Pine Log WMA Likely Gone
Talks and offers to private landowners by the state to purchase all or part of Pine Long WMA have ended.
Year-long negotiations between DNR and landowners have come to an end, and barring a miracle, the 14,000-acre Pine Log WMA in Bartow County will be no more. DNR has removed its equipment from the property, transferred its personnel to other WMAs, and the gates have been locked blocking public access.
DNR has leased the property from the Neel Family on an annual basis for the past 46 years. DNR was told in June of 2022 that the family was changing its plans and wanted to sell the property outright. DNR was given a deadline of June 1, 2023 to submit a final bid.
Wildlife Resources Division Region Supervisor Brent Womack said DNR submitted three bids during that time, including a final bid that the state says was 100% of the property’s appraised value. The state’s final bid was rejected by the landowners, who ultimately countered with an offer of two times the appraised value. A representative for the family said in press reports that the family has received more than 20 offers from developers, and those offers were greater than what DNR offered. The family believes it could get much more than the amount DNR offered if sold for residential and commercial development.
Jim Ramseur, who represents the Neel family, said, “The statement made by DNR that they offered 100% of appraised value is factually incorrect. Clearly, they did not include the value for a 500-acre mineral reserve property.
Ramseur submitted an excerpt from the appraisal report that states, “It should be noted that this does not include a component of value for the contributory value of the 500-acre mineral reserve property, which if quantified, would increase the overall value of the Georgia DNR acquisition area.”
Ramsuer added, “We are not at odds with the state. I just want to set the record straight so that the Neel family and the county’s reputation is not distained any further.”
Steve Friedman, Georgia DNR Chief of Real Estate, said the state’s offers were subject to strict guidelines, both state and federal, that require land purchases not exceed appraised values.
Friedman said, “The state offered 100% of the value of the appraisal. Although requested, no substantiated or verifiable information was ever provided regarding potential value for minerals.
“We want our constituents to know—hunters, fishermen, hikers, everyone who enjoyed Pine Log—that we did everything we could to make this work. A project of this scale would require some federal funding, so it falls under federal Yellow Book Standards—Government Auditing Standards.
“We have no animosity toward the family, they have been great partners. The family believes it is worth more, and they have every right to seek as much as they can,” Friedman said.
Womack said, “It’s sad, but we have done everything that we can do. We’ve talked to people who used the WMA who are broken-hearted.”
The WMA was noted for its deer, turkey, bear, small game and trout fishing. DNR regularly stocked Stamp Creek with trout inside the WMA, but the stockings have now ended.
Bartow County is rapidly being developed. The Neel family owns contiguous acres that make it a 16,500-acre plum ripe for picking by large companies. Chick-fil-A built its first distribution center in nearby Cartersville. Hyundai Motor Group and SK are constructing a massive, multi-billion-dollar EV battery plant on Highway 411 west of Cartersville—one of the largest development projects in Georgia history. Other projects have been announced or teased.
The Neel family filed a 20-year development plan in March. That plan’s brief description says it would include “approximately 16,500 residential units; approximately 800 acres of commercial; approximately 16.5 million square feet of industrial; and approximately 3,900 acres of mining including an area designated for a construction & demolition debris (C&D) recycling facility.”
DNR’s Steve Friedman said, “Maybe a new buyer approaches the state, maybe it comes back around. The state will never shut off negotiation. As of today, the conversations have ended.”
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