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In compliance with legislation that updated OCGA 12-6-24, the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) will launch an easy-to-use, statewide harvest notification website, which will replace county-by-county notifications. The changes to OCGA 12-6-24 came out of HB 897 passed in 2020. The specifics within 897 were developed by a timber harvest ordinance working group put together by the Georgia Forestry Association (GFA). The task force was made up of county officials, ACCG, GFC, GFA, timber harvesters, and partners in the forest industry who recognize that an equitable and uniform system for timber harvesting is vital for the security of Georgia’s $36.3 billion forest products industry.
- Increases the allowable fine for failure to comply from $500 to $1500.
- Allows for an incremental bond increase from harvesters who have previously caused damage to county roads and/or rights of way ($10,000 limit.)
- Narrows scope of when the bond can be used but does not prevent a county from pursuing other remedies to recoup damages to county roads or rights of way.
- Creates a timeline for when and how a county can utilize a bond.
The pilot project was a hands-on test that provided invaluable feedback for simplifying and streamlining a new procedure that affects a multitude of private and government sectors. Some of the website improvements made, based on test-user input, include added fields to collect landowner representative information and the requirement to include the names of public road entries and exits. An ArcGIS mapping function was removed due to security concerns, yet counties will still get an email when a notification is entered, including a PDF of the notification, a copy of the uploaded map, and a link to Google maps.
Per the legislation, after the launch, counties that require timber harvest notification can begin transitioning their processes to the new website. After a period of no more than 18 months from the launch, the website will become the required format for counties to receive timber harvest notifications.