Oaky Woods WMA, GA   Jess Riddle
  Dec 02, 2006 12:43 PST 

About 100 miles south of Atlanta, Oakey Woods Wildlife Management Area
occupies 19,300 acres of rolling coastal plain land between 210' and
471' elevation. While the state leases the land, major paper
companies actually own the tract, and the vegetation reflects their
priorities; loblolly pine plantations cover 40% of the area, and 47%
of the land has been cleared within the past five years (information
from handout at game check station). However, narrow strips of mature
hardwood forest still line Little and Big Grocery Creeks and the
Ocmulgee River, which forms part of the area's eastern boundary.
Cherrybark oak, water oak, and swamp chestnut oak each dominate
sections of the small stream bottom lands while species more tolerant
of prolonged flooding like laurel oak and overcup oak grow along the
river. A wide variety of other hardwoods grow amongst those species,
and in the course of a day's hiking we encountered 69 tree species
including five species of hickory and eleven species of oak.

One of those oak species, durand oak or bastard oak (Quercus sinuata),
was the area's main botanical attraction to us. Oaky woods features
the largest population in Georgia of that scarce species, which ranges
in the Gulf and Atlantic coastal plains at scattered sites from Texas
to South Carolina (Marshall Adams personal communication). The trees
have rounded leaves broadest past the middle (obovate) that sometimes
have irregular shallow lobes, and light-colored, flaky bark that makes
their identity as one of the white oaks obvious. Their ascending
branches that form a rounded crown also give them a structure
reminiscent of many open-grown white oaks, but their combination of
barely lobed leaves and light-colored bark that becomes smoother with
age makes readily distinguishable from all other trees in the area.
At Oaky Woods, they grow mixed with white oaks, cherrybark oaks, water
oaks, willow oaks, sweetgums, and southern magnolias in small stream
bottomlands that probably rarely flood but still have rich alluvial

Those conditions at Oaky Woods support the current national champion
durand oak, a 6'4" cbh by 70' tall tree. We never located that tree
for certain, so we could not check the dimensions. However, right
next to the main road through the area we encountered a 7'5" x 68.0'
individual that out-points the current champion. That tree was
slightly eclipsed by a 5'9" x 102.4' forests grown individual. As
light was waning, we encountered by far the largest durand oak of the
day, a 8'2" cbh x 101.8' individual with a maximum spread of 65' and
average spread of just over 60', a potential new national champion.

Near the largest durand oak, we measured a 7'2" x 92.1' southern
magnolia and an 8" cbh hoptree that was 35.6' tall, far taller than
any other individual ENTS has measured. A buckthorn bumelia seen on
the way out also would have been a height record and potential state
champion, but by that time we were out of daylight.

The fate of those trees appears quite uncertain at this time.
Developers are planning to build a privately owned municipality for
over 20,000 residents on the site, but environmental groups and local
cities oppose that development. In addition to the diverse
bottomlands and rare oaks described above, Oaky Woods features small
limestone prairies that are unusual for the region and support rare
plant species (Adams personal communication).

Jess & Doug Riddle
Re: Oaky Woods WMA   Edward Frank
  Dec 02, 2006 13:39 PST 

Oaky Woods has Perdue in a sticky wicket - Sonny the land mogul
A 19,000-acre tract in Middle Georgia - described by experts as one of the richest nature preserves and hunting grounds in the Southeast - may shortly be filled with 17,000 homes and become a closed private city.
You can thank Gov. Sonny Perdue for making it happen - and for making himself richer.
In 2004, Perdue effectively blocked a $25 million offer from the national Nature Conservancy to buy for Georgia's public use the Oaky Woods property in Houston County. Oaky Woods was envisioned as a permanent natural area similar to Sapelo Island on the coast and the Smithgall Woods Conservation Area in Northeast Georgia. The Oaky Woods land would have been set aside for the use of Georgia hunters.

Perdue refused to issue a letter to the conservancy to declare that the state had an interest in acquiring Oaky Woods for conservation purposes at an unspecified date, perhaps years in the future. Perdue's refusal resulted in the conservancy withdrawing its offer to lend the Georgia chapter of the Nature Conservancy $25 million to buy the property for public use.
Instead, Perdue acquired for himself 100 acres adjacent to Oaky Woods for slightly more than $300,000, the value of which has soared to more than $750,000 in a mere 18 months.

Save the Oaky Woods online Petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/4gahunt/petition-sign.html

Map of Oaky Woods: http://www.georgiaoutdoors.com/hunting/WMAmaps/OakyWoodsWestTract.pdf

I found this on the web referring to the Oakey Woods WMA in the report YEAR 2030 LAND USE PLAN FOR THE

The Oakey Woods Wildlife Management Area (WMA) located in the southeastern portion of
Houston County is currently the Study Area's only major park and recreation area. In addition to
its importance as a wildlife management area, Oakey Woods offers residents of the WRATS
Study with excellent passive recreation accommodations, including year-round camping, preseason
scouting, hiking, picnicking, and canoeing. Horseback riding and bicycling are allowed
at the Oakey Woods WMA but is restricted to open, improved roads and designated trails.
Over 86 percent of the 18,875 acres in the Oakey Woods WMA is leased property from
Weyerhaeuser. This company recently decided to sell all its timberland in Georgia, including
that in Oakey Woods. If this property is sold to private concerns, there is strong likelihood that it
will be developed for residential and commercial purposes. There are many locations throughout
the WRATS Study Area that can be developed for urban uses, but it is important that a rapidly
developing area such as Houston County preserve and protect its few passive recreation areas
that are accessible to the public.

I wonder about the future of the wildlife management are.

I also came across a passage by W. E. B. Dubois: The Sould of the Black Folks(1903), Chapter 7:

Immigrants are heirs of the slave baron in Dougherty; and as we ride westward, by wide stretching cornfields and stubby orchards of peach and pear, we see on all sides within the circle of dark forest a Land of Canaan. Here and there are tales of projects for money-getting, born in the swift days of Reconstruction,--"improvement" companies, wine companies-, mills and factories; most failed, and foreigners fell heir. It is a beautiful land, this Dougherty, west of the Flint. The forests are wonderful, the solemn pines have disappeared, and this is the "Oakey Woods," with its wealth of hickories, beeches, oaks and palmettos. But a pall of debt hangs over the beautiful land; the merchants are in debt to the wholesalers-, the planters are in debt to the merchants, the tenants owe the planters, and laborers bow and bend beneath the burden of it all. Here and there a man has raised his head above these murky waters. We passed one fenced stock-farm with grass and grazing cattle, that looked very home-like after endless corn and cotton. Here and there are black free-holders: there is the gaunt dull-black Jackson, with his hundred acres. "I says, 'Look up! If you don't look up you can't get up,'" remarks Jackson, philosophically. And he's gotten up. Dark Carter's neat barns would do credit to New England. His master helped him to get a start, but when the black man died last fall the master's sons immediately laid claim to the estate. "And them white folks will get it, too," said my yellow gossip.

I am not sure whether this is the same Oakey Woods, but he is talking about Georgia in the passages. All and all this has been an interesting webs search ranging from questions of subdivisions overrunning the WMA when its lease runs out, to slave history, to accounts of Bigfoot in the swamp, as well as the champion Durand Oak.

Ed Frank