COLUMBIA, Ala. (WTVY) - Nuclear power plants in Georgia and Alabama have taken action to save a potentially endangered species.
Since 1992, Farley Nuclear, as well as Hatch and Vogtle plants in South Georgia, have developed wildlife management plans to ensure animals on-site can coexist with their business.
"We're in their territory. We came in, we built a plant in their natural environment,” says Eric Mullins, site environmental specialist at Farley. “Since we're here, as so to speak as their guests, it's important for us to give back to them and make sure that they're protected."
Farley Nuclear is housed on an 1850 acre property, nestled away in Columbia, Alabama. But almost 1400 of those acres are reserved for a wildlife habitat.
"With our programs here on-site, we manage blue birds, we've released several raptors, hawks, red-tailed hawks, owls on site,” says Mullins. “We partnership with Big Bend Animal Sanctuary out of Enterprise, and they've come out and released rehabilitated animals on-site."
Gopher tortoises, a keystone species in the Wiregrass, especially thrive at Farley. A 2016 survey found 66 active burrows on the property… more than the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service anticipated. So, the Wildlife Habitat Council gave Farley the Reptile and Amphibian Award for their conservation efforts.
"West of the Mississippi, it's a threatened species,” says Mullins. “East of the Mississippi, east of Mobile, it's a listed species. While it's still not as endangered here as it is west of the Mississippi."
Farley's property sits parallel to the Chattahoochee River-- a habitat ideal for gopher tortoises versus the abundant farmland found elsewhere in the Wiregrass.
"We've got a lot of standing pine forests that they're able to thrive in when they go outside,” says Mullins.
Farley also does its part to keep tabs on other roaming wildlife around the plant.
"We do have a log where we manage the hog kills, and the deer kills that we have on-site,” says Mullins. “We do have an active hunting program here, so they are able to control the population, especially of feral hogs in the area."
Though the gopher tortoises may burrow away, Farley makes it their mission to stand out as a leader in local conservation.
"Taking care of the environment, taking care of the creatures that are here on-site is very important to us."
Farley Nuclear also hopes to add a pollinator garden to house more birds and butterflies by next year.