Monday, December 13, 2010

More Than 200,000 Acres Protected Through Land Conservation Program Since 2005

Seven new easement donations eligible for conservation tax credits
Governor Sonny Perdue today announced seven new conservation easement donations from private landowners to the state of Georgia as part of the Georgia Land Conservation Program (GLCP), bringing the total acreage conserved through the GLCP to 211,176 since 2005. The seven new easement donations collectively conserve more than 6,000 acres of natural and working lands and are eligible for Georgia’s Conservation Tax Credit Program, which has been used to conserve 103,434 acres. In addition to the acreage conserved through the tax credit program, the GLCP and its partners have acquired 107,742 acres of conservation land with state grants, loans and landowner donations.

“Without the generous landowners of this state, Georgia would not be recognized as having one of the most progressive resource management programs in the nation,” said Governor Perdue. “Five years ago, we set out to preserve and protect our precious lands and I am proud to report on this monumental success of the Georgia Land Conservation Program.”

Four conservation easements were approved by the State Properties Commission today with the remaining easements approved earlier this year. The SPC also gave final approval of the Department of Natural Resource’s preservation of more than 10,000 acres in Middle Georgia known as Oaky Woods.

Conservation easements are voluntary agreements that permanently restrict how land can be used. Landowners maintain ownership of their properties, but they forfeit some development and other rights. The state of Georgia encourages conservation easements by offering income tax credits to donors. The easements are then held by qualified state agencies, local governments or nonprofit land trusts. Federal tax incentives and other financial benefits are also available.

The GLCP is managed by the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA). The program works with public and private sector partners to permanently protect lands with high conservation value. Governor Perdue introduced the Georgia Land Conservation Act, which created the GLCP, during the 2005 session of the General Assembly to encourage the long-term conservation and protection of the state’s natural, cultural and historic resources. The Georgia Land Conservation Act passed with broad bipartisan support and Governor Perdue signed it into law on April 14, 2005. Since the program’s inception, the GLCP has participated in 312 land conservation transactions that have permanently protected a total of 211,176 acres. For more information on the GLCP, please visit

Brief summaries of the donated conservation easements are provided below:

Diamond Drake

Georgia native and major league baseball star J.D. Drew donated a conservation easement covering 1,008 acres in Meriwether County to the Conservation Fund, which will be transferring the easement to the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC). The property contains the main trunk of Sulphur Creek and supports significant acreage of productive timber and agricultural lands. The easement terms permanently protect these important natural features, while allowing active forestry and recreation practices to continue.

Alligator Creek

Rick Towns of Alamo is donating a conservation easement covering 2,774 acres in Wheeler County to the GFC. The tract encompasses 2.5 miles of Alligator Creek. The easement terms permanently protect the tract’s creek frontage, as well as important habitat for a wide variety of reptiles and amphibians including two state and federally-protected species (the Gopher Tortoise and Eastern Indigo Snake), as well as two plant species of concern (the Bog Bluestem and Wire-leaf Dropseed).

Kirkland Creek

Homer Breckenridge, Rufus Breckenridge and Elizabeth Dodds are donating a conservation easement covering 628 acres in Early County to the GFC. The mostly forested property fronts the Chattahoochee River for 1.5 miles and supports other smaller wetlands and waterbodies, including Kirkland Creek. The conservation easement will prohibit disturbances within the tract’s wetland areas and bottomlands, while allowing forestry and agriculture to continue on suitable upland areas.

Red Hawk Pulaski Farms LLC

Red Hawk Plantation LLC is donating a conservation easement covering 454 acres in Pulaski County to the GFC. The tract contains steep slopes adjoining Big Creek and South Prong Creek, which has been designated by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as a high-priority waterway containing excellent aquatic habitat. This sensitive natural feature, as well as the property’s productive agricultural and silvicultural areas, will be conserved by the easement.

Tucker Turf Farm

Tucker Turf LLC is donating a conservation easement covering 1,055 acres in Houston County to the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission (SWCC). The parcel contains substantial floodplain habitat along Big Indian Creek, a high-priority waterway that will be permanently conserved in the easement. It is also covered by Prime Agricultural Soils as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and currently supports active agricultural operations in a developing area of Houston County. This productive agricultural activity will continue under the terms of the easement.

Buckhead Creek

Hew Joiner and his wife are donating a conservation easement on 133 acres in Jenkins County to the DNR. The tract contains bottomlands and a half mile of frontage along Buckhead Creek – a tributary of the Ogeechee River. The Ogeechee supports numerous freshwater fish species, two of which are state threatened or endangered. The property falls between the Big Dukes Pond Natural Areas and Magnolia Springs State Park, which provide important wildlife habitat and recreational amenities. The easement will prohibit disturbances within the tract’s bottomlands, while allowing ecological restoration forestry operations on the uplands.

Yuchi Wildlife Management Area

Stuart Rackley is donating a conservation easement on 58 acres in Burke County to the DNR. The protected property contains intact bottomlands along the Savannah River and adjoins the Yuchi Wildlife Management Area. It also supports suitable habitat for protected plant species including the Ocmulgee skullcap and Carolina pink. The easement terms will protect the bottomlands, while allowing forestry to continue on the uplands.
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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Georgia-grown Fraser fir Christmas trees on the horizon

When it comes to Christmas trees, Fraser firs top the list. But Georgia Christmas tree farmers can’t grow the tree due to the state’s mild winters, and must buy Frasers from North Carolina to sell to their Georgia customers. A University of Georgia horticulturist wants to change that.

Fir trees produce new growth very early in spring, which makes them susceptible to freeze damage. “When new shoots start to grow in early spring, they are often severally damaged or killed by the below-32-degrees temperatures that we often have during the spring here in Georgia and much of the Southeast,” said Mark Czarnota, a horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Frasiers + Momis

Using a $30,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, he wants to deliver another option to Georgia Christmas tree farmers. He is grafting Fraser firs onto Momi firs in his greenhouses and fields on the UGA campus in Griffin, Ga., and working with Georgia Christmas tree growers in Lovejoy and Terrytown.

A native of Japan, the Momi fir (Abies firma Siebold & Zucc.) made its debut in Georgia in the early ‘90s. “The planting culture of Momi fir is very different from most other Christmas tree species that growers were currently growing,” Czarnota said. “Needless to say, Momi firs first introduction was a miserable failure.”

With proper management, though, Momi firs can grow in Georgia. The biggest stumbling blocks are adjusting soil pH to around 6.5 and providing irrigation to young plants for two or three years, he said.
Faster growing is more profitable

Growers in the Southeast don’t like to hear that it takes six to eight years for the tree to reach a desirable Christmas tree size. Traditional Georgia Christmas tree species like Leland cypress and Virginia pine mature in three to four years. When it comes to growing Christmas trees, the sooner a tree matures, the sooner the farmer can take it to market.

Fraser firs will grow in north Georgia, but the downside is that the tree is affected by the root fungus phytophthora. If not treated, it can kill infected plants.

A new Christmas, landscape tree

Czarnota hopes to combine the Momi fir rootstock and Fraser scion, or shoot, into a tree that will grow throughout much of Georgia and the Southeast.

“I don’t expect it to take over the market, but it will be a great addition,” he said. “A lot of work needs to be done in selecting good Momi grafting stock for desirable uniformity. It’s a lifetime project, and great potential exists in trying to cross Momi fir with other firs.”

Researcher John Frampton at North Carolina State University works on the tolerance of Momi fir to phytophthora. He has found the plant is very tolerant to the root disease.

North Carolina fir growers have a very difficult time dealing with the fungus. Frampton is trying to cross Momi and Fraser fir to breed a hybrid phytophthora-resistant fir. In the meantime, he encourages North Carolina growers to plant Momi-Frasier grafts, Czarnota said.

On-farm research

One of Czarnota’s collaborators, 82-year-old Earl Worthington, grows Christmas trees in Lovejoy, Ga.
“Dr. Worthington was one of the first growers to try to grow firs in the Georgia piedmont region,” Czarnota said. “He actually got greenhorns like Dr. Frampton and me moving in the right direction, and has been a wealth of knowledge for many Christmas growers here in the Southeast.”

Worthington hopes to someday grow enough Fraser firs to avoid buying from growers in western North Carolina. He bought 300 Fraser firs this season.

Worthington has been grafting Fraser firs onto Momi firs for the past 15 years. In the beginning, it took 10 years for him to grow an 8- to 9-foot tree. “I can now produce a 5- to 6-foot tree in five to six years,” he said.

The problem he now faces with his grafting efforts is the inconsistencies. “Some (of the trees) turn out very yellow, some very stiff, some are green all year, some flush early and some flush late,” he said. “Grafting trees is definitely a project for someone with patience.”

