In October of 2018, Hurricane Michael devastated southwest Georgia, leaving a path of destruction that drastically impacted the lives of citizens, farmers and private forest landowners. Following a Special Session of the Georgia General Assembly in November, the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) has been working hand-in-hand with forest landowners to implement assistance measures backed by funds from the State of Georgia. Now, Georgia’s U.S. Senators David Perdue and Johnny Isakson are also pursuing additional funding from the federal level, despite some partisan roadblocks.
More than two million acres of forestland owned by more than 7,000 landowners were impacted by the storm, and the estimated value of the damaged timber is $763 million. Immediately following the storm and the Special Session, GFC employees across the region have been working with landowners to assess, salvage and restore as much damaged forestland as possible.
“Our team has been working closely with landowners to address the wide-ranging impacts of this unprecedented storm,” GFC Director Chuck Williams said. “Relief programs have been activated and we won’t stop until the hard hit areas are in a cleaner, safer condition.”
There are currently three separate programs that are providing assistance to forest landowners within the disaster area: the Forest Debris Management Program, Forest Access Road & Firebreak Restoration Project and the Timber Tax Credit program. Below is a summary of the status of those programs.
Fight for Federal Disaster Funding Continues
As the on-ground work continues, U.S. Senators David Perdue and Johnny Isakson are continuing to urge congress to consider a disaster relief package critical funding for
Georgia and other states recovering from recent hurricane and wildfire damage.” The legislation, however, was blocked earlier this week by Democrats who argued that the package did not include enough disaster relief funding for Puerto Rico. Sen. Perdue testified to the Senate on April 1 to urge congress to reconsider.
“We’re not giving up. This is not the end of this tale,” Sen. Perdue said in his comments. “I want the farmers and the local bankers to understand we are going to continue this fight. To the people who this has affected – don’t lose heart. We will get it done.”
The federal proposed disaster relief package includes:
- Critical agriculture disaster relief for farmers recovering in the wake of Hurricane Michael and other natural disasters across the country.
- Development grants for small, rural communities impacted by natural disasters in 2018.
- Assistance for veterans’ health facilities and military construction projects devastated by Hurricane Michael.
- Emergency funds for critical timber, watershed and wastewater infrastructure needs.
- Restoration of highways, aviation facilities and other transit projects damaged by natural disasters.
- Additional $600 million in nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico in response to President Trump’s disaster declaration.
The Georgia Forestry Association (GFA) applauds the efforts of Sen. Perdue and Sen. Isakson as they continue to fight for Georgia farmers and forest landowners.
“We are so thankful for the leadership of Sen. Perdue and Sen. Isakson in advocating for federal disaster funding that will be so critical to forest landowners and others who have been devastated by these recent storms,” GFA President & CEO Andres Villegas said.