As the year winds down, we thought we’d share some updates about recent activities around the Jones Center. Wishing you all a happy holiday season with family and friends!
A Threatened Species Thrives in the East
The gopher tortoise is the only tortoise that occurs in the southeastern U.S. and is recognized for the important role it plays by creating burrows that are used by hundreds of other species. Because populations of this species have declined due to loss of habitat (especially longleaf pine woodlands), populations in western Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana were listed as Threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1987. The eastern population of gopher tortoise was petitioned for listing under the ESA in 2006. In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the species met the criteria as a candidate for listing. In anticipation of potential listing, a group of stakeholders developed a Candidate Conservation Agreement (CCA) in 2008, a formal, but voluntary, agreement between the Service and one or more parties who agree to address, remove, or reduce threats to the candidate species. The idea here being that a successful CCA could preclude the need to list gopher tortoise under the ESA. Signatories to the Gopher Tortoise CCA included the Jones Center at Ichauway, the Department of Defense, Georgia Department of Natural resources, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and several non-governmental organizations.  
Ichauway supports a large, regionally significant population of gopher tortoises, and we have made significant efforts to better understand the ecology and conservation of this species through research. In addition to research, Center staff have helped lead conservation efforts for this species, including hosting workshops with the Gopher Tortoise Council and publishing a handbook of survey methods for tortoise populations based on our monitoring efforts. In 2007, we were funded by Georgia DNR to implement these monitoring methods on more than 20 state and private conservation lands. Georgia DNR has since hired biologists to continue this work and Jones Center staff have conducted surveys on nearly 30 conservation lands in Florida and Alabama. We have trained more than 100 practitioners in the survey methodology across the range of the species. Data from these surveys have been used to help set conservation goals for tortoises across the range, and in Georgia, this effort led to acquisition of several significant conservation lands for tortoises and other rare species through a program called the Gopher Tortoise Conservation Initiative.
In October, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its decision that the eastern population of the gopher tortoise does not meet criteria for listing under the ESA at this time. This decision was informed in large part by proactive measures taken by signatories in the Gopher Tortoise CCA. New data on the number and distribution of viable tortoise populations indicate that the species is likely to persist on existing protected and managed conservation lands into the foreseeable future. However, the western portion of the range remains federally listed as threatened, and the species remains protected by state regulations range wide. If state protections for the species change, the status of the species may be reevaluated by the Service in the future. Our work and the efforts of our conservation partners, including land acquisitions with an emphasis on management and restoration for gopher tortoises and other species of concern, will help ensure this iconic species lives on as a key player in southeastern landscapes.
Certifying the Sustainability of Longleaf Pine
In October, we hosted staff from the F&W Forestry certification and sustainability program for an orientation to longleaf pine. Most of the group’s projects have been with different forest types in other parts of the country, so we spent a morning on Ichauway teaching them about our work on longleaf management and restoration and discussing their research and information needs. We look forward to continued interaction with this influential company. 
Ichauway is at the Interface of Ecology & Forestry
Ecological forestry uses natural patterns of disturbance and forest demographics, specifically mortality and recruitment of younger trees, as models for silvicultural treatments and overall forest management. In southeastern U.S. longleaf pine woodlands, single-tree and small-group harvest patterns most closely emulate those natural processes. These were core principles in the development of the Stoddard-Neel approach to forest management that grew out of the quail preserves of Southwest Georgia and Northwest Florida. Ichauway serves as a tangible demonstration of this more extensive approach to forest management and the values it maintains.
We have offered our workshop on ecological forestry annually since 2006, with a pause for Hurricane Michael and COVID. We were very pleased to be able to offer the workshop again this fall. This workshop helps managers of large natural areas address multifaceted forest management goals and conservation objectives. This year’s group included attendees from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and The Nature Conservancy, as well as private forestry consultants.
The goal of the workshop is to teach and promote a more holistic approach to forest management that incorporates a wider range of values beyond economic and operational considerations, such as wildlife habitat, ecosystem services, aesthetics, and long-term sustainability. We began with a presentation by Dr. Jerry Franklin, a world-renowned ecologist at the University of Washington, the founder of new forestry, and a member of our Jones Center Advisory Committee. We then toured an old growth longleaf stand in Thomas County to see firsthand the results of a longterm commitment to ecological forestry. Students improved their understanding of our science in the classroom, and saw these concepts demonstrated in the field, even ending the course by doing their own timber marking.  
Contributors to the workshop included former Jones Center conservation ecologist Dr. Steve Jack, who taught concepts and application of the Stoddard-Neel system of management. Outreach Coordinator Kevin McIntyre taught attendees about the natural history and natural disturbances of longleaf pine, the scientific foundations of the Stoddard-Neel system, and longleaf economics. Conservation Coordinator Brandon Rutledge discussed implementation of timber harvests on Ichauway, longleaf plantation management, and longleaf pine restoration. Finally, Dr. Josh Puhlick talked about silviculture and regeneration research, and Dr. Lora Smith taught about managing forest structure for wildlife species of concern. Many thanks to all that contributed to the course.
Longleaf Pine Provides Habitat for Many Mammals
Dr. Mike Conner and the wildlife lab hosted Dr. Steven Castleberry’s mammalogy class from the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Twelve students learned about the longleaf pine ecosystem and the habitat it provides for a diverse group of mammals. The students also got hands on experience in live trapping, marking, and recapturing animals as ways to understand mammal population dynamics.
Native Plants are Sources of New Medicines
Students and staff from Emory University returned to Ichauway to continue collecting plants in an ongoing bioprospecting project exploring potential medicinal compounds from plant species native to Ichauway. Jones Center PhD student Lewis Marquez, working under Dr. Kier Klepzig and Emory professor Cassy Quave, led the trip to collect additional samples of plants that are showing promise in affecting antibiotic resistant bacteria, yeasts, and more. Beyond the goal of helping to develop more effective medicines, this work also promotes the value of conserving our natural areas and the plants and animals found in them.
The Jones Center Gives Back to the Local Community
Comprised of staff from Ichauway’s Conservation and Maintenance programs, the Ichauway Volunteer Fire Department has been an important part of the Ichauway and Baker County communities for over 30 years. The department responds to fire calls on Ichauway and within Baker County whenever mutual aid is needed. Calls range from small grass fires to structural, vehicle, and equipment fires, and motor vehicle accidents. There are currently 20 members of the Ichauway Volunteer Fire Department, which is equipped with a Class A pumper truck, a tanker truck, and a wildland firefighting truck.
We had a productive year in 2022, responding to 56 calls of service, and completed continuing education bi-weekly training. We have also enjoyed the opportunity to teach fire education for elementary school students at the Baker County School System. Most recently, our firefighters hosted a meet and greet for Jones Center employees. Thanks to our department, everyone enjoyed food, fellowship, and got a feel for our firefighting equipment.  
Save the Date Open House 2023
Saturday, March 25