Just downstream of the Highway 28 bridge, as you near the Chattooga River’s confluence with its West Fork, you’ll find on river left a modest patch of native river cane, Arundinaria gigantea. Once prolific across the Southeast, this valuable native habitat is now scarce and endangered, and canebrakes like this stand as relics of the past. The Native Cane Restoration Management Project (NCRMP) seeks to lay the ground work for changing that.
The NCRMP is a collaborative, multi-phase project between the Chattooga Conservancy, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources, and the Andrew Pickens (AP) Ranger District of the Sumter National Forest. The 29-acre project area is actively being restored to enhance river cane habitat for native flora and fauna, provide a filter strip for protecting water quality in the Chattooga River, and provide a sustainable source of cane for use by Cherokee artisans.
The Chattooga Conservancy received a grant from the NFF’s Matching Awards Program in 2017 to support maintenance, administration, and stewardship of the existing project area in the AP District, and to develop a new cane restoration project on the Chattooga River Ranger District in the Chattahoochee National Forest, as part of the emerging Foothills Landscape Project.
With help from the Youth Conservation Corps, Chattooga Conservancy staff and partners successfully completed this phase of the project and improved the condition of existing cane by controlling certain non-native invasive species and implementing more actions in our Native Cane Restoration Management Plan, which was developed with assistance from a prior NFF MAP grant.
Two cane patches that were restored through the labor-intensive work of transplanting culms are now thriving. Meanwhile in the Chattahoochee National Forest, a new native cane restoration project has been included in the Foothills Landscape Project planning documents.
The public is welcome to explore the Native Cane Project site on the AP District throughout the year to enjoy this unique habitat and watch for butterflies, birds, and other species that find a home there. In the parking lot, visitors will find the Sumter National Forest’s new educational display with information about the project’s development and importance. To learn more about this effort, visit chattoogariver.org.