New Grants Promote Georgia Wildlife Viewing

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. – Wildlife-viewing projects from DeKalb County to Jekyll Island and Pickens County to Covington will receive grants to improve public opportunities to see and learn about animals, plants and habitats considered conservation priorities in Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan.

The Georgia Wildlife Resources Division, part of the Department of Natural Resources, announced today that six projects have been selected as 2019 recipients in the agency’s Wildlife Viewing Grants Program.

Funded by the Georgia Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund, the grants are aimed at helping develop and enhance viewing options that increase awareness of wildlife, with an emphasis on Wildlife Action Plan species and habitats. Georgia’s Wildlife Action Plan is a comprehensive strategy to conserve these creatures and places before they become rarer and costlier to conserve or restore.

This year’s recipients, chosen from 15 applicants, are:

DeKalb County Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs – $3,000 for a mountain trail viewing platform with interpretive signage at Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve.

Georgia 4-H Foundation – $3,000 for a project adding a platform, viewing scope and interpretive panels overlooking a marsh pond at 4-H Tidelands Nature Center on Jekyll Island.

Georgia Wildlife Federation – $3,000 to repair and upgrade a boardwalk and observation platform in a Piedmont tupelo river swamp at the Alcovy Conservation Center near Covington.

Gwinnett County Department of Community Services – $2,198 to develop monarch and related pollinator habitats with signage and outreach at Gwinnett parks.

Southeastern Trust for Parks and Land – $2,832 to build a chimney swift tower and kiosks that highlight area wildlife of concern at Talking Rock Nature Preserve in Pickens County.

Satilla Riverkeeper – $2,000 for adding at Burnt Fort landing near Woodbine a Satilla River Water Trail kiosk and signage exploring the trail and key species and habitats along the river.

Jon Ambrose, chief of DNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section, said the projects will help people observe and learn more about the state’s native wildlife, especially high-priority species and habitats identified in the Wildlife Action Plan. “We hope that this will, in turn, lead to greater understanding of wildlife conservation needs and opportunities in Georgia,” Ambrose said.

Although the grants are small, the interest they tap is big. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey, about 2.4 million people took part in wildlife-viewing activities in Georgia in 2011. The survey estimated related spending at $1.8 billion. Nationwide, the number of people involved in wildlife viewing surged from about 72 million in 2011 to 86 million in 2016, the Fish and Wildlife Service reports.

Last year’s grant projects, the first for the program since the Great Recession, raised awareness of bats along the Oconee Rivers Greenway in Athens-Clarke County, promoted responsible wildlife viewing on St. Simons-area beaches and added a viewing platform at Okefenokee Swamp Park, among other work.

The Wildlife Conservation Section is charged with restoring and conserving nongame wildlife, rare native plant species and natural habitats through research, management and public education. The section depends largely on fundraisers, grants and contributions to the Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund. Sales and renewals of DNR’s eagle and hummingbird license plates are the leading fundraiser.