EVENT: David Pope of non-profit environmental advocacy organization, Southern Environmental Law Center, to speak at Skidaway Rotary

3 02 2009

David Pope of the Southern Environmental Law Center will speak to the Skidaway Rotary Feb. 18 about “Protecting Coastal Treasures.” Pope will discuss the unique and important resources on the Georgia coast, the threats they face, and what SELC is doing to protect those resources. The Southern Environmental Law Center is a non-profit, donor-supported environmental advocacy organization using the power of the law to protect the environment and special places in the South. Working to defend the public’s interest and never for private gain, SELC provides its legal services without charge to other environmental organizations and partner groups.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(SAVANNAH, GA) David Pope of the non-profit environmental advocacy organization, the Southern Environmental Law Center, will speak to the Skidaway Rotary February 18 about “Protecting Coastal Treasures.” Pope will discuss the unique and important resources on the Georgia coast, the threats they face, and what SELC is doing to protect those resources. The Southern Environmental Law Center uses the power of the law to protect the environment and special places in the South. Working to defend the public’s interest and never for private gain, SELC provides its legal services without charge to other environmental organizations and partner groups. SELC has a special initiative focused on protecting the Georgia coast with three lawyers working on this effort.

The Director of the Georgia/Alabama office of the Southern Environmental Law Center, Pope oversees the nonprofit environmental advocacy organization’s special initiative focused on protecting the Georgia coast. He also supervises all of SELC’s other work in Georgia and Alabama, including work to protect the public’s interest in our air, water and forests and work to improve our transportation issues and energy efficiency. In addition, he serves on the management committee for the organization and helps sets the priorities for work throughout the South.

He is a former partner at Carr, Tabb & Pope in Atlanta, with 29 years of environmental law practice. He graduated from University of Florida, Phi Beta Kappa, and University of North Carolina Law School.
About the Southern Environmental Law Center SELC is a nonprofit donor supported, environmental advocacy organization using the power of the law to protect the environment and health in the Southeast. Since 1986, SELC has informed, implemented and enforced environmental law and policy concerning clean air and water, mountain forests, the coast and wetlands, and rural lands and livable communities. Working to defend the public’s interest and never for private gain, SELC provides its legal services without charge to other environmental organizations and partner groups. SELC has 63 staff members and offices in Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia; Chapel Hill and Asheville, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina, Washington, DC,; and Atlanta. Visit SELC online at www.southernenvironment.org

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Agreement will help preserve Northwest Georgia forests

25 11 2008

Calhoun Times

Georgia ForestWatch, Southern Environmental Law Center and the U.S. Forest Service plus other concerned groups and citizens concluded an intensive, three-year public review process in August culminating in agreement in principle regarding a timber management project on the Chattahoochee National forest in Northwest Georgia over the next five to eight years.“All sides put a lot of effort into this process and had to ‘give a little’ to reach agreement,” said Wayne Jenkins, executive director, Georgia ForestWatch. “We support good, collaborative forestry and most of this project sounds like good forestry.”

“We would like to see the Forest Service pursue more of this type of collaborative restoration work on other national forests in the Southern Appalachian mountains,” said Sarah Francisco, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

The bulk of the 6,200-acre timber project entails thinning pine plantations that have no place in the mountains of Southern Appalachia – a key factor in gaining agreement of the non-profit forest conservation organizations.

This type of thinning is necessary, Jenkins said, to help prevent Southern Pine Beetle infestations on the thousands of acres of overcrowded pine stands on the Chattahoochee. And in time, with appropriate forestry, such stands will mature to a more natural native forest of mixed hardwood and pine species.

“If the Forest Service does this project correctly – and we will be monitoring them closely on this – this could be a win-win scenario for the national forests in Georgia and the citizens who own them,” Jenkins said.





