Flat Tub Wma Addition Rich in Wildlife, Habitat and Recreation

   05.07.14

A conservation-minded partnership has preserved 2,700 acres of wildlife habitat in southeast Georgia’s Jeff Davis County, opening to the public a place valued for its recreational opportunities and rare species.

The tract acquired last year by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and added to Flat Tub Wildlife Management Area joins nearly 18,000 acres conserved along this stretch of the Ocmulgee River. The lineup features Horse Creek Wildlife Management Area and Broxton Rocks, described as one of Georgia’s natural wonders.

Combined with historic Hazlehurst nearby and Towns Bluff Park on the Altamaha River, the new addition to Flat Tub WMA will help draw visitors, particularly for recreation such as hunting, fishing, canoeing and hiking, according to Jeff Davis County Commission Chairman Ray Wooten.

“I’m glad we got it,” Wooten said.

While unique properties like the Flat Tub tract conserve wildlife and sensitive habitats for generations to enjoy, the sites also provide outdoor recreational opportunities that have a significant economic impact.

Outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing and wildlife watching benefited Georgia’s economy by more than $5.5 billion in 2011, the latest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey shows. Compared to the previous survey in 2006, average expenditures per hunter increased $1,000, the ranks of Georgia wildlife watchers grew by more than 400,000 and the economic effect of spending in the state by anglers increased by more than $200 million.

Flat Tub WMA is about 100 miles from Savannah, 125 miles from Jacksonville and 175 from Atlanta.

Chris Baumann, DNR Game Management Section supervisor for the region, said the WMA is already popular with sportsmen. More than 700 deer and turkey hunters used the area during the 2012-13 hunting seasons.

“By nearly doubling the acreage of this WMA, and adding an additional 350 acres through a cooperative agreement with the Georgia Forestry Commission, sportsmen and -women should be excited at the opportunities this tract of land is bringing,” Baumann said.

Flat Tub and Broxton Rocks Forest, owned by the Georgia Forestry Commission, and 1,650-acre Broxton Rocks Preserve, owned by The Nature Conservancy, are home to more than 525 plant and animal species, 29 of them rare, including gopher tortoises, our state reptile. Botanists consider the plant community one of Georgia’s richest. On the newly acquired tract, large patches of native groundcover endemic to endangered longleaf pine forests hold promise for restoration efforts benefiting a variety of wildlife species. Boat ramps feed into the Georgia River Network’s 200-mile Ocmulgee Water Trail.

Andrew Schock, Georgia state director for The Conservation Fund, said the Jeff Davis County project not only gives the public new opportunities to access the Ocmulgee, “it also provides a space where they can experience and enjoy the variety of animal and plant species that live in this fascinating longleaf pine ecosystem.”

The DNR bought the Jeff Davis tract in two parts from The Conservation Fund in 2013. Partners also included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which provided a grant, and the Knobloch Family Foundation.

The DNR and The Conservation Fund worked in partnership for years to acquire the site. Pitcherplant bogs, diverse wildlife and prime examples of Altamaha grit – a sandstone outcrop connected to rare plant and animal communities – all contribute to the property’s uniqueness.

It’s that uniqueness that is expected to attract many different types of outdoor enthusiasts.

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