NASA image of the Big Turnaround fire
By Steven Johnson | This article is reprinted with permission from ECT.coop.
Two years ago, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge was the scene of the costliest wildfire in Georgia’s history, burning for six months and charring more than 500,000 acres.
Now, a Georgia G&T is partnering with the Georgia Forestry Commission to help reverse some of the damage.
Oglethorpe Power Corp. and the state agency said Aug. 26 that they will work together to reforest an estimated 500 acres of hardwood forest near Okefenokee Swamp that suffered heavy damage during the 2007 blaze.
Oglethorpe Power’s participation means land that would have been left untended for years should be able to return to form much faster, according to state officials.
“These are areas that the GFC would set aside as low priority for reforestation because of budget constraints,” said Dru Preston Jr. of the Georgia Forestry Commission. “They would otherwise be left to natural regeneration, and wildlife habitat and damaged ecosystems would take much longer to recover.”
Under an agreement, designated wetlands areas are being replanted with red maple, cypress, swamp chestnut oak and water tupelo trees in 33,000-acre Dixon Memorial State Forest, located in Ware and Brantley Counties.
Trees have already been planted on more than 200 acres, with the remainder scheduled to be planted this fall.
Oglethorpe Power will get credit for offsetting carbon dioxide capture by the replanted trees for the first 25 years, and then will share those offsets with the state for an additional 50 years.
A carbon offset program is among the provisions included in climate change legislation currently winding its way through Congress.
“We believe that planting more trees to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is an important part of addressing the climate change issue while also restoring our valuable forestlands and providing important wildlife habitat,” said Michael W. Price, chief operating officer at Oglethorpe Power. “We’re excited to join with the Georgia Forestry Commission in this win-win effort for Georgia’s citizens.” Gov. Sonny Perdue also complimented the partnership approach.
“In joining together to restore these forests, the Forestry Commission and Oglethorpe Power are helping to establish a roadmap for future public-private partnerships that can benefit all of Georgia,” Perdue said.
Oglethorpe Power is also a partner in a consortium of 25 utilities that has replanted more than one million bottomland hardwood trees in the lower Mississippi River valley.