Forest Service seeks comments from public on Foothills Landscape project

Gainesville, Ga. ­‑ This week, the U.S. Forest Service released a proposal to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Foothills Landscape - a 143,419 acre area covering portions of Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Habersham, Lumpkin, Murray, Rabun and White Counties within the Chattahoochee National Forest. Community members from across North Georgia have been working together with the U.S. Forest Service over the past year to realize a shared vision to address complex conservation challenges across this landscape. Anyone interested may review and comment on the proposed action now through December 22, 2017.

“People love our national forest - and rightly so. We’ve worked closely with our neighbors, visitors and all the people who care about these lands to create a suite of actions that we believe represent the right work in the right places for the right reasons on the Foothills Landscape,” said Forest Supervisor Betty Jewett. “This work is difficult and complex, so I am thrilled by all the contributions to this proposal that make it a model for managing public lands for the people. Together, we can make the Foothills Landscape sustainable for life - for fish, plants and wildlife, for visitors and local communities, for people today and tomorrow.”

Forests provide clean water, fish and wildlife habitat, timber, and inspirational recreation opportunities; the proposal includes dozens of action items to increase the sustainability of these benefits. The Foothills Landscape marks the area where the mountains are visibly reduced to foothills. Shortleaf pine and pitch pine forests are the dominant forest types, with hardwoods accounting for about a quarter of the landscape. The area offers lots of recreation opportunities, with nearly 200 miles of hiking, biking, horse and OHV trails and dozens of recreation sites. Characteristics of a healthy watershed define the proposed action items, which will enhance the landscape’s ability to provide ecosystem services that surrounding communities and visitors value. Some of these activities include expanding shortleaf pine tree populations, improving aquatic habitat in streams, restoring woodland habitat for birds and wildlife, protecting areas of old growth forest while expanding forest-type diversity, and improving trails and roads. The proposal includes a complete list and specific details about each of nearly three dozen potential action items.

“We are extremely thankful for all the collaborators who pitched in to help us put this proposed action together,” said Angie Bell, team leader for the project. “Our journey with the collaborative community continues, and we look forward to receiving lots of meaningful and substantive comments.”

Specifically, the Forest Service seeks to know:

how the Foothills Landscape is important to people

whether the Foothill Landscape proposal meets people’s expectations

what the challenges are in meeting these expectations

what else the Forest Service should consider

Bell recommends comments focus on concerns regarding the effects of the proposal on the environment, and any support for the actions being proposed. “Sharing the reason why you have concerns or why you support the project are especially helpful to the Forest Service,” added Bell.

To learn more about the Foothills Landscape, visit www.tinyurl.com/FoothillsLandscapeCollaborate. A direct link to the proposed action can be found on the project webpage at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=52509. Here you will also find instructions on how to respond with comments either electronically or by mail.

Sign up to receive information about the Foothills Landscape project by email. You can also keep in touch with happenings on our Facebook and twitter pages (@ChattOconeeNF). If you have specific questions about the Foothills Landscape project, contact team leader Angie Bell at FoothillsLandscape@fs.fed.us or (770) 297-3095.