To search for a Georgia Christmas tree farm near you, go to

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

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Saturday, December 04, 2010

Time to Think Trees, Says Georgia Forestry Commission

While Autumn is the time when colorful leaves fall to the ground, it is also the time to plan for putting tree seedlings into the ground! The Georgia Forestry Commission is reminding residents that the winter months are the best times to plant trees, and a wide variety of bare root seedlings are available for sale through the agency.

"The Georgia Forestry Commission has a great selection of seedlings in stock for anyone who wants to enhance their land," said Russ Pohl, Chief of Reforestation for the Georgia Forestry Commission. "We have excellent selections for all Georgians, from green thumb hobbyists to landscapers, wildlife lovers and timber growers."

Hardwoods available include redbuds, yellow poplars, and a wide variety of oaks and maples. Several species of pine are offered, including the native longleaf pine, known for its distinctive, flowing needles. Hardy shrubs and perennials, including crape and wax myrtles are also available.

"Seedlings should go into the ground between November and February," said Pohl. "That's when the trees are dormant, and Georgia's traditionally wet winters can help them get established."

Pohl explained that the GFC's online ordering system makes it easier than ever to purchase seedlings. By logging on to, visitors can peruse tree selections, find out about species' growing preferences, locate step-by-step tree planting instructions and learn much more about the benefits of trees.

"Trees are environmental work horses," explained Pohl. "In addition, of course, to providing immeasurable beauty, trees clean our air and water, provide shade for cooling our homes and communities, habitat for wildlife, and serve as recreational havens for camping, hiking, and hunting.
Trees are a renewable resource that provide us with countless everyday products to make our lives better." Pohl said residents who own larger tracts of lands may consider planting trees on cut-over or idle acres. If planted around homes or communities, trees are a great way to put the land back to work, make a financial investment and contribute to the well being of the planet.

The Georgia Forestry Commission provides leadership, service and education in the protection and conservation of Georgia's forest resources. From advice and plans for reforestation, timber stand improvement and harvesting to eradication of pests, cost-share opportunities and seedling sales, the agency offers a variety of complimentary and low-fee services that enhance forest land. For complete details, visit

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Beetles invading your home?

Winter has arrived. As people pull out their wool sweaters, they may be disappointed to find a few holes in their frosty frocks. A University of Georgia expert says it isn’t moths eating their way through the clothes.

“Carpet beetles are eating the wool, and they are everywhere,” says UGA entomologist Nancy Hinkle. “Carpet beetles are one of the few animals in the world that can digest keratin, the main component of hair.”

Unraveling sweaters

Hinkle said the insects take small bites out of woolen sweaters, coats and socks. Sometimes the garments aren’t affected at all, but often the small bites start the process of unraveling.

“They don’t usually dine on an entire sweater,” she said.

Carpet beetles are common pests in Georgia. Hinkle hasn’t spent a week at UGA without seeing a sample of a carpet beetle submitted through UGA Cooperative Extension.

“One Atlanta couple installed wool carpet throughout their home; and in a few months, they noticed it was being eaten by carpet beetles, thousands of them,” she said.

The beetles are an eight of an inch long and can be black or have a variety of colors and patterns on their backs. The larvae are very hairy and have tan and white stripes. They are the most likely wool eaters.

“Although it is possible to see the beetles, we most often see larvae brought in as specimens,” Hinkle said. “The eggs are small and hard to spot, and the cocoons are rarely noticed as they blend in with the fabric.”

They can be a food pest as well. Carpet beetles prefer pastas, cereals and nuts. They will also feed on improperly treated taxidermy specimens and unfinished animal skins.

“Good sanitation and vacuuming up shed human and pet hair will reduce populations indoors,” she said.

While it is probably too late to protect sweaters for this winter, Hinkle says to package clean sweaters and other woolen goods in airtight containers when you retire them this spring.

“The beetles prefer dirty sweaters with body oils, sweat stains or food spills on them, so be sure to have them cleaned before packing them away,” she said.

Lady beetles

Another beetle that invades homes in the winter are Asian lady beetles. Commonly called ladybugs, the beetles come inside to stay warm.

They are often found lining windowsills or around doorways.

“They are not dead, but dormant,” Hinkle said. “They maintain a low-level of activity to survive the winter. They are not mating, not eating or drinking.”

Hinkle suggests moving them outdoors by vacuuming them up and releasing them far from the house or sweeping them into a paper bag and storing them in a garage or basement until spring. Once the weather warms up, the beetles will feed on the aphids that destroy roses and other garden plants.
“Don’t crush them,” Hinkle warns. “They release an orange hemolymph, which is reflexive bleeding. It is a defense mechanism that can stain walls and furniture.”

Keeping beetles out

Because of their small size, beetles are difficult to keep out of homes. They crawl and squeeze in through improperly sealed windows and doors.

A tightly sealed house will have fewer beetles. Seal around pipes, wire penetrations, doors and windows.

Remember, adult beetles fly, so they can still find their way inside through open doors.

By April Reese Sorrow
University of Georgia

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bring springtime inside this winter through flowering bulbs

Flowering bulbs typically herald the coming of spring. By using a technique called “forcing bulbs,” you can enjoy many springtime bulbs during the winter, too.

“My first Christmas in Ringold (Ga.) I bought amaryllis bulbs and held a contest with the ladies in the Extension office,” said Charles Lancaster, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent in Catoosa County. “I bought bulbs in four colors, and we each picked one.”

Watch and wait

Over the next few weeks, the office staff waited and then watched as the stalks began to emerge.
“We all had a great time watching and waiting as our plant blossomed and brought a little sunshine inside our office during the short days of winter,” he said.

Planted now, bulbs may not bloom before Christmas, but you and your family can still watch as they grow in the coming weeks.

From tulips to daffodils

Bulbs can be forced to bloom indoors earlier than they normally would outdoors. Crocus, galanthus, hyacinth, narcissus, daffodil, scilla and tulip are the easiest to force.

Pot the bulbs in October or November using a well-drained soil. The number of bulbs per pot will vary according to pot and bulb size.

Keep them in the dark at about 40 degrees F for 8 to 12 weeks in a cold frame outdoors, an unheated garage or basement, or in your refrigerator. (The bulbs must not be allowed to freeze.) Do not allow the soil in the pots to dry out.

After two or three months, the root system should be extensively developed, and shoots will start to emerge from the bulbs. Place the pots in a cool, bright room at about 55 degrees. If possible, place them in a southern window. Eastern or western windows are second best.

Poor light = weak stems

Once shoots emerge, bulbs will produce blooms in about one month. High temperatures and/or poor light will cause spindly, weak stems.

Crocus, hyacinth, narcissus, and tulip bulbs can be refrigerated at 40 degrees for two months prior to planting, then potted and forced. The results are not usually as satisfactory because the root systems don’t have enough time to fully develop.

Lancaster says most forced bulbs will seldom grow and flower well when replanted in the garden.

Amaryllis can grow indoors and out

“Amaryllis bulbs will do okay planted outside, but the flower color will be different than when it’s grown indoors,” he said.

According to UGA Extension horticulturist Bodie Pennisi, when amaryllis blooms fade indoors, cut the bloom stalk off near the soil surface. Sometimes a bulb will send up a second stalk.

When the blooms are gone, allow the leaves to remain on the plant, she said. Keep it in a sunny window until May and then plant it outdoors.

Amaryllis will grow in almost any well-drained soil as long as they receive adequate moisture and some shade.

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jekyll Island Authority Contributes Nearly $500,000 to Tree Relocation and Rehabilitation

/PRNewswire/ -- With the revitalization of Jekyll Island underway, significant resources are being used to save and relocate trees that would otherwise be in the way and possibly harmed during construction. The Jekyll Island Authority will spend nearly $500,000 in tree relocation activities including a five-year "aftercare" program to ensure the likelihood of survival.

The trees are being relocated from the area that will soon become the new Jekyll Island convention center and beach village. Some trees are being immediately relocated to new, permanent locations, while others are being stored in hardening beds and will be replanted once the convention center and beach village nears completion.

"Trees and the tree canopy are special elements on Jekyll Island, and it makes sense for us to save the larger specimens instead of cutting them down," stated Jones Hooks, Executive Director of the Jekyll Island Authority (JIA).

Approximately 275 Cabbage Palms are being relocated with the potential of some being used in the Jekyll Island Historic District in a historic landscape restoration project. Twenty large Canary Date Palms have been moved and transplanted to beautify public areas on the island. Large Crepe Myrtles and 34 Live Oaks are also being saved.

Arborguard Tree Specialists are assisting with tree protection and tree relocation activities. The work, in addition to responsible environmental stewardship, will also provide points for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The new Jekyll Island convention center and beach village is expected to achieve a minimum LEED Silver rating.

"Obviously, we all love the trees on Jekyll Island and many of these specimens are decades old," stated Cliff Gawron, Landscape Superintendent, JIA. "I'm proud the decision was made to save the trees so they can continue to live, grow and provide shade and habitat for many more decades."

