U.S. Forest Service Announces Foothills Landscape Project

Contact(s): Steven Bekkerus, 770-297-3043

Today, the U.S. Forest Service released its environmental analysis for the Foothills Landscape Project.  The project is designed to maintain and restore healthy forest, habitat and watershed conditions across 157,625-acres within the Chattahoochee National Forest in portions of Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Habersham, Lumpkin, Murray, Rabun and White Counties. Beginning in 2016, partners and community members from across North Georgia have been working together with the Forest Service over several years to realize a shared vision to address the complex conservation challenges across this landscape.

"After years of collaboration with our stakeholders and partners, and environmental analysis by Forest Service experts, I’m proud to share our plan to address complex conservation challenges in the Foothills Landscape," said Forest Supervisor Betty Jewett. "From the beginning, this project reflected community values to guide our work in the right places for the right reasons. I believe this new approach will bring lasting benefits to the forest and the people we serve for generations to come.”

Foothills Vicinity Map

The Foothills Landscape project will create, restore and maintain forests and waters that are resilient, sustainable and productive for wildlife and people. Our objective is to do the right work in the right places for the right reasons. This landscape provides a variety of habitats and watersheds popular for public recreation.

This landscape includes a diversity of forested and rare habitats, more than 1,100 miles of streams, 188 miles of trails and dozens of recreation destinations.  But unhealthy forest conditions, impairments to waterways, and impacts from human use are threatening the natural resiliency of the landscape and its inhabitants.  The project proposes a variety of management activities to help achieve the desired future conditions for the area, including:     

  • Maintaining and restoring pine and oak habitat
  • Increased prescribed burning   
  • Conserving more areas for threatened hemlocks
  • Protecting old growth forests
  • Addressing impacts to streams and waterways
  • Creating more wildlife openings and canopy gaps
  • Restoring rare habitats such as canebrakes, mountain bogs, and woodlands
  • Enhancing sustainable recreation opportunities like trails, campgrounds, and day-use sites

The Foothills landscape project was designed to be different from the very beginning.  Collaborating with a diversity of stakeholders from surrounding communities, the Forest Service strived to create a balanced plan that reflects local values and meets forest objectives.

"Our team and collaborators did tremendous work to put this project together.  Accomplishing landscape-scale restoration is no easy feat, but the significant contributions of the public in the very early stages of the project resulted in a comprehensive and thorough proposal," said Stephanie Israel, who became the new team leader for the project in 2018. Israel added, "Completing this first phase of environmental analysis is a huge milestone.  We are excited to be moving the project forward and will continue to involve and value the contributions of stakeholders for years to come."

The Environmental Assessment and supporting analysis documents are now available to preview on the project webpage.  A legal notice is expected to publish in mid-December and will begin the official 30-day comment period. 

To learn more about the Foothills Landscape Project, visit www.fs.usda.gov/goto/FoothillsSign up to receive information about the Foothills Landscape project by email. You can also keep in touch with happenings on our Facebook and Twitter pages (@ChattOconeeNF). If you have specific questions about the Foothills Landscape project, contact team leader Stephanie Israel at sm.fs.foothills@usda.gov or (770) 297-3095.

The public is invited to attend any of the upcoming Community Conversations between 6 and 8 p.m., at the following locations:

Tuesday December 3, 2019

Chatsworth Chamber of Commerce
126 N 3rd Avenue
Chatsworth, Georgia 30705

Wednesday December 4, 2019

Kingwood Country Club and Resort
The Rabun Room
401 Country Club Drive
Clayton, Georgia 30525

Thursday December 5, 2019

Lumpkin County Parks and Recreation Department
Heritage Main Room
365 Riley Road
Dahlonega, Georgia 30533