Epic Games is best known for its Unreal and Gears series, but founder and CEO Tim Sweeney is also a conservationist in his spare time.

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Box Creek Wilderness.

In fact, Sweeney just paid a cool $15m to protect 7000 acres of wildland in his home state of North Carolina.

The 46-year-old programmer and games industry veteran donated the money to the US Fish and Wildlife Service to permanently block any kind of development on the land.

The area in question, Box Creek Wilderness, is a Registered Natural Heritage Area which had been threatened by an energy company wishing to build power lines through it.

Sweeney has bought more than 40,000 acres within the state and donated other areas for conservation in the past - this is just the latest, although is thought to be the largest to date.

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The South Mountain Gray-cheeked Salamander, one of Box Creek Wilderness' endangered species.

"It's still in private ownership but the easement ensures it can never be developed," Sweeney told Citizen-Times (via Gamasutra). "It's not open to anyone in the public at any time, but people can email and get a permission card and go and enjoy it."

Box Creek Wilderness is described as one of the most ecologically diverse areas in North Carolina, home to rare plant and wildlife species.

"This is a first step - there will be other places protected," said Jeff Fisher, a partner on the project and part of a local conservation firm. "The goal is to connect South Mountains State Park to Chimney Rock. This is one piece of the puzzle."

It looks like a beautiful place.

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Tom Phillips

Tom Phillips

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