PEMBROKE, Ga. (WSAV) – The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is opening a new wildlife management area next Friday in Bulloch and Bryan Counties. The agency purchased the land — now called Canoochee Sandhills — from private owners and logging companies.
Chris Baumann, a regional supervisor for DNR, says the area is unique in its native diversity. It is home to longleaf pine trees, which are an endangered species.
It is also home to a threatened species of tortoise: the gopher tortoise. Right now, Baumann says there are 750 boroughs — or shelters — in the area, which is is a healthy number. DNR wants the number to grow.
“A lot of boroughs will be along the roadside because that’s the only place still getting sunlight because the trees grow through age and start shading your growing trees,” said Baumann.
That’s a good thing when someone is logging trees, which was the land’s primary focus before DNR purchased it. It makes it difficult, however, to protect keystone species like gopher tortoises that need vegetation to eat on the forest floor.
“A whole host of species go with the gopher tortoises, like indigo snakes and other rare, threatened species that use similar habitats,” said Baumann.
To solve the problem, Baumann says DNR will complete controlled burns to clear out the area. The land is part of DNR’s nearly a million acres of wildlife management throughout the state.
“That’s the name of the game,” he said. “We’ve got to get some kind of disturbance out there.”
After the grand opening, licensed fishers and hunters, and hikers can use the area for recreational purposes.
“It’s also an added bonus that the game species come along with it for our outdoor recreation…we’re expecting good deer and turkey populations on this property as well,” he said.
A grand opening will be held at the site on Friday, February 7 at 2 p.m.