Gov. Nathan Deal recognized three corporate forest landowners today for their stewardship and land management practices benefiting Georgia’s wildlife.
CatchMark Timber Trust, Plum Creek and Georgia Power were honored by Gov. Deal as 2014 partners in the Forestry for Wildlife Partnership, a program administered by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.
Forestry for Wildlife Partnership is a voluntary program that promotes sustainable forest and wildlife conservation in corporate forestry practices. Partners select and tailor guidelines to improve management for reforestation, harvesting techniques, recreation, sensitive sites and outreach.
Representatives were recognized in a brief ceremony Wednesday at the State Capitol including DNR Commissioner Mark Williams, Deputy Commissioner Walter Rabon, Wildlife Resources Division Director Dan Forster and others.
Forster noted that with more than 90 percent of Georgia forestland in private ownership, successful wildlife management requires conservation leadership in the state’s private and corporate sector. The 2014 partners had a positive impact for wildlife on 1,054,299 acres.
“As Forestry for Wildlife partners, CatchMark Timber Trust, Plum Creek and Georgia Power have gone beyond industry standards to manage the forest lands they own for the benefit of Georgia’s wildlife,” Gov. Deal said. “It is clear these companies are committed to growing and sustaining our forests, and I am grateful for their significant contributions.”
The current partners have long been part of the conservation program: Georgia Power since it started in 1999, Plum Creek since 2004 and CatchMark Timber Trust, previously as Wells Timberland, since 2011.
The Wildlife Resources Division recognized the three as Forestry for Wildlife Partners for:
- Preparing wildlife conservation plans that detail natural resource inventories and outline management strategies that combine forest and wildlife aspects.
- Providing internal training opportunities for employees on how to blend forestland management with wildlife-friendly practices for multiple natural resource benefits.
- Incorporating wildlife management into land-use planning and timber management practices.
- Providing valuable data for Wildlife Resources Division research projects.
- Providing public recreational opportunities on corporate forestlands.
- Participating in partnerships with conservation organizations.
- Managing riparian forests for wildlife use and water quality protection.
Habitat abundance and natural quality are the foundation for wildlife. Georgia has more than 24 million acres of forestland. Of that, corporate forest landowners manage about 12 percent.
The efforts of Forestry for Wildlife partners have benefited endangered red-cockaded woodpecker habitats, bald eagle and swallow-tailed kite nesting, wetlands critical to protected reptiles and amphibians, and rare remnant Coosa Valley and Black Belt prairie habitats containing endangered plants. The partnerships also provide the public with many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, including hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing.
Some examples of partners’ work in fiscal year 2014 include:
- Plum Creek joined with DNR and others to explore opportunities to maintain and enhance habitat for gopher tortoises, a candidate for federal listing. The company also worked with The Nature Conservancy to manage Coosa Valley prairies in northwest Georgia, a system including rare plants such as endangered whorled sunflower, and with DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section to restore montane longleaf pine habitat on Pine Mountain in middle Georgia.
- Georgia Power continued a prescribed fire program that applies restorative fires to more than 5,000 acres of fire-dependent habitats a year, and took part in DNR’s Safe Harbor program for red-cockaded woodpeckers. Along with eight other partners, the company also signed a Candidate Conservation Agreement to protect Georgia aster and its ecosystem, an agreement cited in the decision not to add the wildflower to the Endangered Species list.
- CatchMark Timber Trust continued to work with the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect habitat for endangered fringed campion on company lands in Talbot County. The company also thinned and burned pine plantations to allow native understory plants to grow and benefit wildlife; monitored and treated invasive species on company lands; and, sponsored an Outdoors Without Limits hunt, providing recreation opportunities for people with physical or mental disabilities.
All of the conservation enhancement components and reporting procedures are compatible with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc., a voluntary approach in the forest industry to maintain high environmental standards on lands managed by corporate landowners.