Wednesday, January 30, 2008

20,000 Acres of Forest Land Permanently Protected through Georgia Land Conservation Program

Standing on the bank of Corley Lake in Paulding County with a scenic view of the Paulding Forest behind him, Governor Sonny Perdue announced today a monumental investment in land conservation. The state of Georgia, through an investment of $35 million and additional federal, local and private funds, will protect approximately 20,000 acres of pristine forest lands in Paulding, Decatur and McIntosh Counties.

“On the opposite shore of this lake, you see a rolling hillside with a beautiful stand of timber on it. Today I am proud to announce that due to the hard work and investment of many partners, we can guarantee views like this will be protected for generations to come,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “As a part of the Land Conservation Program, the state of Georgia, along with federal, local and private partners, will purchase and conserve nearly 20,000 acres of land at three sites across our state.”

Joining Governor Perdue for today’s announcement was Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives Glenn Richardson and Paulding County Commission Chairman Jerry Shearin. Speaker Richardson has represented Paulding County in the General Assembly since 1997.

“I'd like to thank the Governor and all of those involved in this process for their efforts in creating a partnership between the state and the county so that we could preserve this valuable natural resource for hunters, families, outdoor enthusiasts, and future generations to enjoy,” said Speaker Glenn Richardson.

Chairman Shearin was instrumental in the passage of a bond referendum in November 2006 that approved $15 million to match the state funding toward the purchase of Paulding Forest. The bond referendum passed with 72 percent of the vote.

“The citizens of Paulding County voted overwhelmingly to tax themselves to protect this valuable natural resource,” said Chairman Shearin. “We recognized the value of the partnership the Governor had envisioned for protecting Georgia’s wild spaces.”

The lands approved for protection today through the Georgia Land Conservation Program (GLCP) include properties in Paulding County at Paulding Forest, in Decatur County bordering Lake Seminole, and in McIntosh County along the Altamaha River. The three properties will be managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as wildlife management areas and will provide opportunities for outdoor recreation as well as the long-term conservation of important wildlife habitats.

These acquisitions represent an investment of $34,740,289 in state funds, combined with $58,216,107 from federal, local and private partners. Two of these three properties account for $30 million of the $42 million set aside as part of the FY2008 budget for the Georgia Land Conservation Program (GLCP).

Additional information on these three properties is highlighted below. See the attached background summaries for more information on each property.

Paulding Forest Wildlife Management Area

The Paulding Forest Wildlife Management Area is a $45.8 million acquisition that includes 6,865 acres previously leased by the DNR and the Georgia Forestry Commission. DNR will acquire approximately 4,350 acres, Paulding County will acquire approximately 2,500 acres.. The state and county property will be managed by DNR through a Memorandum of Agreement. The property protects a tributary of the Etowah River as well as the remnants of a rare montane longleaf pine forest. It is used by hunters, anglers and other wildlife enthusiasts and protects vast forest lands along the Silver Comet Trail.

The total project cost is $45,866,156 which includes a $15,177,320 GLCP grant. Matching sources include Paulding County ($15,000,000), Polk County ($100,000), federal Forest Legacy and Endangered Species Recovery Land Acquisition grants ($7,788,836), and private foundations and organizations ($7,800,000) including the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation and The Conservation Fund through the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The Nature Conservancy will purchase and hold 320 acres of the property slated for acquisition by the state until additional federal funding is appropriated. It will then sell this acreage to DNR.

Silver Lake Tract at Lake Seminole Wildlife Management Area

Silver Lake Tract at Lake Seminole Wildlife Management Area includes 8,430-acres in Decatur County on Lake Seminole near Bainbridge. This property has been managed by International Paper as a

research forest and contains extensive stands of mature longleaf pine with a population of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Over several phases, the state will acquire this property from The Conservation Fund at a cost of approximately $38.6 million. The first phase will include approximately 3,900 acres at a cost of $20.4 million.

The total project cost is $38,600,000 which includes a $15,000,000 GLCP grant and DNR Nongame Wildlife Conservation and Wildlife Endowment Funds ($2,500,000). Matching sources include federal, state, Wildlife and Wildlife Restoration Grants ($2,300,000), The Conservation Fund through the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation ($500,000), and the Georgia Ornithological Society ($100,000). A combination of federal and local funds as well as funds from private foundations is expected to be used for the additional phases of the project ($18,200,000).

