Conserving Nongame Wildlife: 2010

Land Acquisition & Conservation Planning

 The Nongame Conservation Section facilitated three land conservation projects during fiscal year 2010, resulting in the acquisition of 7,988 acres of priority wildlife habitat. Each project -- described below -- involved significant collaboration with partners including The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others.

All of the projects conserved priority habitat identified in Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan. (Details on Wildlife Action Plan update below.)

 

Penholoway Flatwoods Easement

This project protected the habitat for the best population of the endangered hairy rattleweed (Baptisia arachnifera). Hairy rattleweed is a Georgia endemic, occurring only in Wayne and Brantley counties. The species occurs on areas of sandy soils north of the Satilla River, historically in open-canopied longleaf/slash pine savannas or flatwoods. Prior to this project, no populations of hairy rattleweed occurred on protected lands. The species requires open pine forest and regular prescribed fire for optimum habitat.

In cooperation with DNR, The Nature Conservancy, or TNC, bought the tract from Paul Lewis in December 2008. DNR then purchased a conservation easement in December 2009, using a combination of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Land Acquisition Grant and nongame funds.

DNR and TNC developed a management plan to conserve and improved the habitat for hairy rattleweed through the use of prescribed fire. In addition to rare plants, this site also provides habitat for gopher tortoises and offers one of the best examples of pine flatwoods in southeast Georgia.

 

DNR staff measuring baldcypress on Rayonier Tract

Rayonier Murff Tract phase I

Phase 1 featured the acquisition of 7,180 acres along the Altamaha River in McIntosh and Long counties. This project conserved impressive old-growth cypress forest, mixed bottomland hardwood forest and riverine sandhills. Priority species benefitting from the acquisition include the eastern indigo snake, gopher tortoise and swallow-tailed kite, as well as numerous neotropical migrant shorebirds.

The property will also provide outstanding opportunities for hunting, fishing, birding and hiking.

Partners included The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through a North American Wetlands Conservation Act Grant and a Coastal Wetlands Grant, the Georgia Land Conservation Program, and the state’s Nongame Conservation Fund.

From 2006 to 2010, DNR partnered with The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Georgia Land Conservation Program, Georgia Wetlands Trust Fund, U.S. Marine Corps, Ducks Unlimited, National Wildlife Turkey Federation and the Woodruff Foundation to acquire 29,090 acres of priority habitat in the lower Altamaha area. Many of these parcels are adjacent to the Murff Tract. Together, the acquisitions provide a significant wildlife conservation area for species that require large tracts of habitat.

 

The Forestar Tract

This project resulted in the acquisition of a key parcel along Amicalola Creek in Dawson County. The 469-acre Forestar Tract connects state-owned lands in Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area. Amicalola Creek is a priority stream for the Etowah darter and Cherokee darter and an important headwater for the Etowah River. This acquisition protects Amicalola Creek and helps preserve the high-quality aquatic habitat in this priority stream.

The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Georgia Land Conservation Program, Dobbs Foundation, Mountain Conservation Trust and Woodruff Foundation provided funding for this project. DNR now protects more than 20 miles of riparian habitat along Amicalola Creek, providing excellent outdoor recreational opportunities and maintaining high quality habitat for rare fish.

 

Conservation Planning

The State Wildlife Action Plan, completed in August 2005, is due for an update. Like all state wildlife agencies, DNR made a commitment to review and revise its Wildlife Action Plan, better known as SWAP, within 10 years. The revision process began in 2010 and will be completed by 2015.

The process will include a reassessment of priority species, habitats and conservation actions, as well as more detailed mapping of priority conservation areas. It will also include an evaluation of potential impacts of climate change on priority species and habitats and identification of climate-change adaptation strategies. Further assessment of monitoring needs and performance measures for comprehensive wildlife conservation in Georgia will be part of the work.

Nongame Conservation Section staff will coordinate the SWAP revision process with help from other DNR staff and representatives of a wide variety of government agencies, non-governmental conservation organizations, landowner groups and private corporations. The product of this effort will be a strategic plan that reflects the most current information about wildlife conservation needs and opportunities in the state.

 






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