Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Georgia Forestry Commission and Oglethorpe Power Partner to Replant Wildfire-Devastated Forest

/PRNewswire/ -- The Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) and Oglethorpe Power Corporation have formed a first-of-its-kind partnership in the state to reforest as much as 500 acres of hardwood forestland burned in wildfires near the Okefenokee Swamp in 2007. The replanting project is taking place in the 33,000-acre Dixon Memorial State Forest located in Ware and Brantley Counties. The two parties made the announcement at the 4th Annual Georgia Environmental Conference in Savannah.

Under an agreement reached by Oglethorpe Power and the GFC, designated wetlands areas are being replanted with red maple, cypress, swamp chestnut oak and water tupelo trees. Trees have already been planted on more than 200 acres, with the remainder scheduled to be planted in the fall of this year.

"These are areas that the GFC would set aside as low priority for reforestation because of budget constraints," said Dru Preston, Jr., Carbon Project Forester with the Georgia Forestry Commission. "They would otherwise be left to natural regeneration, and wildlife habitat and damaged ecosystems would take much longer to recover."

As part of its agreement with the GFC, Oglethorpe Power will be able to receive credit for the carbon dioxide captured by the replanted trees as future climate change regulations unfold. Oglethorpe Power will have title to the carbon dioxide removed from the air by the trees for the first 25 years, then will share those rights with the state for an additional 50 years.

"We believe that planting more trees to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is an important part of addressing the climate change issue while also restoring our valuable forestlands and providing important wildlife habitat," said Michael W. Price, Chief Operating Officer for Oglethorpe Power. "We're excited to join with the Georgia Forestry Commission in this win-win effort for Georgia's citizens."

"This landmark partnership provides benefits on numerous levels," said Robert Farris, Director of the Georgia Forestry Commission. "The project will restore the bottomland hardwood-cypress ecosystem and critical wildlife habitat in Dixon Forest. It is also a breakthrough example of a Georgia company investing in Georgia's forestry resource to offset carbon emissions, which ultimately benefits every citizen," said Farris.

The reforestation partnership was also praised by Governor Sonny Perdue who said Georgia is well-served when the state and private industry are able to work together. "In joining together to restore these forests, the Forestry Commission and Oglethorpe Power are helping to establish a roadmap for future public-private partnerships that can benefit all of Georgia," Perdue said.

Oglethorpe Power Corporation (OPC) is the nation's largest power supply cooperative with approximately $5 billion in assets, serving 38 Electric Membership Corporations (EMCs) across Georgia. These EMCs provide electricity to 4.1 million Georgia residents. In addition to the Dixon Forest reforestation project, Oglethorpe Power is also a partner in the PowerTree Carbon Company, a consortium of 25 utilities that has replanted more than one million bottomland hardwood trees in the lower Mississippi River Valley.

The Georgia Forestry Commission sustains and enhances the forests of Georgia for all citizens by providing forest protection, services and technical assistance to landowners and other forestry stakeholders. The GFC provides leadership that promotes healthy, sustainable forests to ensure clean air, clean water, and abundant products for future generations.

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