Georgia Forestry Commission with Oglethorpe Power celebrate completion of project involving planting nearly 150,000 seedlings to reforest about 400 acres of hardwood forestland burned near Okefenokee Swamp

Kendall Sinclair

Kendall Sinclair

May 5, 2011 – PRNewswire

WAYCROSS, Georgia , May 5, 2011 (press release) – Oglethorpe Power Corporation and the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) this week celebrated the planting of nearly 150,000 seedlings in a partnership to reforest about 400 acres of hardwood forestland burned in wildfires near the Okefenokee Swamp in 2007. The replanting took place over several seasons from 2009–2010 in the 33,000-acre Dixon Memorial State Forest located in Ware and Brantley counties.

In commemoration of the project, Oglethorpe Power and GFC dedicated a roadside sign marking the project.

Working closely with GFC, Oglethorpe Power replanted designated wetland areas with pond cypress, bald cypress, red maple, swamp chestnut oak and water tupelo trees. The plantings took place in areas where GFC did not plan to replant because of budget restraints and, thus, the recovery of these wetland areas would have been much slower if left to natural processes alone.

Clarence Mitchell, senior vice president, regulatory and contract operations, for Oglethorpe Power, said recent testing showed the replanting has been very successful, achieving a seedling survival rate well above the industry average.

"We are extremely pleased to have been part of such a successful effort to reforest a portion of one of Georgia's most diverse and important ecosystems," Mitchell said.   "Ultimately, all Georgians benefit from efforts like these to protect and preserve our state's vital natural resources."

Robert Farris, director of the Georgia Forestry Commission, went on to explain that the benefits of the reforestation project will only multiply as time progresses.

"Thanks to the partnership with Oglethorpe Power, this reforestation project helps heal a wound in this community left by one of the worst wildfires in our state's history. As these new trees continue to grow, so will the benefits to the environment, wildlife and the community as a whole."

Oglethorpe Power Corporation (OPC) is the nation's largest power supply cooperative with more than $7 billion in assets serving 39 Electric Membership Corporations which, collectively, provide electricity to 4.1 million Georgians. A proponent of conscientious energy development and use, OPC balances reliable and affordable energy with environmental responsibility and has an outstanding record of regulatory compliance.  Its diverse energy portfolio includes natural gas, hydroelectric, coal and nuclear generating plants with a combined capacity of approximately 7,048 MW, as well as purchased power.

OPC was established in 1974 and is owned by its 39 Member Systems. It is headquartered in Tucker, Georgia. For more information, check the web site at www.opc.com.

The Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) is a dynamic state agency responsible for providing leadership, service and education in the protection and conservation of Georgia's forest resources. Commission professionals provide a wide variety of services including fire detection, wildfire suppression and prevention, emergency and incident command system expertise, rural fire department assistance, forest management assistance, the marketing and utilization of forest resources and nature services, and growing and selling quality tree seedlings for planting. For more information about GFC services and wildfire safety in Georgia, visit www.GaTrees.org.

DIXON FOREST GFC-OPC REFORESTATION PROJECT

FAST FACTS

  • Oglethorpe Power and the Georgia Forestry Commission joined in a partnership in 2008 to restore some 400 acres of bottomland hardwoods in the Dixon Memorial Forest (Ware and Brantley Counties) that were damaged by the Okefenokee Swamp fires in 2007.
  • The areas chosen for this effort were outside the upland long leaf pine forests targeted for restoration by the GFC and, thus, would have been otherwise left to regenerate through a much slower natural processes.
  • More than 80,000 seedlings were planted in 2009, and an additional 66,000 seedlings were planted in 2010.
  • The type and mixture of trees planted in this effort were designed to mimic what was in place prior to the fires.  Pond cypress made up about 64 percent of the plants, along with water tupelo (10 percent), red maple (10 percent), swamp chestnut oak (10 percent) and bald cypress (6 percent).
  • About 66 percent of all seedlings planted have survived, according to follow-up studies performed after the plantings.  This is well above generally accepted levels.
  • The replanting partnership was assisted by Winrock International, a nonprofit organization that works on various projects around the world, including sustaining natural resources, and Environmental Services, Inc., a leading environmental consulting firm with twelve offices nationwide and headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida.

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