03/13/2017 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/13/2017 14:00
This legislation is a pragmatic way to make Georgia's only national forest, a huge economic generator, a better place to recreate. Georgia ranks fifth nationally in consumer spending on outdoor recreation, and opportunities for hunting, fishing and hiking will improve with the consolidation of federal lands.
The Act is a unique solution that more effectively conserves valuable forestlands, reduces strain on county budgets, enhances economic activity, and allows greater public access to and enjoyment of one of Georgia's most treasured places. The Act would allow the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to sell 30 small, isolated parcels of land that are disconnected from the core lands of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest and identified by the USFS as suitable for transition out of the Forest.
Proceeds from the sale of these parcels would go into a federal account that the USFS may use only to buy critical properties of high value from willing sellers, for conservation, recreation, and management from within the National Forest. If the legislation passes, proceeds from the sales would go directly to USFS and would only be spent inside the existing USFS proclamation boundary in Georgia - they could not be used to 'grow' the forest beyond that boundary. Additionally, selling isolated parcels puts this land back on county tax rolls and saves taxpayer money.
'The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest is an important economic generator,' said Sen. David Perdue, a member of the Agriculture Committee. 'Updated forest boundaries would improve opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking and recreation, and create a much more cohesive national forest.'
Rep. Collins said, 'The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Land Adjustment Act represents a commonsense approach to better conserve federal forest lands in northeast Georgia while also eliminating federal waste and providing more recreation opportunities for hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts. I'm proud to reintroduce this legislation with Senator David Perdue to ensure that our beautiful natural resources-including the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest-can better be enjoyed by Georgians.'
With the revenues generated, the USFS will identify critical tracts within the Forest that are for sale by willing sellers and-if added to the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest-would improve forest management, wildlife habitat, water quality, public recreation and other forest benefits. Additionally, the acquisition of inholdings within the National Forest can help reduce the strains on county budgets, which can come under pressure particularly if lands that are located deep within the Forest and are hard to access are developed and require county services.
'The Nature Conservancy has helped make the Forest a healthier resource by adding lands to the Forest, planting trees and using prescribed fire, and in coming years we will bring new science to forest planning. The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Land Adjustment Act will improve the management and health of the Forest,' said Deron Davis, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Georgia.
'It's always a win when you can provide more opportunities for hunting, fishing and hiking in Georgia, and the consolidation of these federal lands will do just that,' said Andrew Schock, Georgia State Director for The Conservation Fund. 'We thank U.S. Senators David Perdue and Johnny Isakson and U.S. Representative Doug Collins for their commitment to a smart and sustainable solution for Georgia's National Forest, which is an economic driver and conservation treasure. Georgia ranks 5th in the nation for consumer spending on outdoor recreation, according to a 2013 report from the Outdoor Industry Association finding that $23.3 billion annually is spent on outdoor recreation in Georgia, which generates more than $1 billion in state and local tax revenue.'
The legislation is similar to legislation introduced in 2015 in the 115th Congress by U.S. Senators Chambliss, Isakson, and Rep. Collins. In addition to The Nature Conservancy and The Conservation Fund, this legislative approach is supported by the Trust for Public Land, Georgia Wildlife Federation, Georgia Conservancy, and Trout Unlimited in Georgia. It is modelled after similar, successful legislation at other National Forests including those enacted into law in Arkansas and Florida in the 108th Congress; Mississippi and Texas in the 106th Congress and Virginia in the 105th Congress.
About The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy (nature.org/georgia) is a global organization working in almost 70 countries to protect lands and waters for future generations. The Nature Conservancy has been in Georgia since the 1960's conserving mountains and streams in the north, forests and rivers to the south and the marshes, beaches and islands of our coast.
About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states to protect more than 7.8 million acres of land since 1985. www.conservationfund.org