The Authority also set aside time for the community to retrieve any remaining plant material, bricks, irrigation components and landscape edging from the former shopping center site and convention center last week prior to its demolition. Jekyll Island Authority landscape personnel helped to direct those interested in digging and claiming for reuse any available small shrubs, grasses and pavers prior to full-scale demolition. This public opportunity to save remaining plant material is not only a positive step toward environmental stewardship positive for environmental stewardship but it also reduces the amount of waste material that will be sent to off-island landfills.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Across The State, Teams Prepare To Put Fire On The Ground For Conservation

After weeks of scorching weather, cooler temperatures are a welcome sign to wildlife biologist Shan Cammack of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. When fall arrives, Cammack knows it is only a matter of time before she laces up her fire boots and buttons up the Nomex.

And she’s not alone. All over Georgia others have been pulling out smoke-stained clothing and weighted vests, pounding the pavement to stay in shape in anticipation of attending an annual refresher and passing a work capacity test known as the pack test. This class held around the state ensures that those who work to conserve our natural resources through prescribed fire do so safely and efficiently.

Cammack, along with fellow wildlife biologist Nikki Castleberry, coordinate the fire program for DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section and the Parks & Historic Sites Division. Both Cammack and Castleberry serve as fire safety officers, working to keep staff up on training and equipment.

Since 2003, more than 200 people have completed the basic wildland fire training program offered by the Nongame Conservation Section through an annual interagency burn team effort. In the beginning, the participants, most of them volunteers, were referred to as ecoburners, a name that stuck and is used fondly among team members. The fall refresher is an opportunity for those who have been trained to brush up on their skills, learn about new techniques and receive revised safety regulations. They also must pass a few key tests required to remain certified at the national level. These tests include fire shelter deployment and the infamous pack test, which can include covering up to four miles in 45 minutes carrying a 45-pound pack.

“Annual refreshers can be challenging,” Cammack said. “We have to take the required information given at the national level and put it into a prescribed fire context. Most of the national stuff is directed at wildfire, while our people focus on prescribed fire.”

From humble beginnings, the Nongame Conservation Section fire program has grown from those first ecoburners to include a formal partnership with The Nature Conservancy in 2004 followed by the hiring of shared AmeriCorps crews. Next came a shared seasonal burn crew, and finally seasonal burn crews for each agency, available to help all partners of the interagency burn team, or IBT. The latest partner to come on board is the U.S Forest Service. This partnership has allowed for significant growth in the ecological conservation of lands around the state with the number of acres burned by the Nongame Conservation Section jumping from 2,635 in 2003 to 25,662 in 2010.

All told, of the 175,205 burnable acres of DNR-managed lands in Georgia, 32,845 acres or 19 percent were burned in 2010. The DNR hopes to increase that total, burning roughly a third of the burnable acres the agency manages each year.

Those numbers mean good news for rare species and habitat restoration. Prescribed fire is recognized by Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan as one of the primary tools for conservation and restoration of managed lands in the state. The plan is a comprehensive strategy guiding DNR efforts to conserve biological diversity.

Whether you are visiting a state park, hunting on a wildlife management area or enjoying the solitude of one of Georgia’s natural areas, you can usually see firsthand the benefits of the prescribed fire program. Longleaf pine, bobwhite quail, pitcherplants, gopher tortoises and red cockaded woodpeckers are only a few of the many species benefiting from the use of fire around the state.

As the date for the last annual refresher nears, the ecoburners grow more excited; ready for another year of putting fire on the ground, in the name of conservation.

This program is an example of how buying a nongame license plate or donating to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund through the state income tax checkoff and other ways supports wildlife conservation. Contributions benefit the Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state general funds for its mission to conserve wildlife not legally hunted, fished for or trapped, as well as rare plants and natural habitats in the state.

The license plates – featuring a bald eagle or a ruby-throated hummingbird – are available for a $35 specialty plate fee at county tag offices, by checking the wildlife license plate box on mail-in registrations and through online renewals ( Specialty plates include an annual renewal fee.

For the Give Wildlife a Chance checkoff, fill in an amount more than $1 on line 27 of the long state income tax form (Form 500) or line 10 of the short form (Form 500EZ). Contributions can be deducted from refunds or added to payments.

Georgians can also donate online at Click “Donate the Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund” and follow directions. The process is secure. Donations are tax-deductible.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Federal Conservation Agency Conducting Statewide Sign-Up for the Wetlands Reserve Program

James E. Tillman, Sr., State Conservationist for the USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Georgia has announced that the NRCS has opened the application period for applications for financial assistance through the USDA Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). The application period to receive consideration for 2011 WRP funds runs until December 10, 2010.

“Farmers and landowners interested in protecting, restoring or enhancing wetland habitat should contact their local office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service”, said Tillman.

Applications received in NRCS offices will be evaluated and ranked according to levels of environmental benefits pending available funds. Although NRCS offers a continuous application period for WRP, applications must be received by December 3, 2010 for FY 2011 funding.
Applications received after December 3, 2010 will be deferred to the next funding cycle.

"WRP is an important conservation program because it protects and restores wetland habitat that was lost due to intensive farming and urbanization. Georgia has enjoyed tremendous success during our previous enrollment periods by assisting landowners in installing wetland conservation practices. In 2010, we provided over $5,000,000 in funds to farmers that allowed us to secure conservation easements on over 3,394 wetland acres in Georgia,” Tillman said. Since 1999, NRCS Georgia has enrolled over 21,000 acres into WRP.

Participants in WRP voluntarily limit future use of the land, but retain private ownership. Landowners benefit by receiving financial and technical assistance in return for protecting wetlands, reducing problems associated with farming potentially wet and difficult areas, and developing wildlife and recreational opportunities on their land.

Wetlands benefit the Nation by providing fish and wildlife habitat; improving water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals; reducing flooding; recharging groundwater; protecting biological diversity; as well as providing opportunities for educational, scientific, and recreational activities.

The program offers three enrollment options:
1. Permanent Easements: a conservation easement in perpetuity. USDA pays 100 percent of the easement value and 100 percent of the restoration costs.
2. 30-Year Easement: an easement that expires after 30 years. USDA pays up to 75 percent of the easement value and up to 75 percent of the restoration costs.
*For both permanent and 30-year easements, USDA pays all costs associated with recording the easement.
3. Restoration Cost-Share Agreement: an agreement to restore or enhance the wetland
functions and values without placing an easement on the enrolled acres. USDA pays up to 75 percent of the restoration costs.

No easement shall be created on land that has changed ownership during the preceding 7 years. Eligible acres are limited to private and Tribal lands.

“NRCS and its partners continue to provide assistance to landowners after completion of restoration activities,” said Tillman. “This assistance may be in the form of reviewing restoration measures, clarifying technical and administrative aspects of the easement and project management needs, and providing basic biological and engineering advice on how to achieve optimum results for wetland dependent species,” he added.

NRCS is USDA’s lead conservation agency and has worked hand-in-hand with farmers and landowners for 75 years to conserve natural resources on private lands. Georgia landowners can learn more about conserving natural resources by contacting NRCS Georgia through USDA Service Centers or by visiting the NRCS Georgia homepage at

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sams Lake Sanctuary is Site for Nature Photography Tips October 30

Saturday, October 30th, 7:30 am
"Fall Colors & Close-ups"

Donna Rosser, The Barefoot Photographer, will give nature photography pointers at Sams Lake Sanctuary on October 30th. Come ready to learn and loaded up with your camera gear.

Be sure to enter your best images in Nature, Undisturbed 2011.

Photo: Line Creek in Drought, The Barefoot Photographer

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Birds of Prey Program at Sams Lake Saturday Nov. 6th

Hosted by Southern Conservation Trust

Southern Conservation Trust presents Dale Arrowood and his Winged Ambassadors at Sams Lake Sanctuary on Saturday afternoon November 6th.

The Winged Ambassadors are a group of trained non-releasable birds of prey that will perform soaring free flight demonstrations over the wetlands. Master Falconer Dale Arrowood will showcase the differences and similarities between a variety of raptor and owl families.

Birds will include Quasimodo the black vulture, various species of owls, several hawks and a pair of kookaburras native to Australia. Don’t miss the gorgeous Gyr falcon, the largest falcon that is most popular for hunting. These birds are not “trick animals” - they simply do what comes naturally to them.

Sams Lake Sanctuary, a restored wetland habitat and certified wildlife sanctuary, is owned and managed by Southern Conservation Trust, a non-profit community land trust based in Fayette County. It is open dawn to dusk and is the home of deer, wild turkey, beaver, and many birds. Sams Lake is on Old Senoia Road, south of Redwine Road just outside Fayetteville.

