Documenting illegal trails

As part of its Clean Mountain Streams Campaign, ForestWatch organized a Jan. 5 outing to document illegal trails, visit an area with a network of unauthorized motor-vehicle trails and photograph the damage. 

Georgia ForestWatch, a Dahlonega-based organization dedicated to protect and enhance the health of Georgia’s 867,000 acres of National Forest, has announced the Clean Streams Campaign. Through the Clean Streams Campaign, Georgia ForestWatch members and partner organizations will work to protect aquatic species that live in the mountain headwater streams of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest from chronic habitat damage.

Mountain streams that originate in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest feed the rivers that supply Georgia’s drinking water while also providing recreational and economic value to the surrounding communities. 

To improve and protect the health of vital headwater streams Georgia ForestWatch has identified three key initiatives:    

  • Identify and rehabilitate roads leak sediment into streams within the Blue Ridge and Chattooga River Ranger Districts. Offending roads impact native species such as native Brook Trout and species that Brook Trout thrive including aquatic insects, crayfish, and Hellbenders. 
  • Work in partnership with the Forest Service to identify and close ATV illegal trails within the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest from which sediment flows into Georgia mountain streams. 
  • Identify roads adjacent to rare aquatic species’ habitats within the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. 

 “The streams of the southern Appalachians are a major recreation resource that host some of the greatest diversity of aquatic species found anywhere in the United States,” said Jess Riddle, Executive Director of Georgia ForestWatch.

“Key to these amazing natural resources, as well as the water we drink, is protecting these mountain streams from sediment leaking from unkept Forest Service roads and illegal trails.  The many aquatic species that populate these mountain stream in our national forests also are threatened and harmed by herbicides used during timber projects. Solving these issues will make a positive impact on not only on our National Forests but the economics of the surrounding areas.”

Georgia ForestWatch, a 501 C charity, seeks to enhance the health of Georgia’s 867,000 acres of National Forest by protecting forests and streams, advocating for natural processes and identifying opportunities to improve Forest management. For more information call 706-867-0051