WRC aims to add to Sandhills Game Lands

 

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission on Thursday approved moving forward with the acquisition of three area properties adjacent to the Sandhills Game Lands encompassing 527 acres with an estimated value of more than $1.2 million.

This WRC image shows the area of the Ryan Poplin Tract.

This WRC image shows the area of the Ryan Poplin Tract.

Two properties are in Richmond County and a third in Scotland County.

The recommendation to move forward on the acquisition of all three properties was approved in the ongoing WRC meeting in Raleigh.

The Poplin Tract, owned by Hamlet resident Ryan Poplin, is comprised of 147 acres valued at $320,000. It is mostly a longleaf pine plantation that is currently being used for pine straw raking. The property also contains part of the Crawford Branch of Gum Swamp Creek, including an impoundment that flows into the Crawford Lake Natural Heritage Program Natural Area.

“With management,” reads a WRC staff report, “this property can be restored to suitable habitat for red-cockaded woodpeckers (RCWs) and other priority longleaf pine associated species, such as pygmy rattlesnakes and Pine Barrens treefrogs. This parcel is within a priority area identified by the Sandhills Partnership for recovering the red cockaded woodpecker because it is part of a known corridor that RCWs use.”

The tract is accessible by existing game lands as well as the state-maintained Marks Creek Church Road. WRC staff estimate that maintaining 5,675 feet of property boundary would cost $300 over five years. The tract currently contains approximately 50 acres of 20- to 30-year-old longleaf pine plantation which generates between $8,000 and $10,000 annually from the sale of pine straw. Pine straw will remain a potential source of revenue until such time as the plantation acreage is thinned and efforts to restore ground cover are initiated.

This WRC image shows the area of a 0.8-acre tract at the McKinney Lake State Fish Hatchery, including a privately owned home, the commission wants to acquire.

This WRC image shows the area of a 0.8-acre tract at the McKinney Lake State Fish Hatchery, including a privately owned home, the commission wants to acquire.

Funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Endangered Species Grant could cover at least a portion of the cost

Max Lake Tract

The Max Lake Tract covers only about eight-tenths of an acre — with a house — and is valued at $63,554 according to the Richmond County Property Card. It is located at the McKinney Lake State Fish Hatchery. The WRC is currently renting the property to provide housing for hatchery staff required to be located onsite for the security of hatchery fish and property.

A potential source of stewardship funds could be the Sport Fish Restoration Grant, which would be a 75 percent federal grant with state resources to make up the remaining 25 percent.

Catherine Gibson Tract

In neighboring Scotland County, the Catherine Gibson Tract encompasses 379 acres valued at $860,000 — but Maryland resident Catherine Gibson is willing to sell at “a bargain sale price of $430,000,” not including transaction costs.

The tract has public access via Timmons, Cliff Gibson and Hoffman roads.

This WRC image shows the Catherine Gibson Tract in Scotland County.

This WRC image shows the Catherine Gibson Tract in Scotland County.

According to a WRC staff report, “this property contains longleaf pine trees between ~3-20 years old. Several stands were recently clearcut and the older timber is in a dense stand mixed with other pine species in need of thinning and burning. There is a large creek with associated hardwood forest on the western boundary of the property. The riparian zone is under a conservation easement.”

Further, “the property links to Block B of Sandhills Game Land via the Sassafras Timber properties being pursued for acquisition. Game species include wild turkey, northern bobwhite, fox squirrel, and white-tail deer. Rare species documented near the tract include red-cockaded woodpecker, southern hognose snake, Bachman’s sparrow, pine snake, and star nose mole, among many others.”

In addition, “the tract is part of a larger initiative to buffer and connect important blocks of Sandhills Game Land. Restoring habitat connectivity between blocks B and C of Sandhills Game Land has been identified as one of the top land acquisition priorities in the draft Sandhills Game Land Management Plan, the NC Sandhills Conservation Partnership’s Conservation Plan, and the Sandhills Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Recovery Plan. The US Army conducts many training activities on Block B and has an interest in buffering and expanding existing training lands. Creating a connective corridor from Block B to C will open up additional training opportunities on land contiguous with Camp Mackall.”

 

 

 

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Outdoors

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