This exciting and educational program begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 6th, weather permitting. Bring your camera to capture close-ups of these majestic birds. Donations will be requested for Winged Ambassadors Environmental for care of the birds.

For more information and directions, visit the Trust’s website, call 770-486-7774 or
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State Botanical Garden opens 2010 art competition

The University of Georgia State Botanical Garden is conducting an art competition open to all Georgia college and high school students ninth grade and above, regardless of age. This competition, funded by The J.A. and H.G. Woodruff Jr. Charitable Trust, celebrates student talent by using the winning designs to create signature items for the State Botanical Garden Gift Shop. The artist of the winning design will be awarded $1,000. Other awards of $500 and $250, plus certificates of merit, will be awarded.The deadline is Dec. 10.

Artwork should be within a certain size and must be two-dimensional. Entrants should keep in mind that the goal is to create items for the State Botanical Garden Gift Shop, such as journals, scarves, t-shirts, travel mugs and other unique gift items. All two-dimensional media including pencil, pen and ink, paint, photography and computer enhanced graphics are permitted. A botanical or nature theme, including plants, birds, insects and other animals related to Georgia is encouraged. One color designs are welcome. The artwork does not need to be framed but should be signed.

For more information, see the complete guidelines at contact Connie Cottingham at 706/542-6014 or

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Enjoy Wildlife In Your Backyard!

Editor Note:  Fayette County is a wonderful stop for birds who choose to winter over.  Have you noticed the beautiful American Bald Eagles in Peachtree City?  Right now, four have been spotted gracefully flying above our homes.  It's just, well, wonderful.

(StatePoint) Are you thrilled by the sight of wildlife in its natural environment? If so, you don't need to travel for the experience. With a little effort, your own backyard can become a stopover for some of North America's most colorful wildlife. 

Fall and spring are migratory season in America as flocks of birds migrate between hemispheres. Like any weary traveler, these natives look for places to rest and refuel. Welcoming them to your yard is a way to protect our natural heritage and enjoy their beauty at the same time.

"Transforming your yard or garden into a wildlife refuge is fun," says Spencer Schock, Founder of WindowAlert, makers of bird-friendly products for homes. "Children love an outdoor project and the sight of wild birds adds dazzle to your family's seasonal experience."

Here are some tips for watching and keeping birds safe during migration:

* Birds migrate because of food, not weather. The cooler months make it more difficult to find sustenance, so placing a bird feeder in your backyard with water and high energy foods like meal worms, black oil sunflower seeds, or suet will help them complete their journey.

* Birds don't just take one long flight. They need lots of stopover and staging areas during their travels. Encourage them to linger in your backyard by providing shelter, such as a bird house. Opt for water-repellant bird houses with hinged roofs so the house can be cleaned after nesting. Avoid perches, which make birds easy prey for predators like cats.

* Man-made structures, even in rural areas, can be hazardous to migrating birds. For example, birds don't "see" clear glass and as a consequence, millions of birds worldwide die every year when striking glass. To protect birds from hitting your windows, you can apply special decals that reflect ultraviolet sunlight, such as those made by WindowAlert. The decals have the appearance of frosted glass -- so they won't ruin your view -- but glow like a stoplight for birds, with their unique ability to see ultraviolet rays.

* The best way to enjoy wildlife is to avoid interfering in any way. To do so, invest in good binoculars and get out in the early morning when birds are most active. A field guide book can help you identify the creatures you see.

* Record-keeping is not just for ornithologists. By keeping a journal of feeding and housing patterns of birds populating your backyard, you can be better prepared for next year. In addition, consider becoming a "citizen scientist" by submitting your observations to The Audubon Society and Cornell University's database at

For more information on making your home and garden a bird haven, visit or call 877-733-2753.

"There are many ways to assist birds on their journey, from installing birdbaths to applying window decals," says Schock. "Once you have made a few modifications, don't forget to enjoy that flash of color by the feeder."

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

UGA researchers to study transmission of human pathogen to coral reefs

The spread of lethal diseases from animals to humans has long been an issue of great concern to public health officials. But what about diseases that spread in the other direction, from humans to wildlife? A multidisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Georgia has just been awarded a five-year $2 million Ecology of Infectious Diseases grant from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health to study the first known case of such a “reverse zoonosis” that involves the transmission of a human pathogen to a marine invertebrate, elkhorn coral.

White pox disease has devastated coral reefs throughout the Caribbean and Florida Keys, and is believed to be responsible for much of the coral reef loss there since 1996. White pox disease is caused by a human strain of the common intestinal bacterium Serratia marcescens, which causes the hospital infection serratiosis. Historically, many emerging human diseases, such as AIDS and Ebola, have come from the natural world. The researchers are concerned that the transmission of Serratia marcescens from humans to elkhorn coralmay indicate the beginning of a new phenomenon of diseases jumping from humans to wildlife.

The UGA team will investigate the mechanisms of transmission of white pox disease and the factors that drive its emergence in marine animals. “This bacterium has jumped from vertebrate to invertebrate, from terrestrial to marine, and from anaerobic to aerobic environments,” said James W. Porter, associate dean of the Odum School of Ecology and the team’s leader. “Triple jumps like this are rare.” Understanding the modes of transmission will allow the scientists to attempt to predict future impacts of the disease and to begin to develop effective control strategies.

The scope of the team’s research will extend beyond gaining an understanding of the impact of white pox disease on elkhorn coral and how to counter it. The most likely source of the pathogen for coral reefs is under-treated human sewage, so the study will also explore the intersection of public health practices and environmental health outcomes.

“This investigation addresses not only environmental protection, but also the socio-ecological determinants of coastal zone protection,” said Porter. “This includes the cost of wastewater treatment infrastructure. Given a reliance on tourism by most Caribbean countries, this study addresses a disease system that is of great economic importance and public health concern to developing nations.”

The complexity of the problem required assembling a team of researchers from different scientific disciplines. “The Odum School is extremely well-positioned to lead this study,” said Dean John Gittleman. “Working effectively in collaboration with units from across campus is one of our strengths, and aquatic ecology, theoretical ecology and disease ecology are three of our areas of particular depth that facilitate such interdisciplinary team building.”

Porter, who has spent decades studying coral reefs in the Florida Keys and the Caribbean, said that this is the most exciting and groundbreaking study of his career. “This is science in action to save an endangered species and a threatened ecosystem,” he said. “We are linking good public health practices to effective environmental protection.”

Microbiologist Erin K. Lipp, associate professor of environmental health science in the College of Public Health, will be looking at the genetic diversity of Serratia marcescens to determine which of its different strains are pathogenic to corals, and why. She will collect and analyze samples to determine how the different strains of the bacterium are related, and will then conduct challenge experiments. “We’ll inoculate fragments of corals with different strains and see which cause signs of disease,” said Lipp. “If we can identify strains that do versus those that don’t cause disease, we can then conduct genetic comparisons to isolate the genes that are responsible.”

Assistant professor Andrew W. Park, who has a joint appointment in the School of Ecology and College of Veterinary Medicine department of infectious diseases, will use the data gathered by Porter and Lipp to create models to inform analysis of the spread of the disease. “My part of the project is about making sense of the data in terms of transmission,” said Park. “We’ll use the modeling to help test the hypothesis that there is variation for resistance to the bacteria and explore different candidate hypotheses for how the disease spreads. The pathogen can be spread in different ways—forinstance, by predatory snails, or through water currents. We’re trying to untangle all those competing explanations.”

John Wares, assistant professor of genetics in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, will be looking into the interactions of the pathogen with the microbial environment of coral reefs in the Caribbean. Unlike humans, corals do not have classic immune systems, with white blood cells to take on and destroy invading bacteria. Instead, they appear to rely primarily on external defense systems, such as beneficial bacteria that live on their surface. Wares will investigate this system to determine whether healthy bacterial communities can defend corals from disease. “This is essentially high-tech community ecology,” said Wares. “I’ll be looking at what organisms are living on the coral and what role they play in promoting coral immunity.” He said he is excited about the opportunity to use next-generation genetic sequencing, through the Georgia Genomics Facility at UGA. “In the past, we might have been limited to looking at a sample of a few hundred microbes from a given sample of the community,” he said. “For this study, we can study tens of thousands from each sample. It will be very powerful.”

Understanding the transmission process is critical, but Porter said that the study has wider implications. “By incorporating the role of land use practices and water quality into our environmental models of disease prevalence and transmission, this project will have particular significance for sustainable development activities and coastal-zone carrying capacity studies worldwide,” he said. “The modeling element of this study connects disease transmission with water quality, climate variability and patterns of human population density. We expect to show that if you upgrade land-based wastewater disposal systems you improve survival of economically important natural resources such as coral reefs.”

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Blue Suede blueberry perfect for home gardens

For years, University of Georgia plant breeder Scott NeSmith has created new blueberry varieties for the commercial market. Now, he has bred one just for home gardeners.

