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Friday, April 20, 2012 - 7:24am

Oconee National Forest Expanding

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the USDA Forest Service announced completion of the sale of 901 acres within the boundaries of the Oconee National Forest to the Forest Service.

This transaction occurred in two phases. Previously owned entirely by Plum Creek Timber Company, Inc. – the largest private landholder in the U.S. - the first 461 acres was conveyed from TPL to the Forest Service in 2010. The current sale to the Forest Service transfers ownership of 440 acres. Funding for both Forest Service purchases originated from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is derived from royalties paid by energy companies recovering publicly owned oil and gas on federal lands.

The acquisition protects the waters of Cedar Creek, which the Forest Service has designated as an “outstandingly remarkable stream.” It flows into Lake Sinclair within the Oconee River watershed. Located in Putnam and Jones counties within the Cedar Creek Wildlife Management Area on the Oconee National Forest, this parcel is surrounded almost completely by Forest Service land. This second phase land transfer further consolidates public lands, thus helping significantly to reduce management costs and challenges, and protects miles of tributaries that benefit the water quality of Cedar Creek and the Oconee River. Several miles of boundary line and fourteen corners can be removed from national forest boundaries, thereby reducing maintenance costs by several thousand dollars annually.

“This important in-holding land acquisition protects the waters of Cedar Creek, enhances public recreational opportunities and enables more efficient and effective forest and habitat management through consolidation of forest lands,” said Curt Soper, director of The Trust for Public Land’s Georgia/Alabama office. “The Trust for Public Land was pleased to assist the Forest Service in furthering the important public-benefit mission of managing our forest resources."

The Oconee National Forest, which now exceeds 117,000 acres, offers excellent canoeing, hiking, horseback riding, and hunting. It contains one of the most productive and diverse fisheries in the Georgia Piedmont and includes some of the best shoal bass fishing in the state. Additionally, bottomland hardwood stands of red oak, beech and tulip poplar support abundant wildlife, including turkey, beaver, wood duck, Swainson’s warbler and numerous other neotropical birds.

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