December 14, 2018

U.S. Congress Passes Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Land Adjustment Bill

ATLANTA, Ga. —The Nature Conservancy and The Conservation Fund, together with local partners, sportsmen and women’s organizations and outdoor recreation groups, praise the U.S. Congress for passing the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Land Adjustment Act (S. 571, H.R. 1434), as part of the Farm Bill of 2018—the President is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming days. This legislation is a pragmatic way to make Georgia’s treasured National Forests—huge economic generators for the state—better places to recreate.   

U.S. Senator David Perdue (GA-R) has championed the “Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Land Adjustment Act of 2017” (S. 571) in the U.S. Senate, and U.S. Representative Doug Collins of Georgia’s 9th Congressional District led the efforts in the U.S. House of Representatives on the companion bill (H.R. 1434). The bill authorizes a “modified land exchange” that allows the U.S. Forest Service to sell isolated parcels it owns that are disconnected from the core lands of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests. The proceeds from the sale of these lands—30 parcels, totaling 3,841 acres—will go into a federal account that the Forest Service may use only to buy critical lands from willing sellers within the National Forest’s boundary. This will help to streamline land management, better protect key habitats, and enhance recreational access for hunting, fishing and hiking.

Senator Johnny Isakson (GA-R) is a cosponsor of the Senate bill; and House bill cosponsors included Representatives Rick Allen (R-GA-12), Sanford Bishop (D-GA-2), Earl “Buddy” Carter (R-GA-1), Drew Ferguson (R-GA-3), Tom Graves (R-GA-14), Karen Handell (R-GA-6), Jody Hice (R-GA-10), Barry Loudermilk (R-GA-11), Austin Scott (R-GA-8), and Rob Woodall (R-GA-7).

“This is an important step toward making the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest more accessible to the community and practical for forest managers,” said Senator Perdue, member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “Updated forest boundaries will improve opportunities for hunting, fishing, and hiking in northeast Georgia, while making better use of taxpayer money. This was one of my top priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill, and I’m glad we were able to secure these solutions for our forests in Georgia.”

“Northeast Georgians have always been thoughtful stewards of their beautiful landscape, and the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Land Adjustment Act will expand their opportunities to hunt, fish, hike and care for local forests. On behalf of the Georgians who spend their time and make their living using our state’s forests, I’m thankful that my friend David Perdue and I were able to bring these improvements to land management over the finish line,” said Rep. Doug Collins.

Georgia ranks eighth nationally in consumer spending on outdoor recreation. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation in the state supports 238,000 jobs and generates $1.8 billion in state and local tax revenue and $27.3 billion in spending.  

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. Additionally, the sale of these isolated parcels puts this land back on county tax rolls and saves taxpayer money.

The bill is supported by many groups including The Nature Conservancy, The Conservation Fund, Georgia Conservancy, Georgia Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited and The Trust for Public Land. Eight counties have expressed their support for the legislation, including Walker County, Rabun County, Jones County, Habersham County, Stephens County, Chattooga County, Fannin County and Union County.

“Thanks to the leadership of Senator Perdue and Representative Collins, the passage of this Act is a conservation win for Georgia. The money generated from the sales of these small areas of land will be put towards buying more critical lands for conservation and recreation, a result that benefits all Georgians,” said Deron Davis, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in Georgia.  

“The passing of this Act is a historic moment for Georgia, and it will provide more opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking and outdoor enjoyment,” 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, along with many of Georgia’s U.S. Representatives who cosponsored the bill, for their commitment to enact a smart and sustainable solution for Georgia’s Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests, both a natural treasure and a critical economic generator.”

About The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy 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 eight million acres of land since 1985. 

Marlena Reed | The Nature Conservancy | 404-253-7246 |
Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 |