two observation platforms overlooking open water and wetland habitat, a small boardwalk, a wildlife observation blind overlooking the northernmost wetland, a chimney-swift tower installed by Georgia Audubon in 2020, and a picnic area on the southern lake. While enjoying your walk at Sams it is likely you will see numerous songbird species, great blue herons, great egrets, wood ducks, mallard ducks, turtles, canada geese, belted kingfishers, as well as the occasional muskrat or beaver!


The Southern Conservation Trust elevates nature through exceptional stewardship through over 65,000 acres of conserved land throughout the Southeast, as well as 6 public nature areas in Fayette County, Georgia, and the Fayette Environmental Education Center in Downtown Fayetteville, Georgia. Learn more at www.sctlandtrust.org.


Georgia Audubon is building places where birds and people thrive by creating bird-friendly communities through conservation, education, and community engagement.


Featured Photo: Photograph of Sams Lake Bird Sanctuary: David Hermecz

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