Pavey: Ice storm changes landscape at Yuchi Wildlife Management Area

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Yuchi Wildlife Management Area will have a different look this spring as crews remove almost 1,250 acres of planted pines damaged or destroyed by the February ice storm.

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Mounted elk peer down at the new Cabela's sporting goods store scheduled to open March 20. Many of the store's exhibits will be supplemented by locally-oriented displays, including one dedicated to Phinizy Swamp.  ROB PAVEY/STAFF
ROB PAVEY/STAFF
Mounted elk peer down at the new Cabela's sporting goods store scheduled to open March 20. Many of the store's exhibits will be supplemented by locally-oriented displays, including one dedicated to Phinizy Swamp.

The popular public hunting area in Burke County was among the worst-hit of several WMAs in the storm’s path, according to Georgia’s Wildlife Resources Division.

Both the Division’s foresters and others with the Georgia Forestry Commission came to the same conclusions after inspecting the entire, 7,800-acre site. The worst damage was to young pines, where accumulated ice left bent limbs and broke trunks.

Harvest of the damaged pines is expected to begin as soon as possible, with the timber marked for selling during the next week.

Although removing the timber will leave swaths of forest empty, it also creates an opportunity to accelerate a long-term plan launched in 1995 to convert much of the Yuchi site back to native longleaf pine.

Since that plan was adopted, 2,447 acres have already been restored to longleaf pine, and the removal of damaged timber will allow officials to move ahead on the conversion timeline by replanting the damaged acreage with longleaf immediately.

“The pine stands at Yuchi were already slated to be clearcut in the next five years and then replanted to longleaf, but because of the extent of the ice damage to these stands, it was best to accelerate the timeline of clearcutting and replanting,” senior state wildlife biologist I.B. Parnell said.

Other WMA’s in the region sustained some damage, but nothing as severe as Yuchi.

“Di-Lane suffered some moderate damage, mostly lost limbs and some individual trees,” Parnell said. “Tuckahoe had damage more severe than Di-Lane but a little less severe than Yuchi. We lost a good number of hardwood trees and limbs but not enough to warrant a salvage cut.”

CABELA’S OPENING: There’s plenty of excitement brewing over Augusta’s new Cabela’s store off Riverwatch Parkway, which is scheduled to open March 20.

Last week, members of the media (myself included) were invited in for a tour of the fully stocked, 42,000-square-foot store, which will be the Nebraska mega-retailer’s 51st location – and its first in Georgia.

So far, almost 90 full and part-time employees have been hired, with specialists in firearms, turkey hunting, archery and other outdoor fields.

“We’ve done a lot to bring the outdoors indoors here,” said Wes Remmer, a company spokesman.

Among the dioramas and exhibits that feature landscapes and taxidermy, the store has also added some local touches, including a large exhibit dedicated to Phinizy Swamp, which includes both a 1,500-acre WMA and the popular nature park operated by the Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy.

The official opening will be at 11 a.m. March 20, and will include an unusual ribbon-cutting accomplished by an arrow, rather than a pair of scissors.

The designated archer will be North Augusta resident Brett Lamb, an archery technician at the new store, who was chosen for the feat through a selection process that included writing an essay (in addition to having archery skills).

The plan, Lamb said, is to shoot from an elevated tripod stand at a clay pigeon 20 yards away, which has part of the ribbon linked to each side.

Can he make the shot, before what could be a large crowd? “Absolutely,” he said with a laugh.

We will call that grace under pressure.

PERRY HONORED: A local outdoorsman who has spent much of his life volunteering his time to young hunters was honored recently as one of two Hunter Education Instructors of the Year selected by Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources and its Wildlife Resources Division.

Fred Perry already has a full-time job at Fort Gordon but finds the time to conduct eight hunter education classes (eight classes in McDuffie County while assisting with four additional classes in Richmond County).

According to his nomination form, one of his most valuable achievements this past year included recruiting and certifying an additional local instructor.

Also chosen for the honor was Cpl. Travis Sweat with the DNR Law Enforcement Division
who manages hunter education programs in three counties and promotes the programs by visiting school groups and organizations.

The honor includes a $1,000 grant to support hunter education programs in the region each honoree represents.

CAMPGROUNDS TO OPEN: Five Thurmond Lake campgrounds will open March 28, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Big Hart, Hawe Creek, Modoc, Ridge Road and Winfield all offer waterfront sites and will remain open through Sept. 28.

Two other campgrounds – Petersburg and Bussey Point – offer camping opportunities year-round.

Reservations can be made by calling the National Recreation Reservation Service toll-free at (877) 444-6777 or online at www.recreation.gov.


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