Governor Announces Nearly 20,000-Acre Purchase For Three WMAs

More than $92 million in state, federal, local and private funds pooled to purchase land in Paulding, McIntosh and Decatur counties.

Gov. Sonny Perdue announced plans Dec. 5 for the purchase of nearly 20,000 acres of forest land to be preserved indefinitely and managed as wildlife management areas (WMA) with access to hunters and fishermen.

Perdue made the announcement on the bank of Corley Lake in Paulding County, where nearly 7,000 acres of property on nearby Paulding Forest WMA will be preserved through a $45.8 million purchase. The land was previously leased to the WMA with no guarantees for its future.

“On the opposite shore of this lake, you see a rolling hillside with a beautiful stand of timber on it,” said Perdue. “Today I am proud to announce that due to the hard work and investment of many partners, we can guarantee views like this will be protected for generations to come.”

The announcement also included plans to purchase two other tracts, one in McIntosh County at Townsend WMA and the other in Decatur County at Lake Seminole WMA. The total purchase of all three tracts comes with a price tag of more than $92 million. The state is responsible for almost $35 million of the purchase price, most of which will come from the Georgia Land Conservation Program (GLCP) — a state agency with resources appropriated from the state budget to fund projects such as these. The rest comes from various federal, local government and private sources.

The GLCP was established by the Georgia Land Conservation Act in April, 2004. Two of the three properties account for $30 million of the $42 million set aside for the GLCP in the state FY2008 budget.
Last month GON reported that Gov. Perdue had spoken favorably on the possibility of state funds being used to partner with Houston County in the purchase of Oaky Woods WMA, which is being threatened by development. However, there was no mention of Oaky Woods at the announcement ceremony, and no word has come from the governor’s office on the issue.

Paulding Co.:

Paulding Forest WMA

6,873 Acres — $45,866,156

The 6,873 acres to be purchased at Paulding Forest WMA will be owned in three separate parcels by DNR (4,350 acres), Paulding County (2,500 acres) and The Nature Conservancy (320 acres). The Nature Conservancy is holding the 320-acre parcel until additional federal funding can be appropriated, at which point it will be turned over at no additional cost to DNR.

The acreage is part of a larger 15,700 acres owned by the Jones Co. which was previously leased by DNR and the Georgia Forestry Commission as part of the 25,700-acre WMA.

Paulding County’s portion of the purchase, $15 million, was raised through a 2006 bond referendum which citizens of Paulding County passed by a 72 percent vote. The GLCP matched the Paulding County funds with $15,177,320. The rest is made up of federal grants, along with almost $7 million from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation and $1 million from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

All of the acreage will be managed as a WMA by DNR for recreational purposes including hunting and fishing.

Decatur Co.:

Seminole WMA

8,430 acres — $38,600,000

Dubbed the Silver Lake Tract, this piece of property on Lake Seminole near Bainbridge is land that has never before been open to the public. The 8,430-acre acquisition will happen in two phases, with the initial purchase including 3,900 acres. DNR expects to close on additional phases of the project next year.

Two important benefits outdoorsmen will receive from this purchase are access to Silver Lake, which has the potential for excellent fishing and possibly waterfowl hunting, and overland access to parts of Seminole WMA, which were previously accessible only by boat.

The GLCP is responsible for $15 million of the purchase price. The Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund, with money raised from sales of license plates and other fundraisers, will provide $2 million. The Wildlife Endowment Fund will provide $500,000 raised from sales of lifetime hunting and fishing licenses. The rest of the purchase price comes from various state and federal grants, as well as private sources.

The management plan for the property includes hunting and fishing; however, an emphasis will be placed on longleaf pine forest and restoration of the red-cockaded woodpecker.

McIntosh Co.:

Townsend WMA

4,162 acres — $8,490,240

The Nature Conservancy purchased the 4,162-acre Fort Barrington Tract at Townsend WMA from Branch Farms LLP earlier this year, and the state will purchase it from The Nature Conservancy. The tract is adjacent to the U.S. Military’s Townsend Bombing Range, so the U.S. Marine Corps has also requested funding to purchase an easement around the range. DNR will purchase the remaining acreage.

The Barrington Tract will be an addition to Townsend WMA to the north, and it nearly connects with Altamaha WMA to the south. Together, the properties span nearly 46,000 acres along the Altamaha River.

DNR will own the property, and it will be managed as a WMA for recreational purposes including hunting and fishing. Through the state, $4,140,240 will be funded in federal grants, $2 million in state funds issued through a DNR bond and about $63,000 from the Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund.

The rest of the total purchase price of the acreage, $4.35 million, will not come through the state, said Beth Brown, with the DNR Office of Communications. An unknown amount may come from the Department of Defense for the easement, The Nature Conservancy contributed $2 million, and the Georgia Wetland Trust Fund will throw in an additional $550,000.

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