Soque River Property Added to Chattahoochee National Forest

The Trust for Public Land has added a 20-acre Soque River property in Habersham County, Georgia, to the Chattahoochee National Forest. The property fronts the Soque River, a popular cold water stream destination for fly fishers, and is bounded on two sides by the Chattahoochee National Forest adjacent to the Tray Mountain Wilderness Area. Until now public access to the Soque River valley and to the Tray Mountain Wilderness has not been direct. This addition allows unfettered public access to and from the Wilderness to the river.

The property has been of interest to the USDA Forest Service as an addition to the Chattahoochee National Forest. The Forest Service worked with The Trust for Public Land, a national conservation organization with a Georgia office in Atlanta, to purchase the property from Rabun County Bank, following a foreclosure.

“Protecting this Soque River property increases public access to thousands of acres of publicly owned national forest,” said Curt Soper, The Trust for Public Land’s Georgia state director. “This particular stretch of river is also home to a significant population of brook trout, Georgia's only native trout species. And the Soque River contributes to the quality of drinking water for millions of people downstream in Georgia, Alabama and Florida.”

Although only 30 miles in length, the Soque River serves as a vital headwater tributary to the Chattahoochee River, part of the primary drinking water supply for the city of Atlanta. The Tray Mountain Wilderness Area of the Chattahoochee National Forest is a rugged 9,700-acre landscape named after the dominant Tray Mountain peak. It straddles the Blue Ridge crest and is a recreational destination for trout fisherman, hunters, hikers and campers. Public access to the Soque River and the Wilderness Area has been limited but adding this mostly forested property to the national forest will greatly enhance access.

“Our strong partnership with The Trust for Public Land not only helps to protect the Soque River, but allows us to manage the national forest more efficiently and effectively,” says Betty Mathews, Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests Supervisor. “When we are able to further consolidate public lands, we reduce management costs and challenges. It's smart stewardship.”

Partial funding for the $149,000 addition to the national forest came from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). LWCF is generated from offshore oil and gas receipts, rather than from taxpayer dollars. U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss supported this conservation effort. The purchase price was 42 percent of the appraised value. The purchase of the property was also made possible by generous support from the Turner Foundation and Trout Unlimited.

“The Turner Foundation is pleased to support The Trust for Public Land’s efforts to safeguard the Soque River, the habitats and watersheds of the Chattahoochee National Forest, and the public’s access to enjoy both,” said Michael Finley, President of the Turner Foundation.

“The Georgia Council of Trout Unlimited is pleased to be able to help our partners secure access to one of Georgia’s best native trout fisheries. Protecting our mountain streams and watersheds for the public trust is one of the most critical issues for sportsmen and women, and this project is a great example of how we can continue our Mission to help with the conservation and protection of our cold water fisheries. Moreover, we also create better hunting and fishing opportunities and protect drinking water too,” said Mack Martin, Georgia Trout Unlimited Council Chairman.

“We are grateful to the Turner Foundation and to Trout Unlimited for their support to make this happen,” said Soper.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Established in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 3 million acres across the nation. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve its land for people mission.