Southern Company is the largest non-government provider of recreation facilities in Alabama and Georgia. We opened more than 50,000 acres of wildlife areas for public use through state conservation and natural resources agencies. In managing lakes, shorelines, and natural areas, we balance generation, environmental, and economic factors.
Recently, 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.
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, Indian 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. Reports are available for these watersheds: Coosa | Warrior | Chattahoochee
Forests offer bountiful wildlife habitats, provide beautiful areas for outdoor recreation, and even create jobs. Our foresters and wildlife biologists manage approximately 240,000 acres of forested land in Alabama and Georgia for timber and habitats for game and non-game species.
Approximately 102,000 acres of our forestland is leased and 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:
Southern Company 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.
Southern Company has opened more than 100,000 acres of rights of way to native vegetation suitable for wildlife. Additional acres have been converted to wildlife food crops through incentive programs with landowners with transmission rights of way crossing their properties. WINGS (Wildlife Incentive Non-Game Subsidy) in Georgia has fostered the conversion of rights of way to support wildlife in nearly 17,000 acres since the program's inception in 1996; Wild Power in Alabama has converted more than 3,500 acres.
The Special Management Area program in Georgia protects, conserves, and restores rare plant species found in our rights of way. Our 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 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 Southern Company'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. For details on practices that have improved foraging and nesting areas for turkeys and other wildlife, visit Energy for Wildlife Certified Plan.
Forestry for Wildlife Partnership Program promotes habitat diversity. We're 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 .
Hydroelectricity forged Southern Company's beginnings a century ago. With the formation of new lakes, the ideals of guardianship for the land grew to be part of our culture as a company. We value the outdoors and take pride in the natural beauty of the Southeast, from the mountains of north Georgia to the bayous of south Mississippi.
We practice conservation and promote biodiversity on our own land and in partnership with others in programs like Power of Flight, Longleaf Legacy, and Five Star Restoration. Beyond the intrinsic value of biodiversity, a balanced and healthy ecosystem permits us to focus on constructive regulation and prudent capital spending, and contributes to customer—or in a larger sense community—satisfaction.