Fort Barrington Tract at Townsend Wildlife Management Area

Georgia is working in partnership with the U.S. Marine Corps through the U.S. Navy to protect 4,162 acres as part of the Fort Barrington Tract at Townsend Wildlife Management Area. This acquisition will not only protect critical wildlife habitat and provide recreational opportunities on the Altamaha River, but will also help provide additional buffer around Townsend Bombing Range. This tract will add to a corridor of conservation lands along the Altamaha River that connect the Townsend Wildlife Management Area and the Altamaha Wildlife Management Area. The entire corridor will consist of more than 46,000 adjoining acres.

The total project cost is $8,490,240 which includes a $2,062,969 in DNR bond and Nongame Wildlife Conservation funds. Matching sources include federal coastal protection funds totaling $2,077,271. The Nature Conservancy contributed $2,000,000, the Georgia Wetland Trust Fund $550,000 and additional funds may come from the Department of Defense to cover the cost of the restrictive easement, lowering the acquisition cost to the state.

Georgia Land Conservation Program

The GLCP is managed by the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GEFA) and projects are approved by the Georgia Land Conservation Council. The program offers grants for fee title or conservation easement purchases from the Georgia Land Conservation Trust Fund. It also offers low-interest loans for fee title or conservation easement purchases from the Georgia Land Conservation Revolving Fund. Tax incentives are also available for donations of conservation lands or conservation easements. Since the program’s inception, forty projects totaling 59,628 acres have been endorsed by the GLCP.

Conservation lands are permanently protected lands that are undeveloped and meet one or more of the goals of the Georgia Land Conservation Act. The goals include water quality protection, flood protection, wetlands protection, reduction of erosion, protection of riparian buffers and areas that provide natural habitat and corridors for native plant and animal species. The goals also include the protection of prime agricultural and forestry lands, protection of cultural and historic sites, scenic protection, recreation (boating, hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting) and the connection of areas contributing to these goals.

Governor Perdue introduced the Georgia Land Conservation Act to encourage the long-term conservation and protection of the state’s natural, cultural and historic resources in the 2004 session of the General Assembly. The Georgia Land Conservation Act passed with broad bipartisan support and Governor Perdue signed it into law on April 14, 2005.

Applications for land conservation grants or loans are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year. Applications and more information about the program can be found at www.glcp.org.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Corporate Conservation Leader in 2007: Bank of North Georgia

Photo: BNG Sr. Vice President John Hall presents donation to Trust Chair Kevin Thames

For the second year in a row, Bank of North Georgia (formerly Peachtree National Bank) topped the list of conservation business donors to Southern Conservation Trust, a nonprofit land trust based in Fayette County. World Gym of Peachtree City was also a major donor supporting greenspace preservation in 2007.

“Bank of North Georgia is an admirable corporate leader in our community. We appreciate the generosity of the Bank and World Gym in supporting our Community Conservation Program,” said Abby Jordan, Executive Director of Southern Conservation Trust.

Southern Conservation Trust, the only land trust in the Southern Crescent, accepted two conservation easements in 2007 that permanently protected 250 acres from development. The Trust has now preserved 1,300 acres in Fayette, Clayton, Meriwether and rural South Fulton.

“Southern Conservation Trust is a great asset to the Southside of Metro Atlanta. We strongly believe in the work they’re doing,” said Bank of North Georgia Community Executive John Hall..
Southern Conservation Trust works with landowners and developers to protect land in Metro Atlanta’s Southern Crescent and the Upper Flint River basin. For more information on community conservation, contact Southern Conservation Trust at (770) 486-7774 or info@sctlandtrust.org.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

TIME TO SIGN UP FOR THE ANNUAL SPRING YARD AND GARDEN SHOW

It is time to sign up for the annual Spring Yard & Garden Show hosted by Peachtree City Parks & Recreation Department on April 19, 2008.

Spring is quickly approaching and business owners specializing in yard, or garden related products or services have the opportunity to showcase their items at this event, to be held from 10am to 6pm at the Shakerag Knoll on McIntosh Trail in Peachtree City. Many local businesses in the surrounding area have already signed up for the show.

