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                                                                                                                                                    Photo by Jess Riddle

By Mary Topa : Executive Director

During the last eight months, the Forest Service has reached out to the public through community conversations and an online forum to better understand how the public uses the Foothills Landscape in the Chattahoochee National Forest. The 143,419 acres that make up this landscape comprise the area where the mountains are visibly reduced to foothills. The Foothills Landscape offers a wide variety of recreation opportunities, with nearly 200 miles of hiking, biking, horse and OHV trails and dozens of recreation sites.

The community conversations this past fall gave the Forest Service an overview of the attitudes, values and beliefs of community members in terms of how we use the Foothills Landscape and how we would like to see it managed. Now, the Forest Service is asking the public to help them design on-the-ground actions that would address the widespread resource challenges in an integrated way and on a scale that results in long-lasting impacts.

What to expect next

The Forest Service is planning four collaborative workshops before the end of August. These workshops will focus on developing a management plan for the Foothills Landscape. This is a great opportunity to share your views, discuss ideas, and interact with other members of the collaboration community and Forest Service. ForestWatch will be well represented at these meetings, with staff, District Leaders and Board members in attendance. But the Forest Service also needs to hear your voice so we can protect the special places in the Foothills Landscape.

The first two-day workshop was held on January 31 and February 1 at the Lumpkin County Parks and Recreation Community Center in Dahlonega, GA 30533.  If you missed this workshop you can join the online Community Conversation, and register for the next workshop on March 28th from 9:00am to 3:00pm, and March 30th from 5:00pm-8:00pm in Gainesville.

Please take a moment to check out the comments and discussions shared in the online forum.  You can start a discussion, post ideas, and add comments on the following topics:  watershed health; providing sustainable recreation opportunities; managing healthy forests, fish and wildlife habitats; caring for unique habitats; and protecting communities from wildfire.

The Forest Service is asking for public input on the largest project they have ever conducted on the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests. Your voice is important. It is critical that you let the Forest Service and others in your community know what areas in the Foothills Landscape are special to you, and how you would like to see these areas managed. Thank you for speaking for our forests!