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Cloudland Canyon

Georgians finally will be able to vote on a dedicated fund for conservation

At long last, Georgia now has a pathway to create a dedicated funding source to conserve our land and water.

The state legislature on Thursday passed the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act calling for a referendum on a constitutional amendment that would dedicate a portion of existing state sales and use tax on outdoor recreation equipment to establish a conservation trust fund.

Mottled ducks in Georgia to be tracked with futuristic technology that’s now commonplace

Tremendous scientific advances in the tracking of birds are now so commonplace that they were barely mentioned in a recent release from the state Department of Natural Resources about a new tracking program.

It was just in 1984 that a bald eagle in the U.S. became the first bird to be outfitted with a satellite tracking device. That was a huge advance from the piece of string that James Audubon tied a string on the leg of a bird in 1803 to see if it would return after the autumn migration. (It did.)

These days, satellite telemetry is so common that mottled ducks along Georgia’s coast are being outfitted this fall with transmitters. The solar-power devices will gather GPS location information from Air Force satellites and transmit it back to researchers.

Bats, snakes at growing risk of disease; public invited to join in annual ‘bat blitz’ in Rabun County

A mysterious and deadly disease is appearing in Georgia’s bats, and a similar illness was diagnosed in July in a snake, according to state wildlife officials.

Bats are dying from the white-nose disease, which has killed an estimated 5.7 million bats and driven one species found in Georgia to the brink of extinction. Researchers plan to count the bat population in Rabun County next week as part of the effort to monitor the disease. Experienced volunteers are welcome to participate.

Now snakes are a concern. The first wild snake in Georgia to be diagnosed with snake fungal disease was found on the edge of a blackwater swamp near Statesboro, and the implication is the disease could be spreading.

Georgia notes record number of wood stork nests as U.S. says they no longer are an endangered species

Georgia has noted a record number of wood stork nests this year, news that the state announced as U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell visited the Georgia coast Thursday.

Jewell traveled to Townsend to say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is down-listing the wood stork from an endangered to a threatened species.

“The down-listing of the wood stork from endangered to threatened demonstrates how the Endangered Species Act can be an effective tool to protect and recover imperiled wildlife from the brink of extinction, especially when we work in partnership with states, tribes, conservation groups, private landowners, and other stakeholders to restore vital habitat,” Jewell said in a statement.

Georgia to update rules on radioactive materials as part of routine program to maintain safety

Georgia is preparing to repeal rules for radioactive waste disposal because the state is not in the business of storing such waste and has no plans to start, a state official said.

The state also intends to update its regulations of radioactive materials used for medical and industrial purposes. The revision aims to bring state rules into compliance with new federal standards.

Both measures are part of the routine maintenance of Georgia’s rules and regulations of radioactive materials, according to Jac Capp, chief of the air protection branch of Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources.