Part census takers and part detectives, two scientists with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources are finishing up an ambitious inventory on Georgia’s coast. Jacob Thompson and Eamonn Leonard are mapping all the habitats in the six coastal counties – not just the habitat on public land but all of it. Their aim is to describe what’s here so that local governments can avoid developing on the rarest and most sensitive spots.
“There’s been a lot of growth, and we expect more development in coming years,” said Thompson, a natural resources biologist. “We want to work with counties to ensure that nicer habitats and rare habitats are preserved before everything gets developed.” Or at least governments could choose to use the information that way.
There’s no regulatory component to the work. Governments will have reason to take heed, though. The coast is expected to see its population get half again larger in the next 20 years. Funded in large part by an approximately USD 700,000 grant from the Woodruff Foundation, the project is part of the Coastal Georgia Land Conservation Initiative. It’s a three-year collaboration of the DNR, Georgia Conservancy and the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia.
A website will be launched later this month to enable residents and other interested parties to interact with the habitat maps that have been created. Those maps, including less detailed descriptions of the second tier of inland coastal counties, are expected to be completed by November.