The Southern Company system is the largest non-government provider of recreation facilities in Alabama and Georgia. We opened nearly 38,000 acres of land for public use that are now operated by state conservation and natural resources agencies as Wildlife Management Areas. In managing lakes, shorelines, and natural areas, we balance generation, environmental and economic factors.
Over the years, we have donated several large tracts of land to state DNR organizations for inclusion in parks, preserving their public use and threatened plants and animals indigenous to them. In November 2007, Georgia Power donated to the state of Georgia 2,268 acres comprising most of Tallulah Gorge State Park. In 2009, Georgia Power also donated 3,059 acres known as Sprewell Bluff, along both sides of the Flint River: 2,052 acres at McGrau Ford in Cherokee County along the Etowah River. These places, respectively, have populations of longleaf pine, Cherokee and Etowah darters and persistent trillium.
Lakes and Recreation
Some 31 lakes lie behind our hydroelectric plants, which provide renewable power, flood control, irrigation, drinking water, fish and wildlife habitats and recreation on more than 200,000 acres of lakes and 5,000 miles of shoreline in Alabama and Georgia. Shorelines also bolster local economies serving boaters, fishermen, homeowners, hotels and parks.
In addition to recreational activities like swimming, fishing and boating on the lakes themselves, picturesque nearby areas have hiking trails, picnic areas and campgrounds — many of which are accessible to people with physical disabilities. For information, news and maps about recreation, fish species and hydroelectric plants at each of our lakes, visit Alabama Power lakes and Georgia Power lakes.
As hydroelectric plant licenses come up for renewal, we conduct an extensive process that addresses power generation, natural resources, recreation and aesthetics at the sites. The relicensing process engages federal, state and local resource agencies, non-governmental organizations, citizens' groups, Native American tribes and other stakeholders.
From an ecological standpoint, we compile and release biological assessments for threatened and endangered species. The reports propose actions we take to support biodiversity by protecting species of concern—and in some instances, enhancing habitats—in the watershed of the proposed project.
Forests offer bountiful wildlife habitats, provide beautiful areas for outdoor recreation, and even create jobs. Our foresters and wildlife biologists manage more than 263,000 acres of forested land in Alabama, Georgia and Florida for timber production and to enhance habitat for game and non-game species.
Approximately 120,000 acres of our forestland is leased to hunting clubs or managed by states as Wildlife Management Areas and state parks, offering hunting, fishing, canoeing, bike riding, archery, camping, hiking and bird watching. Many areas have nature trails with interpretive signs about the forest. We also have three areas dedicated to handicap-only hunting.
Eight federally listed, and many state-listed, threatened or endangered species inhabit the land we own, including the red-cockaded woodpecker, gopher tortoise and American bald eagle. Our foresters follow federal and state laws and guidelines to protect these species and their habitat and help states survey plant and animal species. For example:
- Alabama Power manages roughly 1,500 acres of longleaf pine forest at Lake Mitchell for 12 active clusters of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker under a Safe Harbor agreement and RCW Management Plan.
- Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear signed a Safe Harbor agreement in 2007 with the Georgia DNR to manage approximately 1,800 acres at its two nuclear sites for red-cockaded woodpecker and other longleaf-dependent species, such as the gopher tortoise. (Red-cockaded woodpeckers are nearby but have not yet populated the site.)
- Georgia Power along with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has agreed to create a refuge for displaced gopher tortoises on Company property in Burke County located near the Plant Vogtle Nuclear site. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been to the site and approved the relocation. In 2013, a total of 21 tortoises from Effingham County were successfully relocated to their new home on Georgia Power land. This is part of Georgia Power's plan to reestablish longleaf pine habitat on suitable Company-owned sites.
- Gulf Power has entered into partnership with the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Partnership (GCPEP), a group of publicly- and privately-owned forests across the Florida Panhandle. The partnership is working to develop and implement a voluntary, cooperative stewardship strategy to sustain the long-term viability of native plants and animals, the integrity of ecosystems, the production of commodities and ecosystem services, and the human communities that depend upon all of them. Gulf Power's participation adds 4,828 acres of land to the more than one million acres of land enrolled in the GCPEP.
Rights of Way
Southern Company system foresters and employee volunteers manage the land surrounding our power plants and along our transmission rights of way to conserve native plants and wildlife habitats. We manage more than 300,000 acres of rights of way, more than 60 percent through integrated vegetation management, a program that reduces the need for pesticides, promotes healthy ecosystems, and can increase natural species diversity.
The Southern Company system has opened more than 100,000 acres of rights of way to native vegetation suitable for wildlife.
The Special Management Area program in Georgia protects, conserves, and restores rare plant species found in our rights of way. The number of sites has increased to 30, where Georgia Power biologists work with the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources-Natural Heritage Program to conserve local plant species at 22 Georgia sites. Examples include the Georgia aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum), Mohr's Barbara button (Marshallia mohrii), Hairy rattleweed (Baptisia arachnifera), Smooth purple coneflower (Echinacea laevigata), and the Florida willow (Salix floridana), all of which are threatened or endangered at a federal or state level.
The Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) helps landowners manage unused land for the benefit of wildlife. Employees of the Southern Company systems's three nuclear facilities, in conjunction with community members, local conservation groups, and government agencies, maintain certification with Wildlife Habitat Council through their Wildlife at Work program for nearly 5,400 acres of land. For details concerning the certified land management practices, employee participation projects, and community partnerships visit: Farley (PDF 3MB) | Hatch (PDF 1MB) | Vogtle (PDF 2MB)
National Wild Turkey Federation's Energy for Wildlife was established to help manage and improve wildlife habitat on rights of way and other property controlled by energy companies. Southern Company is a charter member of this organization and in 2006 was certified for managing its transmission rights of way in a manner that is environmentally responsible. In 2007, the foundation presented Southern Company the Energy for Wildlife Achievement Award.
Forestry for Wildlife Partnership Program promotes habitat diversity. Georgia Power is a charter member, maintaining certification since 1999. In partnership with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Resources Division, our foresters, wildlife biologists, and others manage timber and wildlife habitats tract by tract—approximately 82,000 acres of land throughout Georgia. We've received the Forestry for Wildlife Partnership award from the DNR for managing our land to benefit wildlife. For details, visit Georgia Department of Natural Resources.