A series of upcoming U.S. Forest Service meetings will determine whether or not parts of the Chattahoochee National Forest (CNF) will receive much needed habitat management. Proper timber management would boost and stabilize animal and bird populations, including deer and turkey, which have been impacted by a “hands-off” approach championed by environmental groups who want no timber management. The key for better habitat in the mountains will be a strong turnout of hunters at the meetings.
“Hunters are typically reactive instead of proactive, so it’s important for them to attend to know what is going on now instead of at the end of the project,” said Kevin Lowrey, a WRD wildlife biologist out of Gainesville.
The portion of the CNF that will be discussed at the upcoming meetings is referred to as the “Foothills Landscape.” This area is made up of 143,419 acres across the CNF. This acreage is located where the mountains turn into foothills. This portion of the national forest covers eight different counties, which are Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Habersham, Lumpkin, Murray, Rabun and White, as well as a portion of the Cohutta WMA.
The purpose of the upcoming meetings is for the public to provide the Forest Service with information as to where and what they would like to see done to the Foothills Landscape.
“We are essentially in the public input process,” said Mike Brod, who is the Fire and Natural Resources Staff Officer for the Forest Service Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.
Brod is an avid hunter and a subscriber to GON.
“We are looking to work with the public to hear what they would like to see accomplished in the project area,” said Brod. “The hope is that will include wildlife habitat treatments, soil and water quality treatments, as well as other treatments for forest health and maybe even some recreation management activities.”
In the past, when U.S. Forest Service meetings took place, hunters did not participate. Environmental groups and several non-profit organizations—those with no interest in hunting—showed up and made their voices heard. The result of those meetings yielded little to no habitat management on the CNF. Deer, turkey and other animal populations suffered. Will it happen this time around? It could.
It’s highly likely that these same groups—those who are opposed specifically to proper timber management needed for a diversity of animals to thrive—will be at these meetings and will do their best to limit or halt good wildlife management practices. These meetings are the chance for hunters to have input and make a difference on the CNF.
Anyone and any group can attend these “Community Conversations” meetings. They are as follows:
Thursday, Oct. 13, 6-9 p.m.
Lumpkin County Community Center
365 Riley Rd., Dahlonega, GA 30533
Saturday, Oct. 15, 9:30 a.m-12:30 p.m.
North Hall Community Center
4175 Nopone Rd., Gainesville, GA 30506
Tuesday, Oct. 18, 6-9 p.m.
Rabun County Civic Center
201 W. Savannah St., Clayton, GA 30525
Saturday, Oct. 29, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center
2020 Clean Water Dr., Buford, GA 30519
Tuesday, Nov. 1, 6-9 p.m.
Cohutta Springs Conference Center
1175 Cohutta Springs Road, Crandall, GA 30711
Each meeting will include a presentation by the forest service, discussion and the opportunity to share concerns or comments one-on-one with forest managers and with the possible partners who will be at the meeting.
The public engagement process will be occurring for the next several months, and project implementation should begin in 2018.
Aside from the meetings, online comments can be submitted to: www.tinyurl.com/FoothillsLandscape.