Feds approve Georgia’s wildlife conservation plan, which lists threats from global warming

By David Pendered

Georgia’s updated 10-year wildlife plan, which says global warming threatens plants and animals, has been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Striped newt

No natural habitat in Georgia is expected to exist in 2050 for the striped newt, according to a recently approved report by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. File/Credit: Joel Sartore, via fineartamerica.com

Georgia’s federally approved State Wildlife Action Plan includes language that speaks to the threat of global warming, defined as, “consistent, directed change in climatic conditions at regional scales.”

The state’s plan was approved this fall and updates one created in 2005, according to a statement from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

A close read of the plan shows it cites a number of specific threats attributed to global warming that include:

  • Portions of the Chattahoochee National Forest – “Perhaps the most significant long-term threat to these cool, moist environments and their associated species is global warming.”
  • Birds – “A warming climate will likely cause the ranges of many species to shift northward, possibly leading to negative interactions with other species or less favorable environmental conditions that affect reproduction and survival. Some species will likely lose a significant amount of habitat because there are spatial and temporal impediments to habitat migration. This may result in dramatic population declines, extirpations, or even extinctions of species.

    kudzu

    Warming temperatures are expected to allow the invasive kudzu plant to continue its march north. This abandoned appliance store in Leary, about 25 miles southwest of Albany, is slowing being covered by kudzu. Credit: googlesightseeing.com

  • Reptiles and amphibians – “The predictions are dire for all high priority Georgia species in showing significant reductions in climatically suitable habitat. The assessment maps indicate where climatically suitable habitat is predicted to remain in 2050, and for the striped newt and flatwoods salamander, no habitat is predicted to remain.
  • Invasive species – “It is estimated that global warming will allow 48 percent of currently established invasive plants and animals to expand their ranges northward if current warming trends continue. … In addition, it is expected that climate change will contribute to more severe infestations and habitat damage from invasive insect species, including the gypsy moth.”

About 320 species in Georgia have such low populations that they are protected by state and federal regulations. The newly approved Wildlife Action Plan lists 349 animal and 290 plant species as high priorities for conservation, and recommends 150 actions to address their needs, according to a DNR synopsis of the plan.

Northeastern long-eared bat

The white-nose disease is driving the Northeastern long-eared bat to the brink of extinction. Numbers have decreased by 99 percent in the Northeast and the species could be listed next years as an endangered species. File/Credit: fws.gov

A shortage of funds to implement the plan’s recommendations continues to plague conservation efforts. This situation highlights the need for partners to step forward and help implement it, according to Jon Ambrose, section chief of DNR’s nongame conservation section.

“To fully implement what’s in the plan requires resources beyond what our state agency has available,” Ambrose said.

Now that its long-term plan has been federally approved, Georgia is in a better position to receive any conservation funds that may be forthcoming from a Trump administration. Federal regulations require states to have such a plan in order to be eligible for federal funding.

The state highlights a number of conservation success stories that it attributes to the 2005 plan. They include:

  • “DNR acquired more than 105,000 acres of high-priority lands for wildlife conservation and public recreation;
  • “Conservation partners and easements 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 have benefited recovery efforts for federally listed species such as wood storks, as well as landowner technical assistance programs and environmental education.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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