Creating Partnerships to Save the Rare Georgia Aster

May 31, 2014

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In a world where the sad and scary news stories vastly outnumber those that are optimistic, a unique partnership keeps a beautiful flower species, the Georgia aster, from going extinct.

Unlike many other rare species, this flower is not being protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). “Instead,” writes John Platt for Scientific American, “several federal and state agencies and a number of private landowners have entered into a collaborative conservation agreement that will take actions to both protect the plant’s habitat and increase its population.” The agreement counts the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, Georgia Power, Clemson University, and the U.S. Forest Service amongst its unique partners in an ongoing effort to protect the aster.

How will this collaboration work? The Georgia aster needs bright, unblocked sun to thrive, and thus its usual habitat consists of large open spaces without the shade from trees and shrubs. “Many of the aster’s remaining habitats are around utility rights-of-way, where work crews routinely mow wild grasses,” Platt continues, and Georgia Power has agreed to cease mowing these areas when the flower is reproducing in the spring and summer months.

In addition, landowners will have the flower populations on their property marked and will maintain them by avoiding mowing and the use of herbicides. These measures benefit both the flower and the landowner; if the Georgia aster enters the endangered species list under the ESA, landowners will face regulatory measures meant to protect the critical habitat of the flower. Avoiding such regulatory measures allows landowners more freedom on their property, while their protection efforts create opportunities for Georgia aster populations to increase. It’s a win-win!

While the success of this new collaborative remains to be seen, organizations like TLC are working hard to protect the wide open spaces that species like the Georgia aster require. Our prescribed burns maintain classic Piedmont prairie habitat on which both flora and fauna species depend. For more information on our recent burns, click here.

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