Grant projects announced today by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources will improve public opportunities to see and learn about native animals and plants statewide. The six proposals selected by the DNR Wildlife Resources Division as 2022 recipients in the Wildlife Viewing Grants Program range from coastal Georgia to Rutledge and Thomasville to Lavonia.
The grants, funded by the Georgia Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund, help develop and enhance wildlife viewing options, with an emphasis on State Wildlife Action Plan species and habitats. Georgia’s Wildlife Action Plan (georgiawildlife.com/wildlifeactionplan) is a comprehensive strategy to conserve these animals, plants and places before they become rarer and costlier to conserve or restore.
This year’s recipients and their proposals include:
- Manomet – $2,999 to create shorebird guides and banded-bird stickers to help steward programs inform the public about priority species on Georgia beaches and other coastal sites.
- Friends of Hard Labor Creek State Park – $3,000 to build six observation platforms along a 2.5-mile nature trail at the park near Rutledge, improving access to key wildlife-viewing areas.
- Friends of Lost Creek Forest – $3,000 to add trail markers and two kiosks to improve access and outreach at Lost Creek Forest, a publicly owned, old-growth slope forest in Thomasville.
- Lavonia Elementary – $3,000 for row cover and more native trees and plants to expand Betty’s Garden, a project at the Lavonia school focused on monarchs and other pollinators.
- Environmental Education Alliance – $3,000 to provide wildlife cameras and support materials for a teacher-and-student projects to investigate local wildlife at schools and education centers.
- Phinizy Center for Water Sciences – $2,400 to help fund construction materials needed to repair the Sunrise Pond boardwalk at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park near Augusta.
The projects include work and spending by partners that will significantly amplify the grants provided.
Each will also help people experience and appreciate the state’s native wildlife, including species and habitats identified in the Wildlife Action Plan, said Jon Ambrose, Ph.D., chief of DNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section. “We are pleased to be able to support local efforts to bring people closer to nature in Georgia.”
The grants are small – capped at $3,000 each – but the interest they tap is big. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey, about 2.4 million people took part in wildlife-viewing activities in Georgia in 2011. The survey estimated related spending at $1.8 billion. Nationwide, the number of people involved in wildlife viewing surged from about 72 million in 2011 to 86 million in 2016, the agency reported.
Among other work, last year’s wildlife viewing grants helped build wildlife viewing platforms on nature trails at Prater’s Mill Historic Site in Varnell, add benches and QR code signs about plants and habitats at Wolf Creek Trout Lily Preserve near Cairo, fund signage to help visitors spot and identify birds at Constitution Lakes Park in Atlanta and restore a boardwalk open to the public at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton.
The Wildlife Conservation Section is charged with restoring and conserving nongame wildlife, rare native plant species and natural habitats through research, management and education. The section depends largely on fundraisers, grants and donations to the Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund. Sales and renewals of DNR’s eagle, monarch and hummingbird license plates are the leading fundraiser.
- Wildlife Viewing Grants Program: georgiawildlife.com/WildlifeViewingGrants
- DNR Wildlife Conservation Section: georgiawildlife.com/conservation/AnnualReport
- DNR license plates that support conservation: georgiawildlife.com/licenseplates