If you’ve ever been to the Lowcountry, whether on the water or in the woods, you can probably agree with me that you have seen Mother Nature at one of her most sincere, relaxed and captivating moments – always thriving and providing for all forms of life that either call her home or stop by for a visit.
With the diverse ecosystem of this robust and complex yet relaxing environment, it is imperative that Palmetto Bluff (and the Lowcountry in general) keeps people that strive to protect this gracious, pristine land and learn its intricate ins-and-outs to promote the longevity of life for all its inhabitants. It wasn’t but a few minutes into my conversation with Justin Hardy, Land and Wildlife Technician at the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy, that I realized he was one of those people whose intentions are to do everything he can to preserve and enhance our natural habitat.
A 2013 graduate of Georgia Southern University, Justin received his bachelor’s degree in Geology with a minor in Geographic Information Systems. Before taking this route, Justin had an inherent appreciation for the outdoors growing up in Eastman, Georgia, on a 100-acre property boasting a 40-acre fresh water lake created entirely by his grandfather. It was in the woods in Central Georgia that he spent many years as a Boy Scout, learned to fish (largemouth bass are his forte), and eventually grew into a true outdoorsman.
When Justin made his way to Bluffton to interview with Jay Walea, Director of the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy, for an education and outreach position, he immediately fell in love with this property. “I’m from red clay and pine trees,” Justin said as he looked out over the marsh at Moreland Landing. “This open space, [it’s] beautiful. Drastically different.”
He was so intrigued by the landscape that he actually decided to make the move to the Lowcountry before actually getting the job, “coincidentally” moving into a small town outside of Savannah directly across the street from Jay’s parents. True coincidence? Hey, that’s none of my business.
Now as a member of the Conservancy team at Palmetto Bluff, Justin’s days are a mix of property tours, education and outreach, guided deer and turkey hunts, maintaining corn feeders, planting food for native wildlife, environmental research and teaching at USCB on the 36 geologic wonders of the world through the Oshen Lifelong Learning Institute. You might wonder how his new wife, Justine, feels about all his spare time – the newlyweds sealed the deal in October 2015.
“I instantly fell in love with this place. There’s no other property like this that I’ve ever seen, and everyone here, seems to feel the same way about it,” Justin said.
I think it’s safe to say this land is lucky to have him as an advocate.
- What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A cold winter morning, camping, and cooking bacon on the fire.
- What goes through your head as you drive to work each morning?
I try to plan out my day and think of what scheduled events I have and what else I can squeeze in between.
- And on the way home?
I just can’t wait to take a steaming hot shower.
- What is your greatest extravagance?
An RT’s cookie — love those things — and a Moscow mule on the weekend.
- Movie that you would recommend to friends?
Cool Hand Luke.
- If there was a movie about your life, what would it be called and which actor would play you?
The movie would be called “Granite” and I’d be played by Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson. Get the geology reference?!
- What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I got married recently and have an awesome wife.
- What is your most marked characteristic?
A lot of people say I’m too quiet.
- What is the last book you read?
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.
- If you could have one “super power”, what would it be? How would you use it at work?
Flying and I probably just wouldn’t ever walk again.
- When you’re not here, what are you doing?
Cooking, hanging out with my wife, and fishing.
- What word do you use most?
“PAAAA” – because mosquitos are always flying down my damn throat.
- What makes you laugh?
- Top five favorite artists?
Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Zac Brown Band, Eric Church, and The SteelDrivers.
- Favorite spot on the Bluff?
This is the toughest question – If I have to pick, I would say the causeway to Long Island (hand-built rice dyke).
- Best Palmetto Bluff moment?
When I found out there were going to be 130 people in the Geology class I am teaching.
Written by Amanda Baran Cutrer