Two businesses already in the show include, Selective Designs and Innovative Irrigation. “This year we are going green,” says Shane LeBlanc, owner of Selective Designs. “We are going to create beautiful landscape while still conserving water,” says Shane.

We are looking for vendors with produce, flowers, nurseries, stone, any yard d├ęcor, outdoor kitchens, pools, hot tubs, concrete, etc., anything to improve or add character to your yard. “We still have space available and we are always looking for new vendors,” says Event Coordinator, Ashley Alonso. If you know of anyone interested in participating in this show tell them to contact us. Sites start at $45 and are approximately 12’x12’.

A vendor application, waiver, and the rules and regulations for this event are available online at www.ptcrecreation.org under Spring Yard and Garden Show or you may visit the Recreation Administration Office at 191 McIntosh Trail.

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact Ashley Alonso at 770-631-2542 or aalonso@peachtree-city.org.

Pine beetles attracted to weak trees

By Faith Peppers
University of Georgia
There was a feast in Georgia's Oconee National Forest last year. Southern pine beetles were munching away on weak, old trees. And the drought may have issued the invitation to dinner, a University of Georgia expert says.

“The drought could have contributed to an increase in beetle populations, but we don’t have any way to tell for sure,” said Keith Douce, a UGA entomologist with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“We’ve been under drought stress for several years,” he said. “Even if you get adequate rainfalls, it takes two or three years for a tree to get back to full health.”

It’s during those weakened years that problems begin. Beetle numbers build up over a few years and reach what Douce calls a “tipping point.”

“A tree can have 10,000 beetles in it,” he said. “They put out pheromones that other beetles detect. And more beetles come over to eat like when grandma’s cooking good food and the neighbors come over because they smell it.”

Once a large number of beetles enter a tree, they put out another chemical signal that the tree is full and other beetles should go somewhere else.

Beetle populations are also affected by temperature. “A lot depends on the beetles and how well they over winter,” Douce said. “That 19 degree temperature we had recently can effect the population by reducing their numbers.”

Georgia has several different types of beetles that attack trees. The most common are the Southern pine beetle, the black turpentine beetle and three species of ips beetles.

“There have been large numbers of ips beetles around the state this year,” Douce said. “We have seen increases before during this dry weather.”

Beetle populations vary over time. “Between 7 and 12 years they increase and decrease,” he said. “We don’t know what causes those cycles, but over time we will see increases and decreases.”

Douce said the increased activity of Southern pine beetles last year was “undoubtedly due to a lot of stress from drought and over maturing of trees that haven’t been harvested.”

When trees get to be 40 to 45 years old, they slow down just like people do. The tree can survive, but it’s less healthy, and beetles are better able to attack it.

“Just like older people are more susceptible to disease and injury, so are trees,” he said.

The life cycle of the tree and the beetles interact. The Southern pine beetle is particularly good at finding trees in decline.

“The drought causes trees to decline,” he explained. “The resin in the tree reduces the organisms that can get into the tree.”

A good, growing, healthy tree produces large amounts of resin to keep the beetles out. The beetles get stuck in the resin and don’t get into the tree.

“As you have drought, the tree produces less resin,” Douce said. “You also get things like lightening strikes that cause a tree to decline, and the beetles can detect that and attack the tree.

“If you go through that cycle two or three times over a summer, you have literally thousands of beetles flying around and attacking trees under stress. Lightening itself can fry the tap root of a tree and it’s a goner. But beetles can find that tree because it’s under stress and they can attack and finish it off.”

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Organic Farm in Tyrone

Cowgirl City Ranch is a sustainable organic farm located just 15 minuets south the Atlanta Airport in Tyrone, GA.

Our mission is to grow nutritious and healthy food for the community. Organic farming practices build a living soil, which enhances the health of the land and people in our community. We use only sustainable and organic farming methods which rely on minimal off-farm inputs and no chemical pesticides or fertilizers.

Our growing methods include crop rotation, planting cover crops, applying finished compost and mulches, encouraging beneficial insects, using heirloom and organic seed, and selecting proper irrigation methods.

