Agriculture Secretary Perdue, EPA head visit Bleckley County

Sec. Perdue visits Bleckley County tree farm

Gully Branch Tree Farm sits in the middle of Bleckley County.

It's where United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt visited Friday to discuss the role trees play in protecting the environment.

The 1,500-acre tree farm is owned by Earl and Wanda Barrs. Wanda Barrs points out that two-thirds of the land in Georgia is forest.

"Essentially, we're planting twice as many trees as we're harvesting, and we're growing more volume than we're harvesting to a significant extent every single year," she said.  

Barrs said using the farm to educate young people about the environment plays a major role in the amount work done at Gully Branch.

"Forests, clean air, clean water, wildlife, recreation, all work together," she said. "They were meant to work together to manage our forests, to be the working sustainable forest that they were meant, to be all of those things can thrive together."

That's why Perdue and Pruitt came to visit. They said they wanted to see the farm in action.

Perdue likes what he saw.

"Farmers, foresters, producers and ranchers have been some of the most fundamental environmentalists forever," Perdue said. "They live on the land. They feed their families on the land, and they sustain themselves on the land."

Perdue and Pruitt talked with dozens of people during a question and answer session at the farm. They discussed the need to repeal what they call burdensome environmental regulations that hamper farmers and the need to enact common sense protections.

"We don't have to be environmentalist or industrialists," Perdue said. "Those can co-exist in a productive way that makes sense for our young people. Teach the next generation how to be environmentalist and true stewards of the land so they can learn and do likewise.

That's where the Barrs couple and Gully Branch can help.

"Our goal is to ensure people have the facts and then they can make their own decisions," Wanda Barrs said.

Perdue and Pruitt told the audience that the agriculture department and environmental agency will work together to improve the environment throughout the United States.

© 2017 WMAZ-TV


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