Ossabaw Island is the third largest of Georgia’s barrier islands, one of only two remaining undeveloped coastal islands of any size. The island is located about seven miles south of Savannah by water.
Through the leadership of Mrs. Eleanor Torrey West, the West family gave/sold the island to the State of Georgia in 1978. As part of the legal agreement between the West family and the State of Georgia, then Governor George Busbee issued an Executive Order creating Ossabaw as a Heritage Preserve. Also contributing to the State’s acquisition of the Island were Robert W. Woodruff and The Nature Conservancy.
As a Heritage Preserve, the island is to be preserved and used only for research and education, “natural, scientific, and cultural study.” In the Conference on the Future of the Marshlands and Islands of Georgia (October 1968), Mrs. West stated “we have tried to share Ossabaw in a way that will not destroy that which is most precious to preserve.” An early advocate for conservation, she stressed the interconnectedness of ecosystems and believed that “whatever happens to one of these large islands involves the other islands, and as a consequence, the entire coast of Georgia, and perhaps the eastern coast of the United States.”
Similarly, Mrs. West believes that the interconnectedness of knowledge through interdisciplinary research and discussion fosters creativity and new knowledge. Thus, inter- and multi-disciplinary research and cultural study have been important elements in her view of the mission of Ossabaw.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources preserves and manages the island’s ecosystem.