Photo provided by Forest Ecologist Jess Riddle
Old Growth Forests
Old growth forests in Georgia? Yes, indeed — and way more than anyone thought. For years, questions persisted as to whether any of Georgia’s public forests had escaped the saw. Searches for these “original” or “old growth” forests on similar landscapes of North Carolina were turning up surprising discoveries. Georgia ForestWatch went in search of the answer and found it.
Georgia ForestWatch discovers 11,000 acres of rare old growth forests
Back in 1991, eastern old growth forest researcher Mary Byrd Davis (author of Eastern Old-Growth Forests: Prospects for Rediscovery and Recovery, 1996) sent an inquiry to the acting supervisor of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests, requesting information on known old growth. She received a letter responding that only four acres existed, along with maps showing the location of two 2-acre stands. Active ForestWatchers at that time knew better.
In 2001, ForestWatch was finally able to hire expert woodsman Jess Riddle to lead the search and answer the question, “How much old growth is left?” Initially, Jess spent many hours meeting with regional old growth researchers poring over maps, honing an approach to identify likely candidate sites. Then Jess hit the woods, spending days and weeks tracking through rugged territory and documenting his findings. At that time we focused on searching unprotected areas that were still open to logging, hoping to locate, describe and map them before they might be cut.
Over a four-year period, Jess and volunteer Georgia ForestWatch assistants located over 11,000 acres of old growth forests! We are continuing to push hard for these ancient natural forests to be preserved and protected.
On our “wish list” is securing the funding necessary to survey already protected areas (those with official designations including Wilderness, Scenic and Natural Resource Areas), so that all of these rare forests remain for ecological, scientific and enjoyment of the people who own them.
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