ATLANTA - Gov. Nathan Deal recognized three corporate forest landowners Wednesday for their stewardship in land management and practices benefiting the state's wildlife.
Plum Creek, Georgia Power and Wells Timberland were honored by Gov. Deal for participating in the 2011 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 blending wildlife conservation into corporate forestry practices and offers choices through which landowners build a program compatible with their forest management objectives.
"As Forestry for Wildlife partners, these companies have exhibited their willingness to go beyond industry standards in managing their lands to benefit wildlife," Gov. Deal said. "With more than 90 percent of Georgia's forestland in private ownership, successful wildlife management requires this type of conservation leadership."
DNR Commissioner Mark Williams and DNR Wildlife Resources Division Director Dan Forster joined the presentation at the State Capitol.
Georgia Power, Wells Timberland and Plum Creek have helped improve nearly 974,000 acres for wildlife. The Wildlife Resources Division recognized the three as Forestry for Wildlife Partners for integrating wildlife conservation practices into their forest management programs. Some of the practices included:
â— Preparing wildlife conservation plans that detail natural resources inventories and outline management strategies that combine forest and wildlife aspects.
â— Providing internal training opportunities for employees on how to blend forestland management with wildlife-friendly practices for multiple natural resource benefits.
â— Incorporating wildlife management into land-use planning and timber management practices.
â— Providing valuable data for Wildlife Resources Division research projects.
â— Providing public recreational opportunities on corporate forestlands.
â— Participating in partnerships with conservation organizations.
â— Managing riparian forests for wildlife use and water quality protection.
Habitat is the key to wildlife abundance. Georgia has more than 24 million acres of forestland. Of that, more than 90 percent is privately owned. Corporate forest landowners manage about 12 percent.
Georgia Power helped develop the Forestry for Wildlife Partnership in the 1990s and Plum Creek joined in 2004. Last year marked Wells Timberland's first in the program.
Forster welcomed Wells Timberland, saying their involvement underscores both the company's emphasis on achieving conservation objectives and the success of Forestry for Wildlife Partnership.
"Because the vast majority of Georgia's wildlife habitat is found on private lands, it is critically important that we find creative and sustainable ways to partner with private landowners to meet our mission of wildlife conservation," Forster said. "Working with some of Georgia's large corporate landowners through this innovative program provides the most cost-effective scale for us to work on private lands to address important conservation needs."
Efforts benefiting from Forestry for Wildlife include management of endangered red-cockaded woodpecker habitats, bald eagle and swallow-tailed kite nesting, isolated wetlands critical to protected reptiles and amphibians, and rare remnant Coosa Valley prairie and Black Belt prairie habitats containing endangered plants. The partnerships also provide numerous public hunting opportunities.
Among the 2011 partners, Plum Creek used less-intensive site preparations to retain native groundcover and continued working with partners like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect wading bird rookeries; Georgia Power expanded its use of prescribed fire and further developed conservation partnerships with groups such as the Georgia Wildlife Federation; and, Wells Timberland sufficiently thinned pine plantations to allow native understory plants to grow into beneficial wildlife habitat.
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.
Call (770) 761-1697 or go to www.georgiawildlife.com for more information about the Forestry for Wildlife Partnership or other private lands initiatives.