Rabun County Forest Service Land Sale

Update January 2020

On January 8, 2020, over 150 citizens attended a public forum hosted by the Rabun County Coalition for Good Government and the Clayton Tribune to learn about current forest management issues. The Chattooga Conservancy and Georgia ForestWatch presented information about this proposed land sale and the Foothills Project, respectively. Forest Supervisor Betty Jewett attended the meeting and answered questions, and stated that the Forest Service would not pursue the sale of these tracts in Rabun County without a letter of support from the Rabun County Commissioners.

Through conversations with the Rabun County Administrator in mid-January, the Chattooga Conservancy learned that the County Commissioners are in the process of preparing a resolution. Their expected position is that they will not support the sale of most of the tracts, but will support the sale of 788 acres in the Boggs Mountain area, which the county is interested in purchasing. At this point, it is unclear if the County Commissioners plan to allow public input at a meeting before their resolution is finalized. Contact the Rabun County Commissioners today to request that this issue be discussed at a public meeting before their decision is finalized.

The Boggs Mountain tracts include hundreds of acres of valuable public forest land, and the largest of these, totaling nearly 538 acres, is not isolated from other Forest Service land. The photos below show how the national forest in this area has slowly been reduced over the years with exchanges of smaller tracts; the area now proposed to be sold is larger than all of these tracts combined. Read more about this area on our blog.

Note: The data for these maps has been compiled from the sources listed in the photos, which were not always in agreement on exact exchange year or owner. Please feel free to contact us with any corrections.

Click through the photos using the dots below them, or hover your mouse over the image and click the arrow that appears on the right.

Background

The US Forest Service is currently considering the sale of 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.