We produce vegetables, blue berries, apples, herbs and flowers. There will be a market on the farm each Wednesday and Saturday. This year CSA shares will be offered from April through November at a fee of $500 per share. Farm tours and internships available upon request.

Farm Name: Cowgirl City Ranch (Tyrone, GA)
(http://www.localharvest.org/farms/M20261)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

UGA researcher works to keep plant from extinction

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

When Hazel Wetzstein holds a tiny Georgia plume plant, she’s not just tending a future shrub. She’s keeping a native species from becoming extinct.

“Georgia plume is one of the rarest native shrubs or small trees in Georgia,” said Wetzstein, a horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “It’s currently known to exist only in about three dozen locations in 19 counties.”

Many of these plants are growing on unprotected property, she said. What makes the shrub even more rare is the fact that Georgia is the only place in the world where the plant can be found.

First discovered by William Bartram in 1773, the plant is so rare in nature that no wild populations were known from about 1875 until it was rediscovered in 1901. Today, Georgia plume faces the added challenges of habitat loss due to forest cutting, agricultural land conversion and urbanization.

But those are just some of its issues. It also “appears to suffer from reproductive problems,” Wetzstein said. “Seed set is low or nonexistent. Seedlings have not been found in the wild, indicating serious consequences in the future.”

Georgia plume doesn’t propagate well using conventional cutting methods. To date, Wetzstein has produced 400 new plants using the tissue culture method.

“Using tissue culture, we grow small pieces of plant tissues in culture media under sterile conditions,” she said. “By incorporating hormones, vitamins and nutrients into the media, we can induce the development of new plant shoots.”

In the summer, Georgia plume is topped with white plume-like flower clusters that give it its name. Each year, the flowers become harder to find as plant numbers decline, at least outdoors. But now that UGA researchers have successfully grown the plant in greenhouses, they’re testing the Georgia plume in the fresh air of its native habitat.

This fall, Wetzstein, her lab staff, Master Gardeners, college students and collaborators Martha Joiner and Carolyn Altman at the Georgia Southern Botanical Garden and Gail Lutowski at the Warnell Forest Education Center planted tissue-culture-regenerated Georgia plume plants in Statesboro and Effingham County.

They used different types of treatments such as organic matter and fertilizer on the plants. And they outlined the plots with rebar and draped netting to keep the deer out. They’re trying to see what methods work the best for maximum survival and growth. In a few months, they’ll return to southeast Georgia for a spring planting.

Besides trying to reestablish Georgia plume in the wild, Wetzstein is also gathering samples from plume populations in the state to establish in culture in her laboratory. If the Georgia plume plant becomes extinct, the genetic material will be preserved in Wetzstein’s laboratory in Athens.

“We’re using this as a safeguarding method,” she said.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Attack Bird!

We have a lip under our porch that always has a bird nest. Some seasons it's on the right, other times it's on the left.

Looking out our front door we get a private view of the nest without interfering with the inhabitants. The kids love to stand at the door and watch when new babies peek their beaks over the top for the first time.

The nest stays, the birds change. We used to knock the nest down but the birds would just come back and build another. Only one each year, never more.

I call the bird of the hour our attack bird. We warn people coming to deliver pizza or visit to beware of the swooping bird. Mama's will guard their nests!

The other night as I headed to bed I took a quick look to see if another bird had found the nest only to find a fairly good sized round red ball sitting atop the nest. I stared at it for a while wondering what in the world it might be. In the fairly dim light I couldn't quite make out whether it was fur, feather or rubber!

It didn't move, even when I popped on the front porch light. Hmmm... maybe the pizza delivery guy had come back, put a ball in the nest to act as a stopper!

It crossed my mind that it might be a cardinal as we have quite a few, but I wasn't aware that they ever hung out under porches that close to humans.

Sure enough though, it is a cardinal. It's a bit bigger than the birds that normally hang out in our nest apartment. It's been there for three nights now so I'm "assuming" it's here to stay for a while.

It could be that it lost its nest somehow to a predator. Could be it's been watching the other little birds fly in and out and decided to take over.

It's a bright red, so I'm not expecting to have little cardinals inhabiting the nest unfortunately. That would be a real treat.