Blue Suede is a Southern highbush blueberry for edible home landscapes, said Nesmith, a horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

It produces flavorful, large, light-blue berries, and performs well in USDA Hardiness zones 6a through 9a.

“It bears attractive, very edible fruit and should look nice as a landscaping plant, too,” he said. “It has nice fall foliage color.”

Bred especially for home gardeners

Blue Suede is exclusively licensed to McCorkle Nursery, which plans to introduce it as part of their Gardener’s Confidence Collection early next year.

But isn’t a berry just a berry? NeSmith says he has to consider an entirely different list of characteristics when he breeds a blueberry plant for the commercial market.

“Commercial plants have to meet certain standards for several reasons, including the fact that berries have to travel long distances,” he said. “Yield is another factor. Commercial growers like all the berries of one variety to ripen at once, and then the next variety to come on. Home gardeners like to pick a bowlful at a time.”

Blue Suede has a “protracted ripening period,” he said, allowing harvest over a longer period of time.

Commercial berries have to survive shipping

Commercial growers also worry about problems like berry scarring. If a berry attaches to the plant, an open scar is created when it’s picked.

“You can’t have berries that leak and ooze while they are being shipped to the market,” he said. “But in a home setting, it doesn’t matter because you are going to eat them right away.”

When adding blueberry plants to your home landscape, Nesmith says to set aside the first year as a growing year for the plant. “You may see a small amount of fruit the second year, but the third year will bring a good blueberry crop,” he said.

Varieties bred for home planting like Blue Suede are designed to stand alone in the landscape. They are self-fruiting and do not require other plants for pollination.

“If you are a home consumer who wants to plant 10 to 15 blueberry bushes and create a patch, you may want to select a standard commercial variety,” NeSmith said.

Garden centers supplied by McCorkle's

McCorkle Nurseries is promoting Blue Suede as a deck or patio container plant.

“It’s perfect for people who live in condominiums or apartments and don’t have a space to plant more than one plant,” said Mike Sikes, a horticulturist with McCorkle Nurseries. “It’s perfect for all seasons, too. You can enjoy the beautiful colored foliage in the fall, green leaves in the winter, flowers in the spring and delicious berries in the summer.”

More to come

Blue Suede is the first UGA edible ornamental blueberry release, but it won’t be the last, Nesmith said. There are plans to breed and release blueberry plants that produce a variety of different traits.
“We are looking at one plant that produces a berry that turns yellow, orange and then kinda black,” he said. “They will all be very edible, very sweet and attractive in a landscape. One of our goals is to produce a plant that doesn’t just look like a stick most of the year.”

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia


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Monday, October 11, 2010

Pumpkin picking time has arrived

One of the surest signs that fall is upon us is the appearance of pumpkins for sale along roadsides. If the pumpkins are ready for harvest, frost can't be far behind.

The search for the perfect pumpkin has become almost as important as scouring the woods for the perfect Christmas tree. Pumpkins come in many shapes and sizes, and people's preferences vary.

Check the local roadside markets

So where do we find the one “Great Pumpkin” that will satisfy our holiday desires?

The best pumpkin may only be an afternoon's drive away. Or it could be waiting at the local supermarket. Many roadside stands and local grocers offer pumpkins. A growing number of local farms, too, offer hayrides to the field and let customers pick their own pumpkins. This is akin to the stroll in the forest looking for the right Christmas tree or the Thanksgiving morning turkey hunt for the day's main course.

So how do you pick a great pumpkin? The American Phytopathological Society suggests the following tips:

• Check for moldy areas or soft spots on the fruit (remember to check the bottom). Choose one with a hard rind.
• Check the stem attachment. Healthy stems are green and securely attached.
• Most pumpkin varieties are a dull to bright-orange when mature.
• Keep the pumpkin in a dry, shady place, and try to prevent it from freezing.
• To help a Jack-o-Lantern last through Halloween, don’t carve it until a few days before the event.
• Pick pumpkins before frost. Leave at least 3 to 4 inches of stem on the fruit.

Most Georgia-grown pumpkins grown in the north

Don't expect to always find a pumpkin that is locally grown. Georgia farmers only grow about 600 acres of them each year, although that figure has been rising. Most of the pumpkins grown in Georgia are in the northern third of the state, although there are a few south Georgia growers.

Plant viruses and insect pressure have traditionally made growing pumpkins in south Georgia hard to do. However, in recent years, new varieties developed by the University of Georgia show promise for disease resistance.

For harvest near Halloween or Thanksgiving, pumpkins must be planted in early to late June, depending on the variety. Don't expect to break the world record (more than 1,000 pounds). It's virtually impossible to grow competitively large pumpkins in Georgia’s climate. Limit your competition to local and state fairs.

By Paul Pugliese
University of Georgia

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Burn Ban Lifted as Instant Permitting System is Unveiled

Georgia’s annual ban on outdoor burning ended at midnight on September 30th, clearing the way for residents to use a fast, new burn permitting system provided by the Georgia Forestry Commission. By logging on to, users statewide can instantly receive a permit to burn hand-piled natural vegetation, when conditions in their communities are safe.

“Fifty-four counties, mostly in north Georgia, will have burn bans lifted that are imposed every year by the state Environmental Protection Division to comply with federal clean air regulations,” said Alan Dozier, Chief of Forest Protection for the Georgia Forestry Commission. “Open burning has been restricted in those areas since May to help manage the summertime surge in unhealthy ozone levels.
Those counties now join the rest of Georgia in having access to a simple new system that makes outdoor burning easier to conduct.”

The new 24-hour burn permitting process allows users to click through a simple online template that swiftly analyzes weather conditions, records user requests, and issues a numbered permit for use that day. Permits issued after dark are valid the following day. Residents who prefer to phone in their requests may still utilize 1-877-OK2-BURN (1-877-652-2876).

“The new automated system saves time for our customers who use the same computer to request permits,” explained Dozier. “The system ‘remembers’ the customer, and pulls up their previously entered data, which speeds the process.” Dozier said communities also benefit from the new system because it provides information about the location of permitted area burns and contact information for those in charge.

Permits are required for burning all natural vegetation that is hand piled, including leaf piles on the premises where they fall, and vegetative debris from storm damage, weed abatement, disease and/or pest prevention. It is unlawful to burn all man-made materials such as tires, shingles, plastic and lumber. Failure to secure a valid burn permit may result in penalties. If an unpermitted fire escapes and causes wildfire, suppression charges will be levied. The average suppression charge is $200.

Dozier noted that with mild to moderate drought conditions spreading across Georgia, extra caution will be necessary for anyone planning to burn outdoors. Fire safety tips and information about Georgia’s forest resource, visit

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Fall is pumpkin time and spider time

Whether you are an arachnophobe, or you just don’t like the creepy feeling of walking face first into a spider web, most people cringe when they see a spider. A University of Georgia expert says most spiders are actually helpful to keep around.

Brown recluse spiders seem to strike the most fear. Nancy Hinkle gets a lot of calls this time of year from people who think they’ve spotted a brown recluse.

Very few brown recluses live in Georgia

“We get calls about 'brown recluse' spiders being in webs outside people's houses,” said Hinkle, an entomologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “There are two fallacies there: brown recluses are never found in webs, and they're almost never outdoors.”

Hinkle says the spider gets its name for a reason. It’s reclusive and almost never seen. They have been found in less than 20 percent of Georgia counties, mostly in the northwest corner.

“In all of recorded history, fewer than 100 brown recluse spiders have been collected in Georgia, despite hundreds of pest control operators and entomology students avidly looking for them,” she said.

Web-makers and insect-eaters

There are plenty of other spiders in Georgia. Barn spiders are to blame for creating the webs most often walked into by people.

“I would bet that almost every home in Georgia has a barn spider on the porch or somewhere nearby this time of year,” she said.

Hinkle has one on her deck, one at her back door, and one at her front door. They’re handy to keep around, she said. Being nocturnal, they construct new webs every evening, where they wait to trap insects. Rusty brown with legs extending 2 inches, they’re noticeable this time of year.

“Their webs trap all sorts of flying pests,” she said. “People get annoyed when they walk into these webs and get silk covering their faces, but I consider that a people problem, not a spider problem.”

The yellow garden spider is one of the longest spiders in Georgia. Found in gardens and around shrubbery, it constructs large webs. The abdomen has distinctive yellow and black markings while the front part of the body is white.

The female typically remains in one spot throughout her life, repairing or reconstructing her web as it is damaged or ages. Also called the “writing spider,” its web may have a distinctive zigzag of silk through the middle.

Another common Georgia spider is the orb-weaver. It makes large webs, too.

Larger in the fall

Spiders have been living in Georgia landscapes all summer.

They’re now just large enough to be really noticed. The first hard frost will kill most of them, Hinkle said. Until then, they are busy mating and producing egg sacs that will overwinter and re-establish the population next spring.