State amendment would give tax relief to tree farmers

30 10 2008

 

STACY SHELTON | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Finding opposition to the state Constitutional amendment that would give property tax relief to tree farmers is not easy given endorsements ranging from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to the Sierra Club.

Amendment No. 1 on the General Election ballot would change the way forest land of more than 2,000 acres is assessed. Instead of fair-market value, the land would be taxed based on its actual use. That method of assessment is already in place for individual and family-owned forests of 2,000 acres or less. The change would benefit corporations and owners of larger land parcels.

Tree farmers in fast-growing areas have seen steep increases in their property taxes, a factor in deciding to develop or sell their land.

One exception to the chorus of amendment supporters is Kate Shropshire, the founder of Urban Independents, a progressive, grass-roots voter education group in Atlanta.

“This is a tough one,” said Shropshire, noting that many of the groups she generally agrees with — including environmental and conservation organizations — support the amendment.

Shropshire’s main opposition stems from the way the amendment is worded, which she calls “misleading.”

“It’s making it sound like we’re protecting land that is public-use land,” she said. “That’s not true. It’s not land that we will own or have access to.”

The question to voters as worded on the ballot, reads “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the General Assembly by general law shall encourage the preservation, conservation, and protection of the state’s forests through the special assessment and taxation of certain forest lands and assistance grants to local government?”

In exchange for the tax relief, forest owners must agree to not subdivide or otherwise develop their land for at least 15 years. If they break the agreement, they would have to repay any taxes they would have owed along with other financial penalties.

Read on here.





Local forester supports Amendment 1

20 10 2008

 

Editorial – Alan D. McAllister | Tifton Gazette

Amendment 1 is one of the most important forestland conservation measures ever taken up by the Georgia General Assembly. It is truly a conservation bill since conservation of natural resources has come to mean “wise use and management.” Gifford Pinchot, the father of American forestry, described it as meaning “the greatest good for the greatest number over the longest time.” On forest lands this means growing and managing timber crops so as to obtain the maximum yields of timber, wildlife, watershed protection and other values without destruction of the forest or its soil.

Georgia is currently blessed with 24 million acres of forests — forests that provide jobs, enhance our environment and make Georgia a beautiful place to live. Fortunately, these forests are renewable so that its continuous replanting guarantees that new forests are born all the time. But maintaining abundant forests is not without its challenges.

Today, Georgia’s forests are threatened by more than just southern pine beetles, destructive wildfires and urban sprawl. A major culprit is rapidly escalating property taxes that are making it more difficult to keep land in forests. When forests disappear, so do the industries and jobs they create and the numerous environmental benefits they deliver free of charge — clean water, pure air and wildlife habitat, to name a few.

Our forests are truly the economic lifeblood of many Georgia communities and greatly contribute to the social fabric of these areas. A Georgia Tech study conducted each year reveals the economies of 1/3 of Georgia counties significantly rely on forests and forest product companies. In fact, forestry contributes $25 billion each year to the state’s economy.

To those that say this amendment will cost local taxpayers, I say that this is just not true. Amendment 1 creates a Constitutional mandate to reimburse revenue losses to counties whose digest is impacted by the Georgia Forest Land Protection Act of 2008. This act will help keep the forest industry strong, therefore benefiting all Georgians with the billions contributed to the state’s economy, not to mention the environmental benefits that go along with healthy forests.

The broad coalition of organizations endorsing Amendment 1 includes: Georgia Forestry Association, Georgia Agribusiness Council, The Georgia Conservancy, Georgia Conservation Voters, Georgia Farm Bureau, Georgia Wildlife Federation, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Sierra Club – Georgia Chapter, The Nature Conservancy, Heritage and Wildlife Conservation Council, Georgia Hunting and Fishing Federation and Quality Deer Management Association.

In addition, the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia are not opposing Amendment 1 since they were instrumental in creating the mandate to reimburse revenue losses in those counties that may be impacted by this legislation.

Read on here.





