A Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy
In December 2002 the Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) began a process to develop a comprehensive wildlife conservation strategy. Through the Wildlife Conservation and Reinvestment Program, WRD made a commitment to develop and begin implementation of this comprehensive wildlife conservation strategy (CWCS) by October 1, 2005. Funding for this planning effort came from a federal grant to WRD through the State Wildlife Grant program; matching funds were provided through Georgia’s Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund. The goal of the strategy 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.
The best available wildlife data were used to develop this CWCS. The strategy included an assessment of habitats required by these species, as well as problems affecting these habitats. Further, this strategy addressed research and survey needs, habitat restoration needs, and monitoring needs. It also included an evaluation of existing programs and policies for wildlife conservation in Georgia and recommendations for improvements in these areas. Coordination with other organizations that manage land or administer conservation programs in Georgia was a key component of this effort.
Components of this planning effort included: 1) development of databases on rare species and natural communities; 2) identification of high priority species and habitats; 3) identification of high priority research and biological inventory needs; 4) surveys for rare species on public and private lands; 5) development of databases of conservation lands and high priority watersheds and landscapes; 6) prioritization of conservation, education, and habitat protection needs; 7) collaboration with state and federal agencies on habitat protection/restoration plans; 8) technical assistance to private conservation organizations and local governments; 9) review of existing conservation laws, rules, and policies; and 10) public input and educational outreach.
The following goals represent important themes in the conservation strategy:
- Maintain known viable populations of all high-priority species and functional examples of all high priority habitats through voluntary land protection and incentive-based habitat management programs on private lands and habitat restoration and management on public lands.
- Increase public awareness of high priority species and habitats by developing educational messages and lesson plans for use in environmental education facilities, local schools, and other facilities.
- Facilitate restoration of important wildlife habitats through reintroduction of prescribed fire, hydrologic enhancements, and vegetation restoration.
- Conduct statewide assessments of rare natural communities and habitats that support species of conservation concern.
- Improve efforts to protect vulnerable and ecologically important habitats such as isolated wetlands, headwater streams, and caves.
- Combat the spread of invasive/noxious species in high priority natural habitats by identifying problem areas, providing technical and financial assistance, developing specific educational messages, and managing exotic species populations on public lands.
- Minimize impacts from development and other activities on high-priority species and habitats by improving environmental review procedures and facilitating training for and compliance with best management practices.
- Update the state protected species list and work with conservation partners to improve management of these species and their habitats.
- Conduct targeted field inventories of neglected taxonomic groups, including invertebrates and nonvascular plants.
- Continue efforts to recover federally listed species through implementation of recovery plans, and restore populations of other high priority species.
- Establish a consistent source of state funding for land protection to support wildlife conservation, and increase availability and use of federal funds for land acquisition and management.
- Continue efforts to monitor land use changes statewide and in each ecoregion, and use predictive models to assess impacts to high priority species and habitats.
The CWCS reflects an assessment of wildlife conservation needs and programs to address those needs based on data available in 2003-2005. Our understanding of the conservation needs of Georgia’s species and habitats is likely to change based on the result of additional surveys, results of monitoring efforts associated with management efforts, or new trends in land uses. In addition, the development of new analytical techniques, funding programs, or legislative mandates may result in a need to reassess some of the conservation priorities described in this document. The intent of the Wildlife Resources Division is to begin a formal process of reviewing the current wildlife conservation strategy within the next five years and to adopt revisions to the strategy as deemed necessary based on this review.
To find out more about this planning effort, contact Dr. Jon Ambrose of the Wildlife Resources Division, Nongame Wildlife & Natural Heritage Section, at 770-761-3035.
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