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AGLT Meeting Recap & Mapping Georgia's Wildlife Corridors

Updated: Jun 27

Last month, several of our staff members attended the yearly Association of Georgia Land Trusts (AGLT) meeting generously hosted by the Georgia Wildlife Federation (GWF). The meeting is a unique opportunity for stewards of our state’s natural resources including land trusts, conservation organizations, and state agencies to get together in person and present new information and research, share successes, and discuss the struggles of protecting land in our fast developing state. In addition to an appearance by Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Walter Rabon, subjects included responsible siting and design of solar development, legislative updates, State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) changes, the new UGA Land Conservation Clinic, public access challenges from a legal standpoint on outdoor recreation properties, and the EPA Clean Air Act Revision to the Particulate Matter Standard. The latter, it turns out, could soon make it harder for landowners to obtain burn permits for prescribed fire in many counties in Georgia . 

While all the topics discussed were important, we wanted to highlight the work of Georgia DNR GIS Specialist Dylan Severens, whose efforts have been focused on mapping Georgia’s habitat corridors for next year’s SWAP. The goal of his work is to create a comprehensive, repeatable computer model which can be used to identify priority wildlife corridors for protection. He created this model by incorporating already existing corridor models, Southeastern Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS) inputs,such as intact habitat cores, South Atlantic reptile and amphibian areas, and custom linkage mapping inputs. The impressive end result can be seen below. 

While this model does a great job of capturing areas with larger contiguous vegetative cover, it also leaves out much of the Piedmont because the model does not pick out wildlife travel corridors of considerable acreage and quality that are more isolated or do not directly link to other corridors in an uninterrupted manner. Less contiguous, but nevertheless large and high-quality habitats like these are typical of the Georgia Piedmont owing to rapid development in the region. Examples of these habitats are along the Apalachee River, Alcovy River, and North Oconee River, where high priority rivers and streams, bottomland hardwood forests and riparian areas offer a real lifeline to wildlife in the midst of intense development pressure.

As ORLT conserves land primarily in the Piedmont, we think it is extremely important to recognize areas in which wildlife can travel and thrive in the fastest developing part of the state. We’ve seen firsthand all too often what happens when they are not protected or prioritized. Our executive director Dan Crescenzo has been in contact with GA DNR, advocating that additional inputs be added to the current model which will yield results prioritizing larger areas of high-quality habitat in the Piedmont, even if it this habitat is not as contagious as similar areas in other parts of the state, in addition to those other more contiguous areas. GA DNR is currently considering ORLT’s suggestions, and we hope that they will officially prioritize more areas in the Piedmont in next year’s SWAP habitat corridor map.

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