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Oconee Bottomlands and Slopes

Oconee Bottomlands and Slopes

Approximate size: 13,473 acres
Old-growth known: 0 acres

Fields, roads, and other man-made features fragment the forests of Georgia’s Piedmont, and even the Oconee National Forest (ONF) is a Swiss-cheese of fractured parcels. Bottomland forests provide critical links between patches of habitat. Even in natural landscapes, the cover and resources that bottomland forests offer make them important paths for many traveling wildlife. Additionally, most of the largest blocks of unfragmented habitat on the ONF are associated with large streams. In general, those streams are free-flowing (undammed). Aquatic wildlife depend on natural stream flow in a number of ways, and natural flooding and channel meandering are also essential for healthy floodplains.

The hardwood forests of floodplains are directly important to invertebrates, amphibians, birds, and mammals. The large trees that grow in the moist and fertile soils in ONF bottomlands lead to structurally complex forests with many different wildlife resources. Hollows in trees and standing dead provide denning and roosting sites. Along with adjacent slopes, a single site can support as many as 11 oak species which produce acorns, and acorns are among the most widely consumed wildlife foods. In addition to providing critical wildlife habitat, these bottomlands provide many hiking and horse trails associated with bottomlands. Current management designations commendably recognize several streams on the ONF as Scenic and Outstanding Streams, but the Appalachee River and Rock Creek corridors should be added as Scenic and Outstanding Streams and managed accordingly.

Steep slopes, often associated with river corridors but widespread on the ONF, support forests dominated by a diverse mix of oaks and other hardwoods. The botanical diversity on the ONF is greatest on steep slopes that were generally, though not always, spared from row-crop agriculture in the 19th and early 20th centuries. While hardwood slopes have been admirably maintained as such by ONF management historically, upper slopes are typically planted or maintained in loblolly pine, the most common tree on ONF uplands.

Help us protect this 16,000-acre oasis of waterfalls, old-growth, rare species, panoramic views, and world-class trails.

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