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State buys critical link
Officials tour 469-acre tract
3 State land pic2
Curt Soper, director of conservation at the Nature Conservancy, shows visitors to Dawson Forest a map of land that was recently acquired. - photo by Frank Reddy Dawson Community News

State leaders got a glimpse last week of 469 recently-acquired acres that will provide a geographic link between portions of the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management area.


Land conservation organizations and state agencies took a tour June 16 through the deep woods, where they viewed scenic portions of the property.


The Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Georgia Land Conservation Program can protect the land, which includes a two-mile stretch of the Amicalola Creek and its tributaries.


The section of river includes at least 27 native fish species, three of which are endangered.


Among those who toured the property were DNR Commissioner Chris Clark, who said state officials “are excited to be able to acquire and manage” the land.


Clark spoke of the land’s potential for “open and wild” recreation experiences.


“It’s very difficult to find land for the average Georgian to take their child and go hunting,” Clark said. “And I don’t know of anything more important than giving parents the opportunity to give their children an appreciation for the outdoor experience.”


Clark said getting ahold of the property would not have been possible without the help of others.


“It’s a critical link that would not have been an option otherwise,” he said.


The Nature Conservancy in Georgia, the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority and many others played a part in securing funding for purchase of the land, which cost about $3.2 million.


Shelly Lakly, the Nature Conservancy’s state director in Georgia, said it was a worthy cause.


“The opportunity to safeguard these acres could not be ignored, so we made the decision to act and contribute to the final funding,” Lakly said.


The Nature Conservancy first acquired the Amicalola Creek property in 2008 and held on to it until the state could pay for it.


Mike Berg, chairman of the Dawson County commission, said the acquisition has been a work in progress for more than two years.


Berg said the property “puts us within about 60 acres of being a direct connection to Springer Mountain.”


Springer Mountain, located in Fannin County, is the first leg of the Appalachian Trail.


“At some point in the future, you might be able to advance the Appalachian Trail all the way down to Dawson Forest,” Berg said.


“It would certainly do a lot for Dawson [County] as far as tourism is concerned and would get us closer to preserving more of the Dawson Forest property as active and passive recreation.”


In a June 16 news release, Gov. Sonny Perdue said conservation efforts like the recent acquisition in Dawson help by “permanently protecting Georgia’s land resources.


“Acquiring this property at the heart of the Dawson Forest links more than 15,000 acres of conservation land,” Perdue said.


“Thanks to the partnership of public and private organizations, this stretch of Amicalola Creek and the many species of wildlife it supports will be preserved for generations to come.”