WEA Biologist Discusses Gopher Tortoise Research at ALAPARC Annual Meeting

Chance Gwaltney, Biologist with Wiregrass Ecological Associates (WEA), gave a presentation at the recent 10th Annual meeting of the Alabama Chapter of Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ALAPARC) held at Camp McDowell in Nauvoo, Alabama from November 1-3. His presentation, co-authored by WEA President Austin Carroll, provided an update of the research on the Apalachicola National Forest (ANF) Gopher Tortoise Research and Restoration Area (GTRR).

The ANF GTRR is the result of an innovative Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Forest Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida, and WEA. This MOU couples gopher tortoise population restoration efforts with a formal research study. Mr. Gwaltney and Mr. Carrol, respectively, serve as the Field Research Coordinator and Program Manager for this FWC-approved gopher tortoise recipient site managed by WEA. The ANF GTRR research evaluates site fidelity response of the relocated tortoises (once their temporary enclosures are removed) related to silvicultural management practices (e.g., thinning, burning, and/or herbicide). Relocated tortoises are tracked using radio transmitters to follow their movements within the ANF site. The ANF GTRR accepts tortoises donated from across Florida and has translocated approximately 2,000 tortoises since its inception. Mr. Gwaltney also discussed preliminary results and observations from the field work.
The national Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC; www.parcplace.org) organization is an inclusive partnership dedicated to the conservation of herpetofauna–reptiles and amphibians–and their habitats. PARC is the most comprehensive conservation effort ever undertaken for amphibians and reptiles. The mission of Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) is to forge proactive partnerships to conserve amphibians, reptiles and the places they live. Our ultimate vision is of a society where amphibians and reptiles are valued for their importance in our natural and cultural heritage and are considered in all conservation and land management decisions. ALAPARC (www.alaparc.org), a chapter of the Southeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (SEPARC; www.separc.org), includes scientists, naturalists, government representatives and citizens that are devoted to the preservation of amphibian and reptile populations in the southeastern United States.

McGlincy Presents Hurricane Michael Impacts on Rare Species at Georgia Chapter of The Wildlife Society

Joe McGlincy, Principal Biologist with Wiregrass Ecological Associates (WEA), presented at the recent meeting of the Georgia Chapter of The Wildlife Society (TWS) on the impacts of Hurricane Michael on rare species that inhabit southwest Georgia and the Florida Panhandle areas impacted by the storm.  The species most affected by Michael was the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker (RCW), an endangered species that makes its home in mature pine forests.  Several populations of this great species were in the path of Michael and their pine tree homes were heavily impacted.  The rapid response by crews in the Apalachicola National Forest, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and The Jones Center at Ichauway replaced many of these cavities to prevent further loss of individuals. Following the destruction, all indications are that birds within these populations came through this catastrophic event in pretty good shape and had a successful nesting season this previous Spring.  Other species impacted by the disaster include the Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander (RFS) and Gopher Tortoise, which typically reside in components of the same pine woodland homes as the RCW.  While it is too early to tell what the long-term impacts will be for these species, we don’t expect any adverse impacts to gopher tortoises. However, several RFS breeding ponds were inundated with saltwater from the storm surge, which may have impacted the salamander breeding season.   Mr. McGlincy is a long-time member, a TWS Certified Wildlife Biologist, and has served on numerous TWS committees, most recently the Editorial Advisory Board for the Wildlife Professional, a bi-monthly publication of TWS.



TWS (www.wildlife.org) is the national professional organization of wildlife biologists.  The Wildlife Society is a strong and effective voice in representing wildlife conservation and management and ensuring sustainable wildlife populations in healthy ecosystems. Founded in 1937, the mission of TWS is to inspire, empower, and enable wildlife professionals to sustain wildlife populations and habitats through science-based management and conservation.

Dooner Earns Audubon Florida’s Sustainable Forestry Award


Michael Dooner, founder and President of Southern Forestry Consultants (SFC), was recognized by Audubon Florida with the 2019 Sustainable Forestry Award at the Florida Forestry Association (FFA)’s Annual Meeting in Miramar Beach, Florida. Audubon Florida’s Sustainable Forestry Award is presented annually to a forester, forestry family, or forest business that demonstrates improvements in bird and wildlife habitats and water resources through forest management practices. Audubon recognized Mr. Dooner for his efforts to revitalize timber operations in the Florida Panhandle following Hurricane Michael.  In 2018, Hurricane Michael made a catastrophic negative impact on many rural communities that depend directly on a sustainable forestry industry in the Florida Panhandle. His commitment to lead the restoration of working forests in Florida has been essential to the economic and ecological benefits these forests provide.

“Thank you, Michael,” Audubon’s Director of Policy Beth Alvi said during the award presentation, “for helping see the Panhandle through this challenging time, and for protecting the region’s forest way of life and its economy.”

While assessing and salvaging personal holdings and those of his clients, Mr. Dooner simultaneously worked tirelessly with agency personnel to improve recovery efforts, connect forest landowners with essential resources, and advocate for federal disaster relief for the industry.  His efforts to expedite recovery of the forested regions of the Panhandle are essential in protecting the ecosystem services, watershed security, and wildlife habitat that are the foundation of the ecology of the area.  Mr. Dooner was also one of the first representatives of the industry to reach across the table and promote partnerships with organizations like Audubon Florida.  He understands that a healthy forest industry promotes working forests which, in turn, provide habitat for plants and animals that many other organizations are also working to protect.

