Georgia Conservation Summary

From cascading mountain streams to placid blackwater rivers, oak-shaded coastal hammocks to windswept mountain ridges, weathered granite outcrops to quiet cypress swamps, Georgia’s varied landscape provides habitats for a vast array of wildlife species. The largest state east of the Mississippi River, Georgia includes portions of five physiographic provinces, six ecoregions, and fourteen major watersheds. As a result of this diversity, Georgia is among the top states in species richness, ranking fifth in the number of vascular plants and vertebrate animals.

Georgia also ranks among the top states in terms of the number of rare or endemic species. Examples of the latter include hairy rattleweed, whose global range consists of portions of two counties in the lower Coastal Plain of Georgia, and the Pigeon Mountain salamander, restricted to the eastern edge of the Cumberland Plateau in the northwestern corner of the state. More than 1,100 of the state’s plant and animal species have been classified as species of conservation concern, with 318 protected by federal or state law.

Public and Private Conservation Efforts

A key roadmap for conservation – Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan – was completed in 2005. This plan, developed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) with input from a wide array of federal, state, and private organizations, will provide guidance for wildlife conservation efforts in the coming years. The plan includes prioritized action items to address conservation needs of native birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fishes, invertebrates, and plants. More than 30 organizations are cooperating with WRD in the implementation of the Wildlife Action Plan.

During the past four years, the State of Georgia has acquired thousands of acres of valuable wildlife habitat that will be managed as natural areas or wildlife management areas. As a result of long-term management efforts, species like the bald eagle and red-cockaded woodpecker are making strong recoveries in the state. The Nongame Conservation Section has produced a wide variety of posters, brochures, field guides and fact sheets to help inform the public about important species and habitats. Funding for regional education centers helped roughly 200,000 Georgia students learn about wildlife through hands-on experiences. New programs that provide financial incentives for habitat conservation on private lands have resulted in the protection of thousands of acres through conservation easements or long-term management agreements. With support from the state’s residents, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and its conservation partners will continue their efforts to protect and conserve this state’s natural heritage.

Threats

Georgia is among the fastest-growing states in the nation, and critical wildlife habitats are being lost or degraded each year as a result of human population growth and infrastructure expansion. The challenges presented by this growth, along with the impacts of climate change, invasive species, and other factors are immense, and financial support for wildlife conservation is limited. The Nongame Conservation Section of WRD is responsible for conservation and education programs that benefit Georgia’s nongame species and their habitats. Funding for these important programs comes entirely from private contributions and grants, and there is no long-term dedicated funding source for land conservation.

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