Georgia Ecological Services Field Offices
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Agency Proposes Critical Habitat for Threatened Rufa Red Knot Shorebird

July 14, 2021

 

Red Knot in Flight

Mispillion Harbor, Delaware. Credit: Gregory Breese/USFWS

Migratory shorebirds, like the rufa red knot, need particular areas to refuel and rest along their 18,000+ mile annual journeys. Unfortunately, climate change and human activities are shrinking these areas, choking off needed habitat and leaving local communities vulnerable to sea level rise and violent coastal storms. This is why we’re proposing to establish 649,000+ acres of critical habitat across 13 states. For more info, please visit the Service’s Rufa Red Knot species information page.

The critical habitat designation would help focus conservation efforts in the areas along the coasts with the most rufa red knot activity. It would also reinforce ongoing and continued conservation of red knots and other coastal wildlife and habitats in coordination with local, state and federal partners.

The proposed rule will publish in the Federal Register on Thursday, July 15, 2021 and will be available for public comment at regulations.gov under docket number FWS–R5–ES–2021–0032. The Service requests comments or information from other governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested parties concerning this proposed rule. Comments must be received within 60 days, on or before Monday, September 13, 2021.

Download the full news release here.

 

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2021 Upper Coosa Conservation Summit

June 7, 2021

 

The Coosa River Basin is a hotspot for freshwater biodiversity and the focus of substantial research and conservation effort. Join partners throughout the Upper Coosa on October 21, 2021 at Berry College (Rome, GA) to learn about ongoing research, conservation efforts, and future strategies for the basin.

 

For updates on registration and abstract submission details, please visit the event page over at the UGA River Basin Center!

Upper Coosa Conservation Summit flyer

 

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Bat Acoustic Monitoring in Georgia

May 26, 2021

 

Georgia ES biologists recently installed acoustic monitoring devices that will record bat acoustic data for several at-risk and declining species in Georgia. This info will support a larger effort to provide robust guidance on the necessary level of effort (i.e., detector nights) needed to assess Indiana bats and northern long-eared bats in the Appalachians and Midwest, and begin to establish these parameters for other species, such as the tri-colored bat in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain of Georgia and the Carolinas. Our office is monitoring six detector locations: three sites at Whitehall Forest in Athens, and three sites along the Ocmulgee River at Oaky Woods and Ocmulgee Wildlife Management Areas south of Macon.

 

For more about this project, visit our Bat Conservation page!

GAES biologists set up an acoustic detector Forest setting for acoustic detector GAES biologists ensure that the acoustic detector is properly installed
GAES biologists setting up acoustic detectors at Whitehall Forest, Athens, GA.

 

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A Visit to the Deerleap Conservation Bank

May 20, 2021

 

Staff from the Georgia Ecological Services Field Office recently visited the Deerleap Preserve Conservation Bank. The bank was developed to support recovery and provide a mitigation option for unavoidable impacts to Cherokee darter (Etheostoma scotti), Etowah darter (E. etowahae), and amber darter (Percina antesella). This particular site visit and subsequent sampling effort was to formalize the end of interim management period for the bank, which was approved in 2015. The bank will now move into the long term management period, which is supported in perpetuity by a non-wasting endowment.

 

Cherokee darter Georgia Ecological Services staff stand in front of a waterfall Shoal Creek at Deerleap Conservation Bank
Deerleap site visit. From left to right: Cherokee darter (Credit: Eric Bauer); Georgia ES biologists (Credit: Shane Keebaugh); Shoal Creek (Credit: Martha Zapata).

 

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COVID-19 Update

May 13, 2021

 

New COVID cases are continuing to decline in Georgia in May and vaccine availability has been extended to all adults. Georgia field office staff are still working 100% remotely at this time. However, site visits are authorized for various projects across the state. We do not currently have an anticipated return to the office plan at this time. When we do, COVID mitigation protocols such as physical distancing and the use of face coverings will apply. As a reminder, mandatory face covers apply to everyone accessing federal buildings.

 

 

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Suwannee Alligator Snapping Turtle proposed listing

May 13, 2021

 

Photo of Suwannee Alligator Snapping Turtle

The Suwannee alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys suwanniensis) is proposed to be listed as a threatened species with an associated 4(d) rule. The proposed listing and 4(d) rule for the species was published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 (). The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will accept comments received or postmarked on or before June 7, 2021.

