GAINESVILLE, Ga. — The U.S. Forest Service released its environmental analysis for the Foothills Landscape Project. The project is designed to maintain and restore healthy forest, habitat and watershed within the Chattahoochee National Forest in portions of Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Habersham, Lumpkin, Murray, Rabun and White Counties.
Beginning in 2016, partners and community members from across North Georgia have been working together with the Forest Service over several years to realize a shared vision to address the complex conservation challenges across this landscape.
“After years of collaboration with our stakeholders and partners, and environmental analysis by Forest Service experts, I’m proud to share our plan to address complex conservation challenges in the Foothills Landscape,” said Forest Supervisor Betty Jewett.
“From the beginning, this project reflected community values to guide our work in the right places for the right reasons. I believe this new approach will bring lasting benefits to the forest and the people we serve for generations to come.”
This landscape includes a diversity of forested and rare habitats, more than 1,100 miles of streams, 188 miles of trails and dozens of recreation destinations. But unhealthy forest conditions, impairments to waterways, and impacts from human use are threatening the natural resiliency of the landscape and its inhabitants. The project proposes a variety of management activities to help achieve the desired future conditions for the area, including:
- Maintaining and restoring pine and oak habitat
- Increased prescribed burning
- Conserving more areas for threatened hemlocks
- Protecting old growth forests
- Addressing impacts to streams and waterways
- Creating more wildlife openings and canopy gaps
- Restoring rare habitats such as canebrakes, mountain bogs, and woodlands
- Enhancing sustainable recreation opportunities like trails, campgrounds, and day-use sites
The Foothills landscape project was designed to be different from the very beginning. Collaborating with a diversity of stakeholders from surrounding communities, the Forest Service strived to create a balanced plan that reflects local values and meets forest objectives.
“Our team and collaborators did tremendous work to put this project together. Accomplishing landscape-scale restoration is no easy feat, but the significant contributions of the public in the very early stages of the project resulted in a comprehensive and thorough proposal,” said Stephanie Israel, who became the new team leader for the project in 2018. Israel added, “Completing this first phase of environmental analysis is a huge milestone. We are excited to be moving the project forward and will continue to involve and value the contributions of stakeholders for years to come.”
The U.S. Forest Service held public collaboration meetings with all stakeholders with an interest in the Foothills Landscape Project. Photo by U.S. Forest Service, Steven Bekkerus.
The Environmental Assessment and supporting analysis documents are now available to preview on the project webpage. A legal notice is expected to publish in mid-December and will begin the official 30-day comment period.
To learn more about the Foothills Landscape Project, visit www.fs.usda.gov/goto/Foothills. Sign up to receive information about the Foothills Landscape project by email. You can also keep in touch with happenings on our Facebook and Twitter pages (@ChattOconeeNF). If you have specific questions about the Foothills Landscape project, contact team leader Stephanie Israel at Foothills@usda.gov or (770) 297-3095.
The public is invited to attend any of the upcoming Community Conversations between 6 and 8 p.m., at the following locations:
Wednesday December 4, 2019: Kingwood Country Club and Resort, The Rabun Room, 401 Country Club Drive Clayton;
Thursday December 5: Lumpkin County Parks and Recreation Department Heritage Main Room 365 Riley Road, Dahlonega.
To receive instant alerts and updates on forest information, follow @ChattOconeeNF on Twitter and Facebook or visit us on the web at www.fs.usda.gov/conf.
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