Residents’ concerns noted in state park plan

1 10 2008

AJC

I have the privilege to serve Georgia as chairman of the Jekyll Island Authority. I accepted this appointment from Gov. Sonny Perdue, and I serve at his pleasure to help achieve the state’s vision for Jekyll Island: that Jekyll shall become a model for a self-sustaining conservation community accessible to all Georgians and once again contribute to the economic prosperity and quality of life for Georgia. This vision is clear and simple, but getting there is often complex. The authority board and staff are keenly aware that we serve the citizens of Georgia, many of whom are passionate about protecting Jekyll as a unique destination. So are we.

I’m afraid some have let their emotions become unbridled and this may be the case with the recent tirade of accusations made by former authority board member, Ed Boshears. Boshears’ accusations are not true, and the people of Georgia need to understand several critical issues.

First, Boshears was not “fired.” Boshears served a complete term, which expired in June, and he continued to serve as the law provides until the governor appointed his replacement. The governor’s reasons are his own, but we are pleased with the appointment of state Rep. Richard Royal. Royal has an outstanding reputation and is a successful businessman in addition to a public servant.

Second, the accusation that the authority engaged in unethical or illegal actions as it works to encourage investment on Jekyll is absolutely false. Last year, Boshears alleged that one of our private-sector partners received a $10 million “giveaway.” This is completely untrue, and was reinforced by a positive ruling from Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker. The selection of Linger Longer Communities, which Boshears voted for, was upheld in court after several challenges by a losing team. The authority board works in full compliance with all of Georgia’s sunshine laws with open public participation.

But the most important point for Georgians to understand is that although Jekyll is a state park it is also required by law to be economically self-sustaining and affordable. It is incumbent upon the board to set policy carefully, yet address a number of challenges, including declining visitation (down nearly 600,000 visitors per year since 1989) and deteriorating facilities (we have more than $30 million in necessary maintenance in our acclaimed historic district alone). This must be accomplished without massive support from the taxpayers — visitation must provide the self-sustaining revenue.

The board must work together to address these challenges.

Solutions include responsible revitalization that will allow us to slowly increase visitation and revenue with a low-density mix of redeveloped retail, lodging and convention offerings on just a small portion of the island. Indeed, a recent visitation analysis revealed that total development needed to generate necessary visitation and income over the next 15 years represents a net addition of roughly 1,000 lodging units, 400 dwelling units and 25,000 commercial square feet over levels that existed 20 years ago.

Other key initiatives include strict design guidelines and lighting ordinances that will protect endangered sea turtles. Having financially strong and talented private partners is a critical part of the equation.





Florida: FWC hosts climate change summit

30 09 2008

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – A climate change summit hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will begin Wednesday in Orlando.

Climate change experts and fish and wildlife scientists will discuss the future of Florida’s animal populations and how to conserve and manage Florida’s resources. Experts from the FWC and other state and federal agencies will discuss the impacts of climate change on wildlife nationally and determine what it means for Florida.

Some of the experts attending include Virginia Burkett, a senior scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, and Defenders of Wildlife’s Jean Brennan, a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize recipient for her work on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.





Burn ban to lift Wednesday, but beware of dry conditions outside

27 09 2008

By Elizabeth Richardson | The Times-Herald

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s burn ban, effective every year beginning in May for 54 counties throughout the state — including Coweta County — officially lifts on Wednesday.

The ban is designed to reduce air pollution in the hot summer months during smog season when ground level ozone and particle pollution are more likely to reach unhealthy levels.

Terry Quigley, chief ranger at the Georgia Forestry Commission’s Coweta office, reminds the public that his office issues the necessary burn permits daily based on the fire danger for that day. And lately, the fire danger has been “running high,” according to Quigley, thanks to ongoing drought conditions.

The drought index is measured on a number scale from zero to 800. Recently, that number has been “hanging out in the high 600s.”

“It would take a lot of rain to bring it down,” said Quigley.

Read on here.