In addition to relying on the spiders to help with outdoor pest control, Hinkle uses them to avoid doing lawn work.

“A golden garden spider has built her web attached to my lawnmower handle,” she said. “Not wanting to disturb her, I haven't mowed in weeks!”

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Have You Made Rechargeable Battery Recycling Part of Your Green Routine?

/PRNewswire/ -- Recycling 1 million pounds of rechargeable batteries in less than three months may have sounded impossible when Call2Recycle®, North America's only free rechargeable battery and cell phone collection program, launched its MyCall2Recycle awareness campaign in July. However, with less than two weeks remaining to successfully divert 1 million pounds of rechargeable batteries from U.S. landfills by Oct. 1, Call2Recycle collections reflect that more Americans are learning the importance and ease of battery recycling, and will continue to recycle long after the campaign ends.

To help ensure success in collecting 1 million pounds of batteries by Oct. 1, Call2Recycle is taking its battery recycling awareness efforts to the streets by kicking off a cross-country trip today with stops in four major markets: Atlanta (Monday, Sept. 20), Dallas-Fort Worth (Tuesday, Sept. 21), Chicago (Thursday, Sept. 23) and San Diego (Friday, Sept. 24). These markets, selected for their history of success in battery recycling efforts, are also in competition with one another to earn the title "Call2Recycle's Greenest City in America." The winning market will be selected based on total pounds of rechargeable batteries collected between July 1 and Oct. 1.

"We have collected more than 800,000 pounds of rechargeable batteries since the campaign launched, so we are certain that Americans heard our petition to help us recycle 1 million pounds by Oct. 1. More importantly, we hope that the MyCall2Recycle campaign inspired people to think about why battery recycling is important and make it a part of their ongoing green routine," said Carl Smith, president and CEO of Call2Recycle.

In addition to the battery collection drives, Call2Recycle is hosting an online video contest as part of the MyCall2Recycle campaign. People are invited to visit and upload a short video explaining what inspires them to recycle for a chance to win a Flip Video® SlideHD™, DeWALT cordless power tools, a Nintendo DSi™ or a Powermat™. All contest entrants also receive an eco-tote bag.

Rechargeable batteries are a long-lasting, eco-friendly power source for many electronic devices, including laptop computers, cell phones, cordless phones, cordless power tools, digital cameras and PDAs. They can be recycled at any of Call2Recycle's 30,000 collection sites throughout North America, including many locations of MyCall2Recycle campaign partners DeWALT Factory Service Center, Lowe's, RadioShack and Staples.

For additional details, visit Become a follower or fan at or

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bed Bugs Can Be Controlled Without Toxic Pesticides

/PRNewswire/ -- The recent bed bug resurgence across the U.S. has homeowners and apartment dwellers taking desperate measures to eradicate these tenacious bloodsuckers, with some relying on dangerous outdoor pesticides and fly-by-night exterminators. Even pesticides registered by EPA for bed bug use are linked to acute poisoning, cancer, hormone disruption, asthma, neurotoxicity, organ damage, and more. These measures pose more dangers than any perceived short-term benefit. And while bed bugs are a serious nuisance, they are not known to transmit any diseases.

While there is no magic bullet solution to bed bug eradication, there are many ways to effectively control them without the use of dangerous chemical pesticides. To solve the bed bug problem nationwide, it is going to take a comprehensive public health campaign -public-service announcements, travel tips and perhaps even government-sponsored integrated pest management (IPM) programs for public housing and other high density areas. Bed bugs in the home can be effectively controlled through a comprehensive strategy that incorporates monitoring, sanitation, sealing, heat treatments, and more.

Below are steps that can effectively reduce and eliminate bed bug populations in homes. A complete factsheet is available at

-- Caulk and seal crevices. Prevent bed bugs from entering the home.
-- Eliminate clutter. Getting rid of as much clutter as possible will
help locate and eliminate infestations.
-- Vacuum. This will only remove visible bed bugs, but is important to
get rid of dead bed bugs and their frass. Use a stiff brush to
dislodge eggs in cracks and crevices and use a vacuum attachment that
does not have bristles to get into the corners. Be sure to discard the
bag immediately after vacuuming.
-- Launder Fabrics and Clothing. Wash and dry clothing for 30 minutes or
a full cycle at the hottest setting the fabric will allow. Dry
clean-only clothes can simply be put into the dryer. If the fabric is
too delicate for the hottest temperature, place it on a lower heat
setting and let it run for the full cycle.
-- Encase mattresses and box springs. Make sure the encasement has been
tested for bed bugs and will not rip and does not contain synthetic
pesticides impregnated in the material. It will eventually kill all
bed bugs inside.
-- Steam Treatment. Steam treatment will kill all stages of bedbugs. Move
the nozzle over the bed bugs at a rate of 20 seconds per linear foot,
and wrap a piece of fabric over the upholstery nozzle to reduce water
pressure to make sure bed bugs do not blow away. Many pest control
companies provide this option, but customers may have to ask for it.
-- Heat Treatment. Heat, either blown with a fan or ambient, can provide
complete control of bed bugs, if all areas of infestation reach 120
degrees F.

For more information, please visit

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Hunters Contribute Billions to Conservation Efforts

The largest, most successful wildlife conservation program in the world, the Federal Wildlife Restoration Program, is fueled by hunters.

Over the past 70 years, hunters nationwide have contributed more than $6.4 billion dollars to wildlife conservation efforts.  In Georgia alone, since 1939, hunters have contributed more than $137 million for wildlife conservation in Georgia.

“The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program is the most successful wildlife conservation program in the world and serves as a financial cornerstone to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. It benefits all wildlife species, conserves and restores habitat and helps enhance wildlife conservation through research,” said John W. Bowers, Wildlife Resources Division Game Management assistant chief. “Through this program, America’s hunters continue to provide the most substantial source of funding for wildlife conservation and management in the United States.”

The program was established through the Pittman-Robertson Act in 1937. Through lobbying efforts in Congress, America’s hunters created this act as a way to fund conservation and management of the nation’s wildlife. Wildlife Restoration funds are accumulated from excise taxes on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment. This excise tax is levied at the manufacturer’s level, collected by the Federal government, and distributed to state wildlife agencies to fund wildlife conservation and management programs. The amount of money each state agency annually receives is determined by the number of paid hunting licenses and the land area of the state.

The Wildlife Resources Division uses Wildlife Restoration funds for various types of programs, including restoring habitat and improving wildlife populations, conducting research, monitoring wildlife populations, operating more than one million acres of wildlife management areas that benefit a diversity of wildlife species and provide wildlife-related recreational opportunities, providing information to landowners on how to manage their property for various species, conducting hunter education classes and building and maintaining public shooting ranges.

For more information on the Federal Wildlife Restoration Program, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website .  For more information on wildlife management practices in Georgia, visit the Wildlife Resources Division website at , contact a local Game Management office or call (770) 918-6416.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Nature Conservancy and IBM Launch Program for Sustaining Watersheds

/PRNewswire/ -- The Nature Conservancy and IBM (NYSE:IBM) today announced plans to launch a free Web site this fall called Rivers for Tomorrow, where watershed managers can map, analyze and share detailed information about the health of local freshwater river basins to inform clean up programs.

The online application will provide easy access to data and computer models to help watershed managers assess how land use affects water quality. Issues such as water availability, soil loss, carbon production, and crop yields can be explored and analyzed to help understand how to mount clean up efforts. Users will be able to run a variety of "what-if" scenarios and create hypothetical models to shed light on the potential or continued consequences of development and policies in and around a watershed. The Web site depicts scenarios that have been pre-computed based on current and historical information, so planners and others can get right to work.

Typically, tools and information -- especially satellite information and analytical tools -- have been hard for the average watershed manager to obtain. Rivers for Tomorrow will address this challenge by making the information readily available. It will even provide software so managers can take spending issues into consideration when formulating their plans.

The initial pilot project for Rivers for Tomorrow is being conducted in the Paraguay and Parana River basins in Brazil, although the tools on the Rivers for Tomorrow Web site will eventually be useable by any watershed manager around the world.

Rivers for Tomorrow was developed by The Nature Conservancy in close consultation with scientists at University of Wisconsin's Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE), University of Southern Mississippi, and several Brazilian universities including, the University of Sao Paulo, the Federal University of Mato Grosso and the University of Brasilia.

"The 21st Century presents unprecedented challenges to the long-term viability of the world's great river systems, and the management decisions we make today about dams, agricultural development and freshwater conservation will affect the livelihoods of millions of people for years to come," said Michael Reuter, executive director of The Nature Conservancy's Great Rivers Partnership. "It's not a crystal ball, but the IBM application will help local communities envision alternative futures."

