The US Forest Service is currently planning to sell certain tracts of national forest land in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. This proposed sale includes approximately 1,246.4 acres of public land in Rabun County. These tracts are shown in the images below and can also be viewed in our Interactive Map (layer “Forest Service Land Sale- GA”).
National forest lands were set aside for permanent protection, and are Rabun County’s most valuable asset for recreation and tourism; for protecting natural resources like water quality, timber, and wildlife habitat; and for boosting property values of adjacent private lands (for example, see any local real estate magazine and the prominent listings for tracts that border national forest lands).
The current proposal to sell national forest lands in Rabun County is based on a brand new law called the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Land Adjustment Act. This Act was a political initiative sponsored in 2018 by Rep. Doug Collins and Sen. David Perdue. The criteria for lands to be sold are:
1) Isolated tracts that are inaccessible and/or have lost their principal value; and
2) Disposal of national forest system lands that would be in the public interest.
The Rabun County tracts involved in the Chattahoochee-Oconee Land Adjustment Act vary in size from 19 acres to 538 acres. Chattooga Conservancy has visited these tracts, and our findings are that these tracts have not lost their principal value; in fact, the tracts have high value in terms of protecting water quality, wildlife habitat and wildlife corridors, as well as their value in preserving scenic vistas and viewsheds. In addition, the “public interest”—based on feedback from a diverse sample of respondents including real estate agents, farmers and residential landowners—would best be served by preserving these tracts as part of our national forest system in Rabun County.
Furthermore, this new congressional mandate to sell national forest lands in Rabun County must be viewed as a “trial balloon”– if the sale of these tracts goes smoothly, they could decide to continue selling more of our public land in the future.
The Forest Service says that “conversations” with the Rabun County Commissioners started in 2011 regarding the tracts in 2018 Land Adjustment Act, and at that time the Rabun County Commissioners indicated their support. Since this was nearly 10 years ago, the public has the right to ask that the current Board of Commissioners revisit this support. Citizens opposed to and/or affected by the current national forest land sale proposal should contact the Rabun County Commissioners and request that they change/disapprove/stop the public land sales in Rabun County.