GFC’s Georgia Conservation Woodland Program provides conservation tools to assist Georgia landowners with management goals and objectives for 20 acres or fewer.
Is Georgia’s Conservation Woodland Program Right for You?
Georgia is home to more than 24 million acres of forestland. These forests provide critical benefits for us all – from wood products and water quality improvement to stormwater mitigation, recreation, and wildlife habitat. This rich and renewable resource is owned by more than 524,000 forest landowners, 75% of whom own fewer than 20 acres. If you’re one of these landowners, GFC’s Georgia Conservation Woodland Program can help you get the most out of your forestland and introduce you to new techniques and outcomes. Our program provides information and techniques for a wide variety of management purposes: timber, forest health, invasive species control, riparian habitat, tree identification, wildlife management and habitat, pollinators, growing vegetables, fruit, and mushrooms, creating your biochar, aesthetics, and wildfire prevention.
Let’s Get Started!
Certain properties, including agricultural lands, forestlands, and environmentally sensitive areas, may be eligible for reduced property tax rates through Conservation Use Valuation Assessment (CUVA). These properties are assessed according to a combination of soil type, productivity and a reduced fair market value factor. This typically results in a significant reduction of property taxes.
Landowners must promise to maintain their lands in the designated use (agriculture, forestry, or environmentally sensitive) for 10 years. Landowners can re-enroll after 10 years if they wish to remain in CUVA. Eligibility Each county tax assessor’s office administers the program independently, so application requirements may vary among counties. There is no requirement for size of the property in the state regulations. However, state law does require that any property that is fewer than ten acres in size provide additional proof that indeed, the property is currently and actively being used for a qualifying purpose. You must provide the required proof and at least half of your property is currently active in a bona fide agriculture use. Such agriculture uses that qualify a property as an active producer for the covenant can include such activity as crop production and or support, livestock production and or management, production of marketable plants, trees, fowl and or animals, marketable horticulture, floriculture, forestry, dairy, poultry and or apiarian products. Such uses may include a business plan outline for current and future plans. A periodic field review will be conducted by a staff appraiser to insure these uses are continuously devoted in a qualifying, good faith, bona fide production. along with the properly completed application for the program within the legal time limit. If both the proof and the completed application are not filed within the proper time limit, your application will be denied The land must be kept in its qualifying use and cannot be used for any non-agricultural commercial business.
Contact your local county tax assessor’s office for applications and enrollment information. Applications for conservation use assessment must be filed with the county board of tax assessors on or before the last day for filing ad valorem tax returns in the county (usually April 1st). For more specifics on CUVA, refer to the Georgia Department of Revenue’s web page at Georgia Department of Revenue’s web page.
Conservation Management Plan
A Conservation Management Plan gives recommendations to enhance all resources on your property while focusing on your goals that were hopefully mentioned below. Using the link below, you can develop a Conservation Management Plan for your property. It will be sent to a GFC forester for review. Once it is reviewed, the forester will send you an e-mail with the plan included. In addition to having this plan for your own use, it can also be used with your application for CUVA if your property is smaller than the minimum acreage allowable in your county.
After reviewing the information found throughout this webpage, click here to develop your management plan. You will use the information provided on this page to fill out the plan.
Where is your Forestland?
Pinpointing property location helps landowners understand their plant hardiness zone, soil types, and possibly endangered species that are present. It also provides contact information for corresponding local GFC, NRCS, FSA, DNR, and UGA Extension offices. These offices can provide financial and technical assistance for the desired management outcomes.
Discovering your Property (Interactive Map)
Discovering your Property (Interactive Map)
Goals and Objectives
Whether you want to grow trees as an investment, vegetables to eat, wildflowers for beauty and pollination or to grow big deer for hunting, defining an overall goal or multiple goals is the first step in properly managing your property.
There are three main practices used to obtain timber management goals: tree planting, harvesting, and prescribed burning. These practices may also be used for other goals, such as aesthetics, pollinator production, riparian habitat, and Streamside Management Zone (SMZ) protection and wildlife habitat. The documents below provide a printable description of tree planting, timber harvesting, and prescribed fire.