"Waterways are the lifeblood of our planet, and responsible stewardship means that experts must have access to the right kind of information about these ecosystems, and the tools to interpret and share the data, this is what ought to drive clean up efforts," said John Tolva, technology director of IBM's Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs. "That's why IBM is so pleased to be working with The Nature Conservancy on the Rivers for Tomorrow project, which we believe will equip stakeholders with new and clearer perspectives about our watersheds, and help them make smarter decisions."

The Nature Conservancy is one of the largest environmental groups in the world with more than one-million members that have helped protect 130 million acres of ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy works in 34 countries and in all 50 U.S. states.

As part of its corporate citizenship efforts, IBM provided the technical services to design, develop and test this Web application. IBM also today announced a series of new, water-related research projects being hosted on the World Community Grid, another project managed by IBM's philanthropic arm.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Fight spring, summer turfgrass diseases now

Fall is a great time to guard against spring and summer diseases on warm-season grasses.
Spring dead spot, or SDS, is one of the most common and important diseases on bermudagrass in Georgia. It is difficult to manage without an integrated approach. The disease is most common on intensively maintained turf like golf courses or lawns.

SDS causes dead patches

The characteristic dead patches appear in the spring when the grass is breaking dormancy, and the problem can persist well into summer. The fungus that causes the disease attacks the roots and stolons in the fall and winter. This makes the grass more vulnerable to winter freeze damage, which leads to the dead patches of grass.

Late September through October is the best time to apply preventative fungicide applications if SDS has been a problem this past season. But this won’t provide complete control. Most infections can be eventually eliminated over a period of years by combining fall fungicide applications with sound cultural practices.

But maintaining a disease free lawn in the coming years can only be accomplished by eliminating the stress that allowed the disease organisms to attack the lawn in the first place. Lawns are stressed by poor soil conditions combined with an imbalance of nutrients. Compaction, poor drainage and thatch thicker than one inch are linked to SDS outbreaks.

Follow these tips

Applying nitrogen late in the season or excess nitrogen, especially with a potassium deficiency, can encourage the development of disease. An integrated management program to improve the lawn’s health includes the following steps:
• When planting new lawns, use cold tolerant cultivars.
• Aerate and remove thatch regularly.
• Irrigate deeply and less frequently. (Once per week in the absence of adequate rain.)
• Mow at the recommended height. Low-mowing height stresses lawns.
• Monitor pH and nutrient levels on a regular basis with soil tests. Keep potassium and phosphorus in balance with nitrogen.
• Maintain a pH between 5.5 and 6.0 if disease has been a problem. The pH can be lowered by using ammonium sulfate as a nitrogen source.
• Apply moderate levels of potassium in September and October to increase cold hardiness. If a deficiency of potassium is indicated on a soil test, two applications of potassium sulfate or potassium chloride can be applied at a 3 to 4 week interval for a total of 1 lb. of K2O per 1,000 sq. ft. Excess potassium should be avoided as it can also encourage disease.
• Do not apply nitrogen after August. Nitrogen should be added in recommended amounts in late spring and early summer. Use moderate amounts of nitrogen during the summer so that excess nitrogen is not carried over into the fall.
• Apply fungicides in late September or October if SDS was a problem the previous spring.

Other warm-season grasses, such as zoysia, centipede and St. Augustine, will also benefit from these general recommendations to prevent diseases like take-all and Rhizoctonia large patch. Follow recommendations for fertilizer applications for the particular grass species. A pH of approximately 6.5 is generally optimum for warm-season grasses.

See these sites for more help

For more information on maintaining turfgrass in Georgia, see the website For fungicide recommendations, contact your local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent or consult the Georgia Pest Management Handbook for Homeowners at

By Elizabeth L. Little 

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fire ant treatment time

It’s that time of year again. School is back in session, football is around the corner, fall harvesting will begin, and it’s time to fight fire ants, says a University of Georgia entomologist.

Most people treat when they see active fire ants. “April and September are good times to apply baits, once at the start of the season and toward the end to help control before they come back in the spring,” said Will Hudson, a professor with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Fire ants are most active in warm weather. Fire ant season can last 10 to 11 months out of the year in the most southern areas of Georgia.

Controlling ant colonies before they produce a mound is important. However, Hudson says that once a treatment program is in effect, timing is not all that important.

Baits and sprays

The general rule of thumb is if the area is one acre or less, don’t use baits. Re-infestation is more likely from colonies outside of the yard when baits are used.

One important thing to remember is the difference between ‘no mounds’ and ‘no ants.’

“There is a difference between eliminating ants and controlling them,” he said. “Baits do not eliminate ants because there is no residual control. A new colony can still come in and be unaffected by the bait laid down prior to their arrival.”

To eliminate mounds completely, apply baits every six months, Hudson said. “There will be invasion in the meantime, and you will still have fire ants, just not enough to create a new mound,” he said.
The least effective treatment option for most people is individual mound treatments, according to Hudson.

Treating mounds in general is going to be an exercise of frustration, and killing an entire colony by treating just the mound is a challenge, he said.

Hudson recommends treating lawns with a registered insecticide in a liquid solution. Use a hose-end sprayer for good coverage. This should rid the lawn of fire ants for one to three months.

If you choose a granular product, measure carefully to be sure you apply the correct amount of material and get good, even coverage, he said.

Minimal impact

Baits are considered to have minimal environmental effects for those who chose not to use hazardous chemicals. Once the bait is out, there is hardly anytime for anything to come in contact with it before the ants get to it.

Other nonchemical options include using steam or boiling water.

“We recommend using boiling water to treat a mound near an area such as a well where you do not want any chemicals,” Hudson said. “Using hot water is very effective, but the problem is you are not always able to boil the water right next to the area you want treated.”

Carrying the boiling water can inflict serious burns, so extreme caution should be used when treating with this method.

There are products on the market that are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and labeled as organic. Hudson says organic designation is a “slippery” definition. There is an official USDA certification and many states have their own set of regulations when labeling a product as organic. This labeling can mean the product is either a natural product or derived from a natural product.

“While there are a few products that qualify as organic, with most baits the actual amount of pesticide applied is minimal,” he said.

Realistic expectations

Hudson says to be careful when choosing a product because the labels can be confusing, even deceptive, and it is difficult to make the right choice. For assistance in selecting a product, contact a pest-control professional or your local UGA Cooperative Extension agent.

“The most important thing to remember is that you need to be realistic in your expectations,” Hudson said. “If you are treating mounds, you need to be prepared. You are going to chase the mounds around the yard.”

By Sarah Lewis

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Trade Your Lawn For A Ground Cover

(NAPSI)-If you're considering what to do about a hard-to-mow patch of your garden, ground cover may have it covered. Most ground covers require less work and fewer chemicals than a lawn--and they never need mowing.

Ground covers do exactly what their name implies: cover the ground with dense plant growth, choking out weeds and lending color and texture to a space. Even hostas and daylilies can be considered ground covers.

Regular turfgrass does a good job if you have a very large, sunny yard. But if you have a smaller area, a spot with shady pockets where turfgrass struggles, a difficult slope where mowing is difficult or another unusual situation, a ground cover can work wonders.

Many ground covers don't like to be walked on, but a few, such as creeping thyme or brass buttons (Leptinella squalida "Platt's Black"), tolerate some foot traffic and look great when planted between pavers and flagstones. Pink Chintz even sports tiny pink flowers in early spring.

If you want color in a partially sunny to sunny area, try the three-part Forever & Ever® GroundCover Sedum Carpet Collection. Golden foliage and flowers from Angelina, bronzy-red leaves and red flowers from Red Carpet and rich green foliage and yellow flowers from Kamschaticum sedum will light up the space.

Many sedums, including John Creech, Sedum divergens, Blue Spruce and Ogon, serve as reliable and beautiful ground covers whose stems can be left for months to provide winter interest. Just clip or break off the old dry stems in early spring before new growth starts.

Ornamental grasses, which come in various heights and shapes, work well in sunny spaces.

In partial to full sun, try a silver-veined winter creeper called Wolong Ghost, a type of spreading euonymus that just needs regular water to stay looking fresh.

Vinca minor, a stalwart ground cover for shade, gets a makeover with "Merlot." Instead of the traditional blue flowers, you'll get burgundy flowers in spring. Or seek out "Double Bowles" vinca minor, with a ruffle of extra petals in a lighter shade of violet.

All these tough ground covers are available at home and garden centers.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Jekyll Island to Host Public Meeting for Conservation Plan September 8

/PRNewswire/ -- The Jekyll Island Conservation Planning Committee is hosting a public meeting Wednesday, September 8 in their efforts to attain valuable feedback for the development of their Conservation Plan. The meeting will be held on the island at McCormick's Grill, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. This meeting marks the first in a series designed to encourage dialogue between the Committee and the interested public.

