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Restoration of Mountain and Coastal Plain Bogs

Mountain bogs are one of the most critically endangered habitats of the Southern Appalachians. They mountain bog work crewtypically are small (from a half-acre to 5 acres) and usually associated with seeps, springs and small creeks. These are early successional habitats that support a variety of unique and imperiled flora and fauna, including the federally threatened bog turtle and swamp pink, possibly the state’s rarest reptile and plant species, respectively. Other exceptionally rare and state-protected mountain bog plants include the montane purple pitcher plant, Carolina bog laurel, Canadian burnet and Cuthbert’s turtlehead.

For 18 years, the Nongame Conservation Section, working independently and as a member of the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, has been engaged in mountain bog restoration that includes:

• locating mountain bogs with restoration potential;
• restoration at eight of these bog sites;
• rearing and outplanting rare mountain bog plants; and,
• creating a “Bog Turtle Headstart“ and population establishment program that involves the Chattahoochee Nature Center and the Tennessee Aquarium. (Seventeen captive-reared bog turtles have been released in restored mountain bogs.)pitcher plants near Swainsboro

Natural disturbance factors needed to maintain mountain bog habitats is now largely missing from the landscape, and the few remaining bog habitats must be maintained by mimicking these natural effects using techniques such as manual clearing and prescribed fire. A significant development in the last three years was the initiation of a robust field experiment designed to test various restoration protocols, with final research plots established in 2010. The goal is maximizing effectiveness and efficiency, thus saving the Wildlife Resources Division and its partners time and expense in maintaining mountain bogs.

On the Coastal Plain, cooperative work with landowners for management and conservation continues at a complex of privately owned bogs near Claxton. These bogs include the only known occurrence of the Coastal Plain purple pitcher plant, in addition to eight other tracked plants. The bogs are contiguous to diverse sandhill habitat, with occurrences of gopher tortoises. Efforts are focused on restoring prescribed fire, raising awareness of the site and preventing destruction caused by off-road vehicles.

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