By Gabe Andrle, Habitat Conservation Program Manager
Habitat loss and habitat degradation are the top threats to biodiversity across most of our planet. Georgia Audubon is addressing these issues with the expansion of our Habitat Program focused on the ecological restoration of spaces across Georgia. Our state is home to an incredible array of natural communities anchored by unique geological features, from the mountains to the barrier islands. Each of these communities has a distinct mixture of plants and animals whose intricate relationships and interactions allow these systems to perpetuate. As we lose green spaces across the state to development and our remaining greenspaces face the threats of non-native invasive species, fire suppression, pollution, overuse, etc., it is vital that we begin to reverse the damage we have already done in order to preserve the unique identity of our state but more importantly the life it sustains.
Historically, our habitat work has focused on smaller urban spaces, which are incredibly important for community engagement, education, and preserving urban wildlife, including the hundreds of species of migratory birds. Urban habitat work will continue to be a part of our restoration efforts moving forward; however, we are beginning to work on larger scale projects across the state that will be able to support a greater array of plants, insects, birds, and more.
For example, through the support of the Georgia Ornithological Society and the Robert F. Schumann Foundation, we have begun work at Panola Mountain State Park where we are working on our largest projects to date. Half of our project is focused on removing non-native invasive plant species such as Chinese privet, Bradford pear, and Elaeagnus from a riparian area and woodland edges. The other half is focused on restoring native grassland habitat which is critical for some of our most at-risk bird populations due to the development of the large majority of historic southeastern grasslands.
As we take on a variety of restoration projects we are excited to be working with both new and old partners which allows us to grow stronger relationships with the organizations and people that make much of this work possible. At Cooper’s Furnace, a greenspace open to the public near Lake Allatoona, we are working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who manages the space, to convert turf grass around the parking lot into some beneficial pollinator meadows which will support insects that so many of our birds and other wildlife need to survive and reproduce. Finding supportive partners ensures that the restoration work we do will be managed long-term for the good of the planet.
As we continue to add new projects we hope you will begin to see some new faces joining Georgia Audubon. With a never-ending supply of restoration work to to be done, we will need more and more hands to scale up this important work. Not only will it be important to add new staff members, but a great deal of this work would not be possible without the gracious hard work of our restoration volunteers. If you or anyone you know is interested in volunteering with our Habitat Program to remove non-native invasive species, plant native plants, and more, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.