- Tree Planting Recommendations
- Timber Harvesting Recommendations
- Prescribed Fire Recommendations
- Smoke Management
Urban and Arborist
It is not just the rural areas of Georgia where trees love to grow. Urban forestry is found throughout the cities and towns. GFC’s Urban Foresters help protect and promote Georgia’s urban forests and provide arborist advice and answers for questions you might have about your trees. Using the links below, you can access our Urban-Community Forestry Program along with learning proper techniques for tree selection, planting, and maintenance.
Just like humans, forests can battle health issues. In Georgia, many species of fungus, disease, and insects can weaken and even kill trees. Common diseases found in Georgia include Heterobasidion Root Disease, Laurel Wilt Disease, and Thousand Cankers Disease. For insects, you can find the Emerald Ash Borer, Gypsy Moth, Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, Redbay Ambrosia Beetle, Pine Bark Beetle, Sirex Woodswasp, and Hardwood Defoliating Caterpillars.
The links below will direct you to more information on forest health issues, descriptions, possible treatments and assistance. Please reach out to your local forester if you have any concerns with the health of your forest.
Invasive Species Identification and Control
Invasions of nonnative plants into southern forests continue to go unchecked and unmonitored. Invasive nonnative plants infest under and beside forest canopies and occupy small forest openings, increasingly eroding forest productivity, hindering forest use and management activities, and degrading diversity and wildlife habitat. Often called nonnative, exotic, nonindigenous, alien, or noxious weeds, they occur as trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, ferns, and forbs. Some have been introduced into this country accidentally, but most were brought here as ornamentals or for livestock forage. These robust plants arrived without their natural predators of insects and diseases that tend to keep native plants in natural balance. Now they increase across the landscape with little opposition, beyond the control and reclamation measures applied by landowners and managers on individual land holdings.
The link below will direct you to a list of common invasive species found within the state and their treatment recommendations. If you have any concerns or questions, please contact your local forester with the map provided.
Riparian habitat is the area of land found in and along bodies of water. These areas can include wetlands, floodplains, ponds, lakes, creeks and rivers. In order to prevent water quality and erosion issues, it is important to properly manage these riparian habitats. This not only protects humans, but it also provides excellent habitat for wildlife and aquatic species. The file below will supply you with information on Best Management Practices and habitat recommendations for your riparian area.
Georgia is known for its timber production and industry. Although pine trees are usually what comes to mind for tree species in Georgia, there are actually 268 native trees found throughout the state. Being able to correctly identify and learn about the tree species growing on your property will help you better decide on what management techniques to use for your desired objectives and outcomes. The links listed below can assist with identifying the trees found throughout your property. There are also different phone apps you can use to help identify trees and other vegetation types.
Wildlife Management and Habitat
Georgia is well known for its wildlife and hunting enthusiasts. Managing even a small amount of acres on your property can provide an excellent amount of food and habitat for desired wildlife like songbirds, game birds, whitetail deer, etc. Below are multiple recommendations and diagrams to help you facilitate wildlife to use your woodlands in order to harvest wild game or just enjoy watching them from afar.
Create a Backyard Habitat
If you are hoping to enjoy watching wildlife from the comfort of your home, there are some simple things you can do to attract and retain all sorts of animals, insects, and birds. Use any of the native plant, tree, and pollinator species mentioned throughout this page to supply food and cover for wildlife. Another important component for wildlife is access to water. If you aren’t lucky enough to have water naturally on your property, you can just add something as small as a bird bath to as big as garden pond. All of these items combined in your backyard should increase your wildlife viewing and enjoyment.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is a great website for more tips on creating your backyard habitat.
Pollinators are vital to both wildlife and humans throughout the state. In the US, approximately 75% of all food production depends on pollinators. A 2014 economic impact study by University of Georgia experts determined that the annual value of pollination to Georgia is over $360 million. Bugs, birds, reptiles, wind and even some mammals act as pollinators to transport pollen from plant to plant. Those transfers lead to fertilizing plants so they can begin to grow fruits and seeds. The fruits and seeds that are grown help with regeneration along with along with providing food for wildlife and human consumption. In addition, they are beautiful to see growing throughout your property.