“Michael Dooner is a great example of what forestry is all about,” said FFA Executive Vice President Alan Shelby. “He remains focused on moving forestry forward, especially in the tough times. Michael is a forward thinker and understands the connection between forestry and the environment and economy.”

A graduate of the University of Florida with over 40 years of experience, Mr. Dooner is the immediate Past-President of the Florida Forestry Association, member of the Society of American Foresters (SAF), and a Florida Farm Bureau State Director.  Mr. Dooner’s commitment to conservation and sustainability is reflected in the professional approach taken throughout SFC. In 2015, Michael led SFC through the creation of its environmental and ecological subsidiary, Wiregrass Ecological Associates (WEA), to strengthen and expand the level of expertise and services provided to the natural resource industry.  This expansion and the continued management of hundreds of thousands of acres of working forests in the Southeast, demonstrate the conservation-minded approach to forestry Mr. Dooner has worked to instill in his company and the entire industry.

Link to Florida Audubon Site Announcement


Audubon (www.fl.audubon.org) is Florida’s most influential conservation organization and promotes stewardship and appreciation of the natural beauty of Florida’s land and water resources. Audubon’s mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.

The Florida Forestry Association (www.floridaforest.org) is a statewide trade membership association representing all facets of the forest industry.  The Association’s mission is to promote the responsible and sustainable use of Florida’s forest resources.

SFC and WEA Discuss Landscape Management Plans in the Southeast at Tennessee Forestry Association (TFA) Annual Meeting


The 2019 Tennessee Forestry Association (TFA) Annual Meeting was held this week in Knoxville, Tennessee.  TFA and the Tennessee Tree Farm Program asked Austin Carroll to speak on behalf of Southern Forestry Consultants (SFC) and Wiregrass Ecological Associates (WEA) regarding ongoing landscape management planning efforts in the Southeast and implications for the upcoming Tennessee plan. Mr. Carroll, a Registered Forester who led the development of the initial American Tree Farm System (ATFS) Landscape Management Plan (LMP), has led the creation of state-wide LMPs in Arkansas, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida.   SFC and WEA will continue to lead the creation of these plans during 2020 in Tennessee, Georgia, and Virginia.

LMPs are currently being developed and utilized in numerous states as a tool to help navigate one of the biggest barriers to landowner forest certification, the management plan itself. The SFC/WEA team are developing this innovative tool to meet standards for both ATFS and the Forest Stewardship Program.  Additionally, these LMPs are designed to strengthen the critical bond between a landowner and their natural resource professional, which research indicates leads to active forest management. Mr. Carroll presented on lessons learned during the development of LMPs throughout the Southeast and how those lessons will help in the development of Tennessee’s LMP.



The Tennessee Forestry Association (TFA) serves as “The Voice of Forestry” in Tennessee. TFA is a private, non-profit organization primarily funded through membership dues. It began more than 50 years ago under the name of “Keep Tennessee Green” and was organized to assist in reducing the tremendous toll taken by forest fires each year throughout the state. TFA continues to work with state and national government agencies to promote a better understanding and appreciation of the forests of Tennessee through a diversity of public relations, government, and educational programs.

Carroll Discusses Restoration at Florida Panhandle Forests and Drinking Water Workshop


Austin Carroll (WEA President and SFC Partner) presented at the recent Florida Panhandle and Forests and Drinking Water Workshop at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Nature Center in Eastpoint, Florida.  Mr. Carroll spoke on the creation of the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (ECUA) Central Water Reclamation Facility (CWRF) Forest Restoration Area. ECUA’s goal for the CWRF Forest Restoration area is to develop a sustainable, native forest ecosystem capable of maximizing groundwater recharge capabilities.  ECUA has worked with SFC and WEA since 2016 to convert the former International Paper lands surrounding the CWRF, from cutover and unmanaged plantations towards Desired Future Conditions (DFCs) of sandhill pine, pine flatwoods, and mixed forested wetland communities. Restoration and enhancement activities have included exotic and invasive species control, mechanical and herbicide treatments, harvesting operations, longleaf pine and wiregrass planting, and the return of prescribed fire to these ecosystems.  These practices, the ongoing management, and the long-term management plan developed by SFC and WEA are guided by current research results regarding managing forests for increased regional water availability (including the results of fellow speaker Dr. Matt Cohen, University of Florida).  Also in attendance to answer questions regarding the project was Don Palmer, PE, Deputy Executive Director of Engineering and Environmental Services at ECUA.  Mr. Carroll is Registered Forester and Certified Wildlife Biologist who serves as the SFC and WEA program manager for this restoration effort.


The Florida Panhandle Forest and Drinking Water Workshop is presented by the Florida Forest Service and the Workshop Planning Team to explore the connection between forests and safe, high quality drinking water, particularly for the northern part of the state, and foster collaboration and relationships among the forestry, drinking water and conservation sectors.  It is a priority for and coordinated by the Southeastern Partnership for Forests and Water, whose purpose is to maintain healthy watersheds that provide safe, reliable drinking water, healthy forests, and strong local and regional economies.