Safe Harbor Program receives new blood

By Jim Cox, Vertebrate Ecology Program Director

One of the best insurance policies ever developed for landowners in the Red Hills region has two new agents at the helm. Joe Burnam (Georgia Department of Natural Resources) and Caly Murphy (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) were hired last summer by their respective agencies to help promote the Safe Harbor Program and guide private landowners in understanding how the program might work on their properties.

Maintenance of mature pine forests and use of frequent fire are hallmarks of quail management in our region. The wonderful pinewoods make the hunt all the more enjoyable, but the stewardship also creates conditions attractive to the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Lest the woodpecker’s endangered status cause any heartburn, The Safe Harbor Program is designed to ease fears by limiting the regulations that might be applied if the species takes up residence.

Joe Burnam with Henslow's sparrow

“One of the biggest misunderstandings about Safe Harbor Program is that the program is designed for properties that have woodpeckers,” Burnam notes. “The Safe Harbor Program is a good fit for anyone who either burns their property regularly or maintains mature timber stands.” “In fact,” Burnam stresses, “a great time to sign up is when no woodpeckers occur on the property. In that situation, the landowner has guaranteed assurance as far as the woodpecker goes.”

Another reason to consider Safe Harbor is linked to the land-owner assistance programs that often come with the agreements. Over the past six years, over $500,000 has been provided to help local landowners conduct prescribed burns, manage hardwoods using  chopping and herbicides, plant native warm-season grasses, and excavate artificial cavities (where desired).

Burnam and Murphy also have deep roots to the region and understand the special nature of Red Hills’ properties. Burnam’s grandfather was the superintendent at Mistletoe Plantation, and he worked on Pebble Hill Plantation for the Game Bird Program as part of his graduate studies at University of Georgia. Murphy graduated from Thomas University and did her senior internship with the Fire Ecology Program at Tall Timbers.

Caly Murphy

As always, Tall Timbers staff is ready to help answer any questions about the program, but consider giving Caly Murphy or Joe Burnam a direct call to make get this New Year off to a good start.

Ms. Caly Murphy


620 S. Meridian St., MS: 2A

Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1600

Phone: (850) 921-1032


Mr. Joe Burnam


P.O. Box 6385

Thomasville, GA 31758

Phone: (229) 227-5422


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