 

Photo Credit: Christopher Coppola, Georgia ESFO

 

 

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Service announces public hearing on proposed downlisting of red-cockaded woodpecker

November 12, 2020

 

On September 25, 2020, the Service proposed downlisting the red-cockaded woodpecker from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), along with a proposed 4(d) rule. The proposal follows decades of conservation partnerships on behalf of the woodpecker, which saw its populations and numbers increase across its range. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will hold a public hearing on the proposed downlisting of the red-cockaded woodpecker. The virtual public hearing will be held on December 1, 2020 via Zoom and teleconference, in accordance with COVID-19 pandemic public gathering rules. Virtual meetings are also consistent with Service regulations at 50 CFR 424.16©(3).

Red-cockaded Woodpecker public hearing.

 

 

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Sample of a HUC 10 guidance document.

HUC 10 Watershed Assessment Guidance

August 13, 2020

*UPDATED*

 

Screenshot of the online mapper to find a watershed.

Georgia's HUC 10 Guidance Tool has been updated!

Our office strives to provide information for project proponents as early as possible in their project planning. To meet some of those needs, we have developed a tool to help assess the potential for endangered and threatened species and guidance under the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act for each HUC 10 watershed in Georgia.

Each document only addresses species found within the state of Georgia. For watersheds that cross the state boundary, please contact the corresponding state's FWS field office and Department of Natural Resources (or their equivalent). Please note that these documents do not replace any requirements for consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, but provide general guidance for project planning.

 

For more information, please click on the following link HUC 10 Endangered and Threatened Species Guidance.

 

 

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Federal Listing of the Trispot Darter (Etheostoma trisella)

January 28, 2019

 

Photo of Trispot Darter, photo credit: Pat O'Neil, Geological Survey of Alabama

A small, colorful fish found in the Coosa River Basin is now federally protected.

On January 29, 2018, the trispot darter was formally recognized as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now proposing exemptions to otherwise prohibited activities under the ESA. The exemptions, included in a 4(d) rule, mark the ESA’s flexibility in allowing for certain management activities to continue because of their overall benefit to the long-term status of the listed darter.

At the same time, the Service is proposing critical habitat for the darter.

The rule and proposals were published in the Federal Register on December 28, 2018 during the partial government shutdown. The public is invited to submit written comments and information on the proposed critical habitat rule and/or proposed 4(d) rule by February 26, 2019.

The trispot darter is a freshwater fish found in parts of the Coosa River Basin in southeastern Tennessee, northern Georgia and northern Alabama. The fish is most susceptible to threats that affect their access to spawning areas, including excessive groundwater withdrawals, drought, or construction of man-made structures like dams and road crossings that can limit or prevent its access; however, changes in habitat and poor water quality from pollution, sedimentation, agricultural and stormwater runoff can also affect critical life stages of the trispot darter which have been noted in the species decline.

Federal protections for the trispot will assist state and local efforts to protect the species by raising greater awareness of the threats to the fish and f ocusing conservation efforts on its behalf.

Exempted Activities

A 4(d) rule is a targeted approach that can reduce Endangered Species Act conflicts by allowing some activities that do not significantly harm the species to continue, while focusing efforts on addressing threats to the species’ recovery.

Critical Habitat

The proposed critical habitat designation for the trispot darter consists of 181 stream miles and 16,735 acres of occupied spawning habitat. Each state owns the navigable waters within its boundaries, and all known spawning habitat for the species is located on private lands.

Establishing critical habitat will raise awareness of the needs of the trispot darter and other imperiled species and focus the efforts of our conservation partners. It also alerts federal agencies that they are required to make special conservation efforts when they work, fund or permit activities in those areas.

For more information on the proposed 4(d) rule and Critical Habitat, please see the Federal Register notifications at the Environmental Conservation Online System.

 

For more information, please refer to the Regional Website and their summary of the Trispot darter listing.

 

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Looking for older posts?

 

Visit more Stories from the Archive

 

 

 

What's New?

Updated GAES Field Office Work Areas Map!

Georgia Ecological Services Field Office Work Areas Map

 

HUC 10 Watershed ESA Guidance Tool

Georgia HUC10 Watersheds

 

Stream Crossing Handbook Updates coming soon!

Stream Crossing Handbook

 

Emergency Consultation

NOAA image of Hurricane Florence 2018

 

Stream Temperature Monitoring

 

Tracking a Killer: White-nose Syndrome in Georgia

GA DNR biologist surveys bats

 

Speeding up Nature by Thousands of Years

Last updated: May 20, 2021