Paulding Voters Say Yes To Bond Referendum To Buy WMA Tract

GON Staff | November 20, 2006

Paulding County residents took a major step toward protecting part of a popular hunting area in their county by voting in favor of a $15 million bond referendum that was on Paulding’s November 7, 2006 ballot.

In election terms, it was a landslide, as 70 percent of Paulding voters said yes to a small property-tax increase that will be used to fund the purchase of about one-third of a 7,200-acre tract of Paulding Forest WMA.

The remainder of the tract will be purchased by the state using a combination of federal grants and money from the Nature Conservancy and private donors. The cost for purchasing the entire 7,200-acre tract will be approximately $45 million. Appraisals are almost completed, then they will have to be reviewed against federal standards before the parties begin the process of finalizing the purchases.

Steve Friedman, chief of real estate with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said they are still waiting on another major component of the funding.

“We are waiting to hear if we are going to receive a Forest Legacy Grant. That is tied up in the budgets of Washington D.C., which have not been passed yet. This project was in the president’s budget proposal that went to the House and Senate for $2.25 million. Hopefully it will stay there,” Steve said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has already issued a $1 million grant to go toward the Paulding County WMA land purchase through the Recovery Land Acquisition Grants Program, which provides funds to states and territories to acquire habitat for endangered and threatened species with approved recovery plans.

“That Recovery Grant was nationally competitive, which speaks to the national significance of this project,” Steve said.

In addition, others are working to secure additional funding for the land purchase.

“The Nature Conservancy has committed to try to raise some real money for this project,” Steve said. “We’re going to still need some help, but (the Paulding bond referendum) was a major, major accomplishment,” he said.

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