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No clear-cut answer

Resident upset over state project

POSTED: September 15, 2010 4:00 a.m.
Frank Reddy Dawson Community News/

Pat Hanson, who lives on Eagle Nest Drive, said a state habitat project near his home was conducted with lax supervision. State officials disagree.

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A Dawson County man who lives near Amicalola Creek is “downright livid” over a state-approved forest clearing project that recently took down nearly 40 acres of woods behind his house.

  

But a state official said the trees were cut to create new plant growth, or an early successional habitat, for several animal species in the Wildlife Management Area forest, which include grouse and warblers.

  

Pat Hanson of Eagle Nest Drive said he understands that the animals require the clear-cut type habitat, but he claimed there was a lack of supervision in the land-clearing process.

  

“It’s unconscionable what they have done to the property, when they profess to be stewards of the environment,” Hanson said.

  

“These people were clearing on a mountain that was so steep, it made no sense,” he added. “There’s no way they can do this and not have runoff into the Amicalola.”

  

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources hired a local logging company to cut down and take timber off the state land.

  

The logging company — which was finishing its work last week — paid the state per load of timber, according to Ken Riddleberger, region supervisor with the DNR.

  

Riddleberger said best management practices were followed during the clearing process.

  

“We had an independent evaluation done,” he said. “We made a 100 on the inspection. The cut is being done properly, and it’s being done with a wildlife objective.”

  

Riddleberger said he understood Hanson’s concerns.

  

“He’s unhappy we did this in his backyard,” he said. “A clear cut always looks destructive. It’s not a pretty operation. The vision for this down the road, though, is for it to be a great place for these birds and other animals that use that kind of habitat.”

  

Hanson met with state officials about two months ago to talk about boundaries for the logging operation.

  

Riddleberger said the state agreed to rope off a certain area of the woods close to Hanson’s home on a steep hill.

  

“We did that as a courtesy,” Riddleberger said. “It was still on our property, but we were willing to be a good neighbor, so we blocked it off and took it out of the sale.”

  

He said the logging company “made a mistake and missed the boundary. It was an accident from the loggers’ standpoint.”

  

The company removed about 25 trees out of that area, according to Riddleberger.

  

Hanson is not happy about it.

  

“The fact is, we had an agreement,” Hanson said. “They didn’t abide by their agreement, and the reason the agreement wasn’t adhered to is because they didn’t supervise the job.”

  

He said it’s an eyesore.

  

“It’s now the most unsightly piece of property you have ever seen,” Hanson said. “In the fall, when the leaves are down, it’s going to look like I bought a house in an area where the developer went bankrupt.”

  

Riddleberger acknowledged that “it might not look very good to [Hanson], but it’s perfect for the animals out there that need it.”

  

He said the parcel is ideal for grouse, which are a rapidly declining game species.

  

“The reason they have declined is because this type of habitat is so limited,” Riddleberger said. “That’s why we proceeded with this project in a place where we knew there were grouse. This was the perfect place to do it.

  

“It was close to riverways, because these animals like to be where there’s water.”

  

He added that buffers were left around the river and creeks.

  

Hanson is not convinced the buffers will be sufficient.

  

“It’s going to be an erosion issue that’s going to be nuts,” said Hanson, adding that it’s not an issue he’s going to give up.

  

“They think they’re done with me, but they’re not,” he said. “I’m going to raise the devil.”

  

Riddleberger contends the state agency is doing its job.

  

“We have a responsibility,” Riddleberger said. “It’s a wildlife management area, and we have to manage it for the things we know to be of greatest need.

  

“Early successional habitat is one of the biggest needs we have.”

 

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