Aucilla River Group reports progress on saving old-growth forest

Lazaro Aleman
ECB Publishing, Inc.

The chairman of a group that came together earlier this year to protect an old-growth cypress stand on the Aucilla River from being logged is reporting progress on its efforts. David Ward recently informed members of the Aucilla/Wacissa River Group (AWRG) that a staff member of the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) had informed him that the agency’s lands committee was scheduled to take up the purchase of the 160-acre property. Ware Forest Inc., a Georgia logging company, owns the two 80-acre parcels, which are near Sneads Smokehouse Lake. “This gives us the opportunity to encourage the lands committee to place this tract on the list of lands that the district might negotiate a purchase,” Ward emailed.  “I think that everyone who is familiar with this tract will agree that it should be owned and protected by Suwannee River Water Management District in perpetuity.” Ward said he planned to attend the meeting and encouraged supporters of the proposition to write and/or call the SRWMD board members and staff, as well as State Representative Halsey Beshears and State Senator Bill Montford, and lobby for the purchase of the parcel.  The Aucilla/Wacissa River Group earlier delivered to the SRWMD resolutions from the Jefferson County Commission and the Monticello City Council urging the SRWMD to purchase of the land. The two resolutions describe the upper Aucilla River as “a most magnificent part of the wonder of God’s creation,” worthy of protection because of its beauty, recreational opportunities, water quality and aquatic and wildlife attributes. The resolution further argue that cutting down the old-growth cypress forest would cause long and short-term damage to the river, including derogation of the water quality, fish kills, and the obliteration of scenic vistas. Ward noted in his email that the Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy had also been doing its part to promote the purchase of the critical wildlife habitat.  “Tall Timber’s support of this effort has been significant and is greatly appreciated,” Ward said. “Everyone should also be aware that the Aucilla Area Property Owners Association (AAPOA) held its annual meeting on Oct. 10 and declined to take up the issue of granting Ware Forest, Inc. access through their roads to remove any timber from this tract.” The AAPOA represents the Aucilla Shore Subdivision, whose roads the logging company wants to use to access its timber, as its property is otherwise inaccessible. The timber company has threatened to sue if the AAPOA denies the company access to the subdivision’s roads.