Fort Benning is located near Columbus, Georgia, on the extreme western edge of the state. It encompasses approximately 182,000 acres, including portions of Chattahoochee, Marion, and Muscogee counties in Georgia and Russell County in Alabama. The Chattahoochee river, which forms the boundary between the states of Georgia and Alabama, flows through the installation. Fort Benning is unique in its physiographic characteristics. Its landscapes and aquatic environments contain characteristics that reflect influences of the piedmont, fall line hills, and the upper coastal plain. It has streams, wetlands, rivers and mature longleaf pine forests. The fact that it has been owned by the U.S. Government since 1918 accounts for much of the preservation of the oldest longleaf pine stands, which today provide crucial habitat for the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Much of the surrounding landscapes have long since been cleared for agricultural, development, and timber harvests by the timber industry.

{link:For IBA map, click here.|}

Ornithological Summary

Fort Benning supports the second largest red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) (RCW) population in Georgia and is considered by the USFWS as a recovery population for the species. Habitat features such as large tracts of mature pine forests, relict longleaf pine, and suitable foraging habitat allow for expansion of this population. Fort Benning's RCW population continues to be monitored, and on-site personnel utilize prescribed burning and forestry practices as the main habitat management tools for the species.

A recent report on Fort Benning's web site indicated there were 212 known active and 96 inactive RCW clusters on the base. A cluster, formerly called a colony, is defined as the aggregate area encompassing cavity trees and a surrounding 200 foot buffer that is or was used by one RCW, a mated pair, or a mated pair with helper birds. Wildlife personnel are creating artificial cavities, which are used to lure RCWs to new, expanded nesting areas. Fort Benning's goal is to achieve 360 active and healthy breeding clusters. A success at Fort Benning would be a vital part in the overall recovery goal for this species.

Sighting Source Key: 1=published reports,; 2=surveys (CBC; BBS; etc.); 3=personal observations; 4=other sources (specify)

Conservation Issues

Threats include pollution from petrol fuel spills, noise pollution from gunfire and tank engine noise during maneuvers, and wildfires started from ammunition and incendiary devices. There are detailed rules for reporting fuel spills on the base, and posted signs warning of RCW habitat and the limitations of use of these areas. Southern pine beetle infestation is an ongoing concern, and diseased trees are removed upon discovery. The Base also has plans in place to control soil erosion and kudzu.

Conservation issues and some steps to address them include:
-Kudzo eradication and containment using herbicide and fire
-Hogs destroying longleaf pine regeneration/Limited hunting restrictions during hunting seasons
-Hardwood encroachment in upland pine sites/thinning, prescribed burns, and reforestration with longleaf pine
-Site development for military training/comprehensive planning and minimizing impacts of potential RCW habitat through informal consultation with USFWS
-Military activity (manuvering)/concur with environmental training regulations and guidelines.


Landowner/Manager contacts:
Pete Swiderek - Conservation Branch Chief
Fort Benning, GA 31905


Fort Benning covers 73,533 hectares (181,626 acres) of land with 93 percent in west central Georgia and the remaining 7 percent in east central Alabama. Major portions of land lie in three counties: Muscogee and Chattahoochee counties in Georgia, and Russell county in Alabama. There are about 124 hectares of open water, including ponds, streams, and rivers. The Chattahoochee River divides Fort Benning along the Georgia ? Alabama state lines.

Most of the reservation is undeveloped and is used for military training, weapons ranges, drop zones, and landing zones. Rolling, pine-covered hills are predominant, and grasslands are intermingled with forested areas. There are 63 action firing and non-firing ranges. Averages of 20,000 troops are in the field daily per year. There are currently 17,454 ha (43,128 ac) of mechanized training area out of 46,210 ha (114,184 ac) of total available training area. In addition, 14,225 ha (35,149 ac) are established impact areas and 6,866 ha (16,967 ac) are restricted dud areas. Approximately 5,759 ha (14,231 ac) of land comprise four cantonment areas. Obviously, access to the general public is restricted.

Other habitat types not listed above include fields and urban/suburban areas.

Land Use

Fort Benning is an army training base. Primary land use is for all-terrain training maneuvers through forests, streams, rivers, and swamps. The rest of the base contains living quarters for all personnel, and all the conveniences of a small city. Fort Benning, which sits in both Alabama and Georgia, is like a small oasis of pine forest in a sea of cleared farmlands. The fact that it has been owned by the army since 1918 accounts for its present-day ecological richness. It has been spared of clear-cutting for agriculture, development and timber harvesting. The army recognizes the benefit of maintaining and managing the site both for continued army use and for conservation.

Specific types of land use include: Forestry - reforestation of longleaf pine; Forestry - Protection against erosion; Military - Military training; Military - Bombing and gunnery practice; Hunting - small game hunting; Hunting - deer, wild hogs; Nature conservation - Red cockaded Woodpecker, Bald Eagles, Wood Storks, American Alligators, Gopher Tortoise, Dusky Gopher Frog, Relict Trillium.

Stay abreast of Audubon

Our email newsletter shares the latest programs and initiatives.