The draft of Georgia’s revised State Wildlife Action Plan, often called SWAP, is the focus of three public meetings in early July and the plan is open for comment through July 15.
Georgia DNR developed its first SWAP in 2005. This management plan outlines the steps needed to proactively conserve wildlife and habitats before they become rarer and more costly to protect. Funding comes through a State Wildlife Grant, with matching funds from Georgia’s Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund.
Congress requires that the plan undergoes comprehensive review at least every 10 years to incorporate new information and changing conditions. Over the last several years, DNR has worked closely with partner agencies, organizations, academic institutions, land managers and other stakeholders to review and revise the plan.
The draft SWAP is available for public comment from June 1 to July 15, 2015, before it is submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for review and approval. The public can comment online (link below) or through one of the following meetings, all set for 6-8 p.m.:
- Wednesday, July 1: Georgia Wildlife Federation, 11600 Hazelbrand Road, Covington (www.gwf.org/WhoWeAre/Headquarters.aspx)
- Tuesday, July 7: Go Fish Education Center, just off I-75 (Exit 134), Perry (www.gofisheducationcenter.com/visitus)
- Wednesday, July 8: Susan Shipman Environmental Learning Center, Georgia DNR Coastal Regional Headquarters, One Conservation Way, Brunswick (www.coastalgadnr.org/nn/pm)
The draft plan is at www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation/wildlife-action-plan. Deadline for comments is July 15. Also, learn more about conserving Georgia’s nongame wildlife at www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation/annualreport and supporting nongame conservation at www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation/support.
Frequently Asked Questions About SWAP
[wptabs type=”accordion” mode=”horizontal”]
[wptabtitle]Why does Georgia need it?[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]
The plan mines the best available data to provide a comprehensive, adaptable assessment of wildlife conservation needs in Georgia, and ways to address those needs. While those lists are long – 349 animal and 292 plant species are high priorities for conservation, and 150 actions recommended – the SWAP is a guide that helps focus conservation efforts where they’re most needed and most effective.
An approved SWAP also is required by Congress for Georgia DNR and wildlife agencies in other states to receive State Wildlife Grants. This grants program is the main federal funding source for states to conserve nongame, or animals not legally fished for or hunted. Georgia receives about $1.25 million annually in State Wildlife Grants.
[wptabtitle]Why is the SWAP being revised?[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]
A comprehensive review of wildlife plans is required at least once every 10 years, to include new information and changing conditions. Georgia developed its initial SWAP in 2005.
[wptabtitle]What did the revision involve?[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]
Started in 2013, the revision involved DNR employees, staff from private and public conservation organizations, and land managers and forest owners in Georgia – representatives from more than 100 groups in all. An advisory committee composed of agency, organization and land management group representatives provided oversight. Technical teams addressed specific components of the revised plan, from birds and mammals to habitat restoration and database enhancements.
[wptabtitle]What was accomplished through the initial plan?[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]
Conservation successes included the following:
- Georgia DNR has acquired more than 105,000 acres of high-priority lands for wildlife conservation and public recreation.
- Conservation partners and easements have protected another 290,000-plus acres.
- Prescribed fire, invasive species control and native plant restoration have enhanced key habitats.
- Surveys and monitoring have helped manage rare amphibians, birds, bats, sea turtles and plants.
- The plan’s focus and direction has benefited recovery efforts for federally listed species such as wood storks, as well as landowner technical assistance programs and environmental education.
[wptabtitle]What’s the timeline for completing the revision?[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]
As noted, the deadline for comments is July 15. Afterward, the SWAP will be revised further, as needed, and submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for that agency’s review and approval.
This review and revision process will begin again within eight years after this version of the SWAP is completed. That second revision will be finished no later than August 2025.
[wptabtitle]Where can I find out more?[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]
An overview, plus the 248-page plan, is at www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation/wildlife-action-plan.
[wptabtitle]How can I comment on the revised plan, and why should I?[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]
Comment at http://www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation/wildlife-action-plan by July 15.
Also, public meetings on the draft revised plan are scheduled (all for 6-8 p.m.):
- Wednesday, July 1: Georgia Wildlife Federation, 11600 Hazelbrand Road, Covington (gwf.org/WhoWeAre/Headquarters.aspx).
- Tuesday, July 7: Go Fish Education Center, just off I-75 (Exit 134), Perry (gofisheducationcenter.com/visitUs).
- Wednesday, July 8: Susan Shipman Environmental Learning Center, Georgia DNR Coastal Regional Headquarters, One Conservation Way, Brunswick (coastalgadnr.org/nn/pm).
Public feedback is vital. The SWAP involves conserving wildlife that millions of Georgians enjoy and which strengthen our state economy. Wildlife-watching had a $1.9 billion impact on Georgia’s economy in 2011, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Your comments can help shape the SWAP, ensuring that these natural resources are conserved now and for future generations.
Also, where forestry management is involved, the SWAP provides key information regarding species of concern and conserving biodiversity. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative 2015-2019 Standards and Rules references the state wildlife action plans as sources in both areas.
[wptabtitle]What are high-priority species or habitats?[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]
These are species or natural habitats that rank highest for recommended research or other conservation-related measures. For some, it may be because of their rarity; for others, it may be because little is known about them or because they face daunting threats, such as habitat loss or fragmentation. High-priority species were assessed by six technical teams focused on these groups: birds, amphibians and reptiles, mammals, fishes and aquatic invertebrates, terrestrial invertebrates, and plants.
High-priority does not mean protected, though some species listed as high priority may be protected through state or federal laws or regulations.
[wptabtitle]Does the SWAP establish regulations or other controls?[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]
No. Although regulations, policies or legislation may be recommended, any changes would go through the usual procedures for each. SWAP actions are recommendations, which are not prescriptive or regulatory.
[wptabtitle]Does the SWAP involve game animals?[/wptabtitle] [wptabcontent]
While focused on animals not fished for or hunted, rare plants and natural habitats, the SWAP does address controlling some invasive species that are hunted, such as feral hogs and coyotes, and researching, restoring and acquiring habitats that benefit nongame and game species, such as northern bobwhites and middle Georgia’s black bears. However, the plan does not address hunting, fishing or trapping regulations.