"Because this is such a critical platform, engaging the public is the first step our committee is taking," said Dr. Terry Norton, leader of the Conservation Committee and Director of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. "We want to make sure the public's voice is heard within this plan."

AECOM Technical Services, Inc., a global leader in providing integrated professional technical and management support services, is teaming up with the Committee to aid in the development of the Conservation Plan. Dr. Jay Exum, the Principle Ecologist at AECOM, along with Committee representatives will present to the public their key objectives and schedule for the Plan. Feedback from the public meeting will be documented and utilized in the plan development.

The objective of the Conservation Plan is to complete a design and develop a framework and content that will serve as a valuable management tool in protecting and enhancing Jekyll Island's natural areas.

"The Conservation Plan is a key policy initiative," stated Jekyll Island Authority board member and Conservation/Preservation Committee chairman Richard Royal. "I'm pleased to have active involvement from the public and the conservation community. This will make the plan that much better."

It is mandatory that 65% of the island remain undeveloped, for this reason, every aspect of the revitalization is carefully analyzed by the Jekyll Island Authority and its Board of Directors to ensure that each development site keeps to the set guidelines and ordinances.

Jekyll Island's Conservation Plan is anticipated to be completed by the beginning of next year.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

$1.9 Billion – Amount Buying Locally Grown Produce Sales Would Pump Into Georgia’s Economy, Study Says

For the first time we can begin to paint a picture of the impact that buying locally grown produce would have on Georgia’s economy, thanks to research conducted by the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development.

The study, “The Local Food Impact: What if Georgians Ate Georgia Produce?” reports that, if each of the approximately 3.7 million households in the state devoted $10 per week to produce grown in Georgia, more than $1.9 billion would be pumped back into the state’s economy.

And for every 5 percent increase in local produce purchasing, the state would see 345 additional jobs, $43.7 million more in sales, and $13.6 million more in farmer income.

“These findings are some of the strongest demonstrations so far of what a small change in consumer behavior could mean for farmers, and for the entire state,” says Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls. “More than that, I hope this study gets leaders state-wide asking why we don’t see every day foods for our Southern diets growing in the fields of Georgia.”

The study also found that Georgians eat less than the national average of locally grown food. The study’s authors generated scenarios that approximate what agriculture production would be like if Georgians consumed the national average of locally grown food. Currently, direct farmer to consumer sales contribute 132 jobs, $4.5 million in labor income, and $14.4 million in sales.

If Georgia produce farmers increased direct farm-to-consumer produce sales to the national average level, the result would be an overall statewide contribution of 228 jobs, $8.1 million in labor income, and $25.8 million in sales.

In addition, study authors analyzed the potential of individual crops by comparing the amount that average Georgians eat, and the amount that Georgia farmers grow.

They found, for example, the average Georgian eats about 30 pounds of fresh lettuce per year, or about 285 million pounds state-wide. Yet the state produces less than 245,000 pounds per year, which is less than one-tenth of one percent of the amount of lettuce that Georgians consume. Closing that gap would generate an additional $83.6 million in lettuce sales.

Similarly, there are major gaps for other produce, including a $228 million gap for apples, a $62 million gap for bell peppers, a $46 million gap for a broccoli, a $12.8 million gap for carrots, a $124 million gap for pecans, a $235 million gap for tomatoes, and a $93 million gap for watermelon.

“Looking at the quantity of foods directly marketed in Georgia, there is a tremendous opportunity there,” says author study Kent Wolfe, agricultural economist with the Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development. “Georgia’s food product sales directly to consumers account for a small fraction of their total sales. Farmers get to keep a larger percentage of their food dollar when they sell directly to stores, restaurants or other consumers.”

According to the 2007 Agricultural Census, Georgia’s direct sales accounted for .18 percent of their total sales. Rhode Island sold 9.5 percent of its agricultural products directly to consumers and Massachusetts sold 8.5 percent through direct sales.

To access the entire study, which was funded by the Center of Innovation for Agribusiness along with the other partners, click here.
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

USDA Reminds Producers of Approaching Sign-Up Deadline for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

 The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) reminds producers that the deadline to enroll in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general sign-up is quickly approaching. Farmers and ranchers have until close of business on Friday, Aug. 27, 2010, to offer eligible land for CRP's competitive general sign-up. Applications can be completed by land owners at the FSA county office where their farm records are maintained. The 2008 Farm Bill authorized USDA to maintain CRP enrollment up to 32 million acres.

In addition to producers signing up for the first time, CRP participants with existing contracts that are scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, 2010, may elect to re-enroll under a new 10-15 year contract. Cropland that is highly erodible, or within a national or state Conservation Priority Area, or is covered under an expiring CRP contract is generally eligible to be enrolled into CRP, provided all other eligibility requirements are met.

Contracts awarded under this 39th sign-up are scheduled to become effective Oct. 1, 2010.

CRP is a voluntary program that helps farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers protect their environmentally sensitive land. Producers enrolling in CRP plant long-term, resource-conserving covers in exchange for rental payments, cost-share and technical assistance.

In addition to the general sign-up, CRP's continuous sign-up program is ongoing. Continuous acres represent the most environmentally desirable and sensitive land.

For more information on the general CRP sign-up, or the continuous CRP sign-up, producers should contact their local FSA county office, or visit

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Hot tips for cool crops: Get growing on your fall garden

(ARA) - You might think the end of summer means bidding farewell to fresh, homegrown veggies. Not so - many cool-season crops hit their heyday as autumn temperatures drop, and some even taste better when nipped by a light frost.

As long as their basic growing conditions are met, vegetable plants don't care what season it is. If you live in a warmer climate, you may be able to grow your fall garden all winter long. If, however, you live in a colder area, your growing season will be shorter.

In most regions of the country, gardeners plant fall vegetables in August or September for harvest in October and November. You'll need to carefully calculate your growing season so you can ensure plants have time to produce before freezing weather arrives. Generally, you should plant fall vegetables when daytime temperatures range between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (the cooler the better); night temperatures should be above 40 degrees, and you'll need enough sunshine to ensure plants will get at least six hours of sun per day. You'll also need to give plants at least an inch of water per week.

To get started, remove all the debris left over from your summer garden so fall crops have plenty of room to grow. Add compost to your garden beds and landscapes. Soil should be light, well-aerated and well-draining - since fall gardens are more likely to get soggy from rain. Mulch will keep the soil cool and moist during the last days of summer.

You can also mix in an all natural fertilizer like Bonnie Plants, Herb and Vegetable Plant Food, made from soybean oilseed extract, known to contain 150,000 nutritional and organic compounds that include vitamins, minerals, amino acids and proteins, enzymes, plant hormones and carbohydrates. All are vital to plant growth. Next, find out your local frost and freeze dates. For most areas, frost doesn't have to end the fall growing season. Monitor your local weather forecast during late September and early October so you know when frost is coming.

Once you know your local frost and freeze dates, you can begin planning - and planting - your fall garden. Remember, when growing vegetables in the fall, plants need to be in the ground in time to mature before the first frost, and to yield most of their harvest before the first heavy freeze. Some cool-season crops mature in as little as 30 to 40 days, while others may take several months to produce.

Since time is of the essence when planting a fall garden, start out with transplants that are already growing. Choose fast-maturing varieties, like Bonnie Plants, to get the most for your harvest. The gardening experts at Bonnie suggest these fall crops:

* Winterbor kale - This vigorous producer weathers winter easily, even in very cold climates. Cut outer leaves so that the center can continue growing. Space transplants about 12 inches apart

* Georgia collards - Another leafy green similar to kale, Georgia collards are prized for their sweet, cabbage-like flavor. Space transplants 36 inches apart.

* Romaine lettuce -- Romaine packs more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients than other popular types of lettuce. Space transplants 18 inches apart.

* Early dividend broccoli - Popular, productive and easy to grow, this broccoli is high in fiber and calcium. Set transplants 18 inches apart.

* Mustard greens - Offering spicy hot leaves, this is a very fast-growing, nutritious vegetable. Mustard greens always taste sweeter when nipped by frost. Space plants 12 inches apart.

* Bonnie hybrid cabbage - Bonnie's best cabbage is high in beta-carotene, vitamins C and K, and fiber. Space transplants 24 inches apart.

* Arugula - These fast-growing leafy greens are super-food for your bones. The leaves are "nutrient dense" and low in calories. Leaves grow best in cool weather.

As winter grows closer, you can extend your garden harvest by using floating row covers on frosty nights, or by planting in containers that can be brought indoors overnight. Be ready with some kind of protection to cover your plants. You can opt for something commercially manufactured, such as cloches, polyethylene blankets and corrugated fiberglass covers, or try simple household items like old towels, bed sheets, or even used plastic milk jugs with the bottoms removed.

You can continue to enjoy fresh, homegrown vegetables through fall and even into winter when you start with some expert knowledge and the right plants. To learn more about growing a fall garden visit

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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