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Photo Caption: Representatives from The Nature Conservancy, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Fort Benning gathered for the opening of the Chattahoochee Fall Line Wildlife Management Area Aug. 12. Pictured left to right are John Bowers, DNR chief of Game Management Wildlife Resources Division, Mark Williams, DNR commissioner, Congressman Sanford Bishop, Fort Benning Garrison Commander Col. Michail Huerter, Deron Davis, The Nature Conservancy executive director, Cecil "Butch" McMickle, Marion County commissioner, and Freeman Montgomery, chairman of the Talbot County Commission.

August 26, 2014
Aniesa Holmes

FORT BENNING, Ga., (Aug. 27, 2014) -- Representatives from The Nature Conservancy, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Fort Benning recently gathered for the opening of the Chattahoochee Fall Line Wildlife Management Area, which is protected for conservation and recreation.

The new 10,800-acre tract spans north central Marion County and southern Talbot County near Columbus. The wildlife management area officially opened for public hunting Aug. 15 and will provide opportunities for additional outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, camping and bird watching. It will also serve as a demonstration site for longleaf pine restoration.

Kevin Kramer, Georgia DNR region supervisor for Chattahoochee Fall Line Wildlife Management Area, said through Army Compatible Use Buffer Program, land near Fort Benning's border is protected from development that is incompatible with the post's national security mission.

"The Department of Defense is funding the acquisition of land outside the boundaries of Fort Benning and by buying this land outside of the post, it ensures that the land is not developed in ways that are not compatible with the Army's mission," Kramer said. "It allows the Army to fully use the boundaries for training."

John Brent, chief of Fort Benning's Environmental Management Division, said the area will provide critical conservation land around military training activities on Fort Benning.

"The property not only helps provide conservation and military training sustainment opportunities, but helps protect our communities' unique natural heritage," he said.

"Fort Benning has not only worked with the state and local land owners for several years on finding opportunities to protect rural community amenities, but also provided recreation and revenue- generating activities."

Through the ACUB program, The Nature Conservancy acquired the 10,800 acres from willing sellers, while other landowners agreed to manage the land to meet the Army's guidelines, Kramer said. The Chattahoochee Fall Line Wildlife Management Area is divided into the Almo, Blackjack Crossing and Fort Perry areas and have specific hunting dates and regulations.

Kramer said management of the area will focus on restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem, which provides habitat for wildlife including both game and non-game species like the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and the gopher tortoise.

"The main focus on these properties is getting habitat in order to encourage species to come back to the area," he said. "The mission is to reintroduce (prescribed burns), which is an important component for longleaf pine ecosystem and stimulates plant communities on the ground to reestablish and support different species."

Kramer said new hunting opportunities will be introduced in the Fort Perry area in the future, including hunting education for adults and youth and handicap-accessible locations. For more information about public hunting opportunities, call the Georgia Department of Natural Resources at 478-825-6354.