The U.S. Forrest Service is proposing work in the area of the Johns Mountain Wildlife Management Area to create four new wildlife openings and reroute a portion of the Pinhoti Trail.

All of the land that has been designated for the improvements fall within the bounds of the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Forests and grasslands offer critical habitat for a variety of plant and animal species. They also provide ecological, recreational, economic, and cultural benefits to surrounding communities.

Four new wildlife openings, all of which will be developed to support healthy population of turkey, bats, wildflowers, deer, pollinators and bird species that require an open grassy, shrubby habitat

Seven potential areas for the wildlife openings have been identified by Forest Service personnel. All are located east of Pocket Road just north of the Floyd-Walker County line. Of those locations only four will actually be selected for the project.

Steven Bekkerus, a communications officer for the U.S. Forest Service in North Georgia, said somewhere between 8 to 10 acres of habitat will be created in lots of between two and three acres apiece.

“Most wildlife need a diversity of habitat and less than one percent of the forest is considered early successional habitat,” Bekkerus said. “We’re not doing timber(sales) like we used to.”

“Since the new wildlife openings would have diverse structure and vegetation, they would provide valuable food, nesting, and escape cover for all kinds of birds and mammals,” said U.S.F.S. biologist Ruth Stokes.

Approximately a third to a half of each wildlife opening would be managed as a traditional food plot with the remainder considered to be early successional or pollinator habitat.

The project proposes to reroute a 0.6 mile portion of the Pinhoti Trail, north of the Keown Falls Recreation Area, near the Johns Mountain Overlook, to make it more sustainable for hikers and reduce impacts from erosion and other effects.

Karen Long, a U.S.F.S. natural resource manager for recreation, said the section of Pinhoti Trail that is being rerouted was originally part of an old temporary road that is 12-16 feet wide right at the crest of the ridgeline. Over the years it has become trenched and fallen below the level of surrounding ground, therefore it holds water and experiences serious erosion issues.

The trail is being rerouted along the sidehills slightly to the west of the existing trail so that water can drain across it, not run down it.

People wishing to comment on the plans must do so by Friday, July 17. Written comments can be sent to District Ranager, 3941 Highway 76, Chatsworth, GA 30705. Comments can be made by phone at 706-695-6736 or online at SM.FS.conasauga@usda.gov.

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