Thursday, April 24, 2008

Governor Perdue Announces Additional Funding for Silver Lake Property in Decatur County

Governor Sonny Perdue joined conservation leaders and Decatur County representatives, for his third stop of the day to highlight Conserve Georgia, on the banks of Lake Seminole to announce funding for the second phase of acquisition at Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Decatur County near Bainbridge. Governor Perdue also signed two pieces of legislation to support conservation efforts: HB 1176 and HB 1274.

“As good stewards of our natural resources, it is vital that we seek to conserve the natural beauty of our state and the recreational opportunities it affords to all of our citizens and visitors,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “This is possible because of generous partners who have joined with us in recognizing that conservation is a worthy and necessary cause, and I thank them for their support.”

The second phase of acquisition will include approximately 2,594 acres at a cost of $10.8 million. He also announced that the property would be open to the public on August 1, 2008, with public hunting opening with the start of small game season on August 15, 2008.

In December 2007, Governor Perdue announced the state’s plans to purchase the 8,430-acre property from The Conservation Fund in phases for a cost of approximately $38.6 million. The first phase of acquisition included 3,790 acres at a cost of $19.8 million and included $15 million from the Georgia Land Conservation Program.

The second phase of acquisition funding includes $3.75 million from the Woodruff Foundation, $3 million from Decatur County, $2 million from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and $1 million from a partnership between Southern Company and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through the Longleaf Legacy Program. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) expects to have the remaining funding needed to complete the second phase later this spring.

“The combined efforts of the multiple levels of public and private partners made this a success and is an example for other local governments to follow,” said Rex Boner, vice president and southeast representative for The Conservation Fund. “Because of the Governor’s leadership, IP’s patience and cooperation and Decatur County’s recognition of this property as an important resource to their community, this historic property will be open to local residents and to all citizens of Georgia for the first time and for generations to come.”

The Conservation Fund purchased this property from International Paper (IP), which had managed it as part of a private forestry research site for more than 50 years. Only a handful of these types of research sites exist across the country. It features numerous critical habitats identified in Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan. Most prominently, Silver Lake contains one of the finest examples of a mature longleaf pine forest. This highly imperiled habitat type supports a host of threatened and endangered wildlife including red-cockaded woodpecker and gopher tortoise. It also provides valuable habitat for white-tailed deer, wild turkey, waterfowl, and the declining northern bobwhite quail.

A key to the collaborative funding for the second phase of acquisition of the Silver Lake WMA was the interest of Decatur County in conserving this unique property and providing recreational opportunities for their residents. The Decatur County funding is the result of a $3 million low-interest loan that the Georgia Land Conservation Program approved earlier today.

“This property is a tremendous asset for the people of Decatur County and all Georgians,” said Decatur County Board of Commissioners Chairman Palmer Rich. “We are excited to be one of the collaborative funding partners to conserve this unique property for today and future generations and look forward to the increased outdoor recreational opportunities it will provide.”

DNR expects to complete the acquisition of the Silver Lake WMA by early 2009. The final phase will include additional funds from the Woodruff Foundation. In addition, DNR has applied for a Forest Legacy Program grant from the U.S. Forest Service. If awarded, this grant would be administered through the Georgia Forestry Commission.

Today Governor Perdue also signed two bills into law in conjunction with the announcement at Silver Lake WMA and the launch of the Conserve Georgia campaign; HB 1176 and HB 1274.
“I am pleased to sign these two pieces of legislation into law today to strengthen and further Georgia’s vital conservation efforts,” Governor Perdue said. “The passage of this legislation would not have been possible without the hard work of the bills’ sponsor, Rep. Knight.”

Both HB 1176 and HB 1274, authored by Rep. David Knight, strengthen the state’s conservation efforts and build on the Conserve Georgia campaign. They make needed changes to current law and keep Georgia at the forefront of land conservation. HB 1176 will expand eligibility for loans to nonprofit organizations that have the primary purpose of land conservation. It also allows the Georgia Forestry Commission to apply for grants and GEFA to form a 501(c)3 that will promote land conservation projects. HB 1274 will allow the Department of Natural Resources to develop new rules for specific types of conservation projects as well as make technical changes to the land conservation tax credit program.

“I am very proud that we were able to pass both HB 1176 and HB 1274 this session,” said Rep. David Knight. “This legislation provides new and better opportunities to conserve Georgia for future generations.”

For more information on these bills, visit

Conserve Georgia is a statewide multi-agency marketing and public education effort aimed at promoting the conservation of energy, land and water; the prevention of litter; and the promotion of recycling. Conserve Georgia’s website – – is a portal to Georgia’s conservation programs. If anyone or any organization wants to know how they can conserve the state’s natural resources, they can go to and easily access all of Georgia’s conservation programs and information.
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