Congressman Sanford Bishop, Mark Williams, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Deron Davis, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in Georgia, joined Garrison Commander Col. Michail Huerter and other officials from Fort Benning, representatives from Marion and Talbot counties and other partners recently at a ceremony to announce the opening of the Chattahoochee Fall Line Wildlife Management Area (WMA). This 10,800-acre tract spans north central Marion County and southern Talbot County near Columbus.
Officially open to public hunting on August 15,this new WMA also will provide opportunities for additional outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, camping and bird-watching, and will serve as a demonstration site for longleaf pine restoration. Longleaf pine once covered more than 92 million acres across the Southeast from Texas to Virginia, yet today less than 4.4 million acres remain.
“The public private collaboration between The Nature Conservancy, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Fort Benning is a prime example of how organizations can find common ground in order to benefit the community, economy, and environment around them,” said Congressman Sanford Bishop. “I look forward to the future environmental and recreational activities the Chattahoochee Fall Line Wildlife Management Area will cultivate, as well as the additional opportunity to explore the natural beauty that can be found right here in the Chattahoochee Valley!”
“The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is pleased to expand the public lands available to citizens in this part of the state,” said DNR Commissioner Mark Williams. “Outdoor recreation supports local economies and gives us all a chance to explore the incredible native areas of Georgia such as the majestic longleaf pine forests found here.”
The Chattahoochee Fall Line WMA was created through a unique partnership between the DNR, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Army at Fort Benning. Through the Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) program, ecologically significant land near the military installation’s border is protected from development that is incompatible with the installation’s national security mission. Through the ACUB program, The Nature Conservancy acquired the 10,800 acres from willing sellers. In May 2014, 8,800 of those acres were purchased by the State of Georgia, subject to a conservation easement held by the Conservancy. The remaining 2,000 acres are still owned by the Conservancy. The entire property will be jointly managed by the DNR and the Conservancy as the Chattahoochee Fall Line WMA. The Chattahoochee Fall Line WMA is divided into three areas: Almo, Blackjack Crossing and Fort Perry, each of which have specific hunting dates and regulations (find WMA maps here; find Georgia Hunting Regulations here).
“The Nature Conservancy is proud to work with military bases around the country to protect rare species and critical habitat,” said Deron Davis, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in Georgia. “The collaborative creation of this new wildlife management area in Georgia demonstrates the benefits of bringing together diverse partners to increase recreation options for people and to better manage lands for conservation.”
Management of the WMA will focus on restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem which provides important habitat for wildlife, including both game and non-game species like the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and the state’s official reptile, the gopher tortoise.