Georgia Wildlife Action Plan

By the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

The Georgia Wildlife Action Plan emphasizes activities that lead to more effective wildlife conservation at local and state levels. The goal of the Wildlife Action Plan is to conserve Georgia’s animals, plants and natural habitats through proactive measures emphasizing voluntary and incentive-based programs on private lands, habitat restoration and management by public agencies and private conservation organizations, rare species survey and recovery efforts, and environmental education and public outreach activities.

Innovative analytical approaches and methods were utilized to explore new ways of identifying and addressing conservation priorities for species and habitats in Georgia. Examples include development of datasets and analytical tools to allow historic vegetation mapping, and the use of land cover data, along with species-habitat models and documented rare species occurrence data, to identify potential “conservation opportunity areas”. Other approaches include delineation of high-priority streams and watersheds, and the development of recommendations for new ways of sharing biodiversity information and conservation messages with other public agencies, private conservation organizations, educators, land managers and the general public.

A list of 296 high-priority animals and 323 high-priority plants was developed based on input from Department of Natural Resources staff and other biologists. High-priority habitats and landscape features were also identified for each of five ecological regions of the state. Specific programs to address conservation needs for these species and habitats were identified and ranked, and resources, partnerships, performance indicators and monitoring needs were identified for each of these high-priority conservation actions.

The result is a detailed Wildlife Action Plan that will help guide conservation of Georgia’s plants, animals and natural habitats.

Management

Less than 10% of Georgia land is publicly owned, and most of these public lands are found in the mountains of North Georgia or in the lower Coastal Plain. While ample opportunities exist for wildlife habitat improvements on public lands, expansion of programs that provide technical and financial assistance for protection and restoration of habitat on private lands is critically important for maintenance of Georgia’s wildlife diversity.

Wildlife Highlights

Georgia is one of the most biologically diverse states in the nation, ranking second in number of amphibians, third in the number of freshwater fishes, third in number of crayfishes, seventh in the number of reptiles, and seventh in the number of vascular plants.

Primary Challenges to Conserving Wildlife in Georgia

Georgia’s Wildlife Action Plan identifies 25 types of problems affecting wildlife species and their habitats. Some of the most significant of these include invasive exotic species, altered fire regimes, and dam and impoundment construction.

Invasive Species

Invasive exotic species are non-native plants and animals that can cause ecological and economic harm. Examples of invasive species that impact high-priority species and habitats in Georgia include feral hogs, flathead catfish, channeled apple snail, hemlock wooly adelgid, cogon grass and Chinese privet.

Altered Processes

Altered fire regime refers to an unnatural frequency, seasonality or intensity of fire that reduces habitat quality. This includes suppression of fires in fire-adapted communities, prescribed burns conducted in the wrong season, and fires that are too intense for communities that are not fire-adapted. Altered fire regimes are responsible for degradation of many of Georgia’s natural habitats.

The construction of dams and impoundments (from agricultural ponds to large reservoirs) can alter stream flows and water temperatures and create barriers to dispersal of fish and other aquatic species. Many of Georgia’s imperiled aquatic species are vulnerable to habitat degradation and fragmentation resulting from man-made impoundments.

Working Together for Georgia’s Wildlife

The Georgia Wildlife Action Plan was developed with input from a wide array of public and private agencies and organizations. A steering committee composed of representatives of state and Federal agencies, private conservation organizations, and private landowners provided guidance for the planning effort. An interagency committee, first convened in November 2005, facilitates the implementation of the plan. Like the steering committee, the implementation committee includes representatives from a broad range of public and private conservation organizations and land managing entities.

Efforts to involve the public in the development, revision and implementation of the wildlife strategy included public meetings, numerous presentations to groups around the state, news releases, brochures, fact sheets, newspaper and radio interviews, and a project website.

Throughout the planning process, updates on the Wildlife Action Plan were provided to the public and comments on the plan were solicited. Six regional stakeholder meetings, at which more than 60 organizations were represented, were held around the state to gather input from knowledgeable individuals. A public review draft of the document was developed in May 2005; six public meetings were held in June 2005 to solicit input on the public review draft prior to development of the final draft.

 

The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies represents all of North America’s fish and wildlife agencies, promotes sound management and conservation, and speaks with a unified voice on important fish and wildlife issues.

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