By Suzanne Pender, NRCS
On a tour of Gully Branch Tree Farm, in Bleckley, Georgia, NRCS leaders and partners witnessed first-hand the benefits of the new Forestry Incentives Initiative of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Through conservation activities including woodland management, prescribed burning, cultivation of native plants, and pond management, Earl and Wanda Barr have created habitat for diverse wildlife species on their land.
The Barrs have been extensively recognized for their work and won the 2010 Georgia Governor’s Agriculture Stewardship Award. As foresters and committed conservationists, the Barrs have provided educational programs at their farm for over 7,000 students throughout the years, using the forest as a classroom.
NRCS Regional Assistant Chief Leonard Jordan, NRCS State Conservationist James E. Tillman, Sr. and partners from the local Soil and Water Conservation District, the Georgia Forestry Commission, the Wild Turkey Federation, and others toured the farm and saw conservation in action. Red cockaded woodpeckers followed our wagon in the early morning mist, as we viewed native plants as groundcover, a future silvopasture site, nesting habitat and wetland area.
At one moment in the middle of the forest, we all closed our eyes to fully appreciate the symphony of diverse bird songs. Their song of conservation was brought to life in one of the largest forestry states in the country. Forests are home to 900 species of wildlife and 3,600 species of plants filter water and air and provide thousands of products.