Due to constant changes in landscapes, fragmentation of habitat and pesticide uses, pollinators and their benefits are in a serious decline. To help improve the habitat and environment for pollinators, plant species that bloom at different times of the year. Depending on your plant hardiness zone, here are some plants that can grow in Georgia:
|Asters||Downy Goldenrod||Mountain Mint|
|Baby Sage||Eastern Purple Coneflower||Spiderwort|
|Bee Balm||False Rosemary||St. John’s Wort|
|Blackeyed Susan||Hardy Lantana||Sunflower|
|Butterfly Weed and other Milkweeds||Hyssop||Wheat Celosia|
|Catnip||Joe-pye Weed||Wild Indigo|
|Cosmos||Mexican Sunflower||Winter Honeysuckle|
Contact your local NRCS, FSA, and UGA Extension office to inquire about any cost-share and technical assistance to begin growing pollinator plants on your land.
There is a lot to be done on small pieces of land, and there is no better example of that than creating your own backyard garden. Taking advantage of just a little bit of land can create an abundance of your favorite fruits, vegetables, herbs and mushrooms along with creating your own biochar. Not to mention improving your pollinator habitat. The file provided below offers you a step-by-step process of growing your own food on your own land along with other links to help you select the correct items to grow and when to plant them in your area.
More on Backyard Gardening.
The most important aspect in owning your own property is to enjoy it. Understanding, improving and appreciating it’s aesthetics is the easiest objective to acquire. Using the few tips listed below can improve the beauty of your property for yourself, family and even the general public.
- Plant or open up around any trees with favorable foliage and/or flowering ability.
- Develop vistas by using your properties topography and create openings at the highest points.
- Create walking or riding trails for enjoyable strolls through your property.
- Plant or maintain native flowers, shrubs, and trees that grow in your plant hardiness zone and soil types.
- Promote prescribed burning for brush control, promotion of flowering and herbaceous understory, improved access and visual enhancement.
- Identify and maintain any unique historical or geological features.
- Remove any trash or dumped items found throughout your property. Especially along any roads.
- Construct a beautiful entrance with landscaping, fencing and signage. This can help prevent any trespassers as well.
In order to protect them from wildfire, we recommend implementing some techniques to protect the area. Fire is a great tool for landowners. A naturally occurring cycle of the forest, fire’s value when used properly provides many advantages for the forest and landowner. However, when fire enters your property unwanted and uncontrolled its effects can be devastating to life and property. Your home, outbuildings and structures can all be protected. Understanding the home ignition zone can better prepare you to defend your home and buildings against fire. This understanding and planning can improve your home’s survivability against wildfire.
The Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) includes the house and its immediate surroundings within 100 to 200 feet depending on slope and nearby fuels. The condition of the home ignition zone principally determines the potential for home ignitions during a wildfire.
A house burns because of its interrelationship with everything in its surrounding home ignition zone. To avoid a home ignition, the homeowner must eliminate a wildfire’s potential relationship with his/her house. This can be accomplished by interrupting the natural path a fire takes – a relatively simple task. Flammable items such as dead vegetation must be removed from the area immediately around the house (30 Feet) to prevent flames from contacting it. Also, reducing the volume of live vegetation will affect the intensity of the wildfire as it enters the home ignition zone.
Many homes destroyed by wildfire do not ignite by being overrun by huge walls of flames. More typically, fire burns along ground fuels—grass, leaves, debris—to ignite homes with combustible construction, such as wooden roofing and siding.
The National Wild-land Urban Interface Fire Program’s Firewise Communities team recommends that you improve your “home ignition zone”—the house and surrounding area up to 200 feet. These landscape and construction tips may help:
Home Ignition Zone tips
Protect your investment from the damaging effects of wildfire by installing/maintaining firebreaks. A firebreak is a gap in vegetation or other combustible material that acts as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of a prescribed fire or wildfire. A firebreak may occur naturally where there is a lack of vegetation or “fuel”, such as a river, lake, or road. The GFC offers fire break plowing and harrowing for a nominal fee; for more information about our services call your local county office.