Leaders of The Environmental Resources Network — supporters of Georgia’s nongame wildlife programs — held their fall board meeting at the Rome-Floyd E.C.O. River Education Center.

The Thursday session included a tour of the facility and of the local rivers on the Joel Sulzbacher Roman Holiday.

The nongame program involves species that are not legally fished or hunted, as well as native plants and the natural habitats these species need.

“We’re not only talking about raptors, all the bird life. We’re talking about salamanders, turtles, the gopher tortoise. We’re talking snakes,” said Jim Kluttz, vice chairman of TERN from Tybee Island.

An immediate objective of the program is to work through a long list of species that have been petitioned for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act, said Jon Ambrose, director of the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division’s Nongame Conservation Section.

“Some of those probably deserve to be listed,” Ambrose said. “Some — we feel pretty strongly we can do some things … proactive conservation work, that will preclude the need to list.”

Ambrose said the gopher tortoise is a prime example. It has lost habitat in a lot of areas, he said, but it’s still pretty widespread.

“We’ve got a number of populations protected and we’re hoping to get even more protected and under good management in the next few years,” he said.

TERN has raised more than $920,000 for nongame programming across the state since it was formed in 1992. The effort to restore bald eagles to Georgia has been one of its most visible success stories.

“This state — from the coast, the piedmont and the mountain area — has a tremendous variety for whatever you’re interests are,” Kluttz said. “Our goal is to make people aware of it.”

Ambrose said the organization received $300,000 in state funds this year, but its major source of revenue is contributions through the specialty license plates, featuring either a bald eagle or hummingbird, and its annual Weekend for Wildlife event on Sea Island.

 
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