Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Land Adjustment Act

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the name of the new law and how do I learn more about it?

On December 20, 2018, the Farm Bill was enacted into law. Officially entitled Public Law 115-334, the legislation incorporated the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Land Adjustment Act as Section 8625. This provision is based on two bills introduced in the 115th Congress, S.571 by Senator David Perdue and H.R.1434 by Representative Doug Collins. In accordance with Section 8625(b)(2)(B) of P.L.115-334, the U.S. Forest Service created maps entitled “Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests Land Adjustment Act” dated February 7, 2019. Please visit the public website (www.fs.usda.gov/goto/Lands) to read the new law or view the respective legislative maps (pdf):

What does the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Land Adjustment Act authorize the U.S. Forest Service to do?

The new law authorizes the sale or exchange of 30 select tracts totaling approximately 3,841 acres, identified as disconnected, isolated tracts or which have restricted public access, resulting in diminished value for national forest purposes. The new law allows the Forest Service to retain the sale proceeds to acquire higher-value conservation, timber, and recreational lands in Georgia.

The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, The Trust for Public Land, and the Georgia Wildlife Federation support the new law, as do the Georgia counties where these tracts are located.  The new law streamlines federal land management, better protects natural resources, and enhances the recreational value of the National Forests in Georgia.  This legislation is similar to prior successful land adjustment authorities enacted for national forest system lands in Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia.

How do I locate the tracts identified by the legislation?

The new law directs the Forest Service to maintain legislative maps available for the public to view. These maps are available on the public website (www.fs.usda.gov/goto/Lands) or by visiting any local office. Two maps depict portions of the Chattahoochee National Forest and the Oconee National Forest. Additional reference maps unrelated to the new law are available on the agency website under Maps & Publications, including National Forest System Land Ownership (does not highlight the 30 tracts). If the Forest Service decides to sell or exchange any of these tracts, detailed maps will be made available to the public at that time

How will the potential sale proceeds by used by the Forest Service?

The new law directs the Forest Service to retain sale proceeds to acquire higher-value conservation lands in Georgia, which will increase hunting and fishing access, lower management costs, and reduce development threats to the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests. The lands to be acquired will be inholdings, edge-holdings, and connections within the existing proclamation boundary of the Forest. Future acquisition of new lands to be added to the national forest system will only come from willing sellers.

What is the process for selling the tracts identified by the new law?

The Forest Service will follow all requirements of this new law, the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Land Adjustment Act, as well as applicable regulations, rules and policies. We have not determined whether to take any action at this time on any specific tract.  When that determination is made all required environmental due diligence and appraisals will be completed. In considering whether to convey the land, the Forest Service must complete land surveys, biological assessments, cultural and historic resource surveys, and soil and water studies. If the agency determines that a tract may be conveyed from federal ownership, an appraisal will assess the fair market value. Once all environmental due diligence and appraisals are complete, the agency will decide the most appropriate tool to convey the land. This may occur by public auction to the highest bidder, through an agent to advertise on the open market, or by exchange with another landowner or government entity. If surveys and assessments lead us to determine that a tract should remain national forest system land, it will not be offered for conveyance.

How does the new law differ from current Forest Service authority?

The new law is a limited authority (only the 30 tracts identified) to consider conveying lands through a sale procedure. It is uncommon to sell federal lands. Other more common land conveyance processes are very lengthy and costly to all parties involved, such as existing land exchange authority. This will save considerable time and expense, providing a greater conservation benefit and value to the public by conserving the highest-value forestlands. The Forest Service will follow all requirements of this new law, the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Land Adjustment Act, as well as applicable regulations, rules and policies that prescribe environmental due diligence and appraisal standards.

How do I find out more about the tracts for sale?

If the agency decides to convey any of the 30 tracts authorized by the new law, detailed maps depicting the location and a legal description will be made publicly available for potential buyers, including publication of advertisements in local newspapers and the agency website.

Why would the Forest Service consider conveying these tracts?

Many of these isolated tracts of land are surrounded by private land, so the public is not able to access the areas for recreation. The Forest Service intends to acquire higher-value conservation lands in Georgia, which will increase hunting and fishing and other recreational access, lower management costs, and reduce development threats to the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests.

What lands will the Forest Service purchase?

Future acquisition of new lands to be added to the national forest system will only come from willing sellers. No decisions have been made about potential land acquisition to add to the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests. The Forest Service intends to acquire higher-value conservation lands in Georgia, which will increase hunting and fishing access, lower management costs, and reduce development threats to the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests.

Recreation access and value is an important factor, considering Georgia ranks 5th nationally in consumer spending on outdoor recreation. The Outdoor Industry Alliance reports $23.3 billion was spent for outdoor recreation in Georgia, generating more than $1 billion in state and local tax revenue. The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest factors significantly into Georgia’s outdoor recreation industry and this new law will enhance that benefit.

Does this law affect State lands or parks?

State-owned lands are not included in the new law.

Will conveyance of these tracts from federal ownership increase county property tax revenues?

National Forest System (NFS) lands are owned by the federal government of the United States, and are not subject to State or local/county property taxation. If any of these tracts are conveyed from federal ownership, such as to a private citizen or entity, the land may be subject to State or local/county property tax, depending on the laws of local jurisdiction.

Where can I learn more about the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Land Adjustment Act?

More news about the new law is available from the Congressional sponsors and conservation supporters:

December 14, 2018 - U.S. Congress Passes Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Land Adjustment Bill
https://www.conservationfund.org/news/press-releases/1970-u-s-congress-passes-chattahoochee-oconee-national-forest-bill

December 13, 2018 - Collins, Perdue Work To Improve Recreation In Northeast Georgia
https://dougcollins.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/collins-perdue-work-improve-recreation-northeast-georgia

November 9, 2017 - Senator David Perdue Applauds Action To Improve Georgia National Forest
https://www.perdue.senate.gov/news/press-releases/senator-david-perdue-applauds-action-to-improve-georgia-national-forest

March 15, 2017 - Congressional bills would improve effort to preserve North Georgia forests
https://www.gainesvilletimes.com/opinion/all-viewpoint-stories/guest-column-congressional-bills-would-improve-effort-to-preserve-north-georgia-forests/

March 8, 2017 - Senator Perdue & Congressman Collins Take Action To Improve Georgia National Forest
https://www.perdue.senate.gov/news/press-releases/senator-perdue-and-congressman-collins-take-action-to-improve-georgia-national-forest-

Updated: August 27, 2019

Wilderness





https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/conf/notices/?cid=STELPRD3829225