What Ocmulgee’s New Land Designation Means for Hunters & Anglers


Macee P

James Shelton cast a fishing line during a fly fishing trip on the Ocmulgee River in Juliette, Ga on April 24, 2023.

The Ocmulgee National Historical Park in Macon is in the works to become Georgia’s first national park and preserve. The change in designation will expand the park boundary and open public land to hunters and anglers along the Ocmulgee River corridors.

According to the Ocmulgee National Park & Preserve Initiative  (ONPPI) website, the land’s wildlife diversity includes 32 mammal species, 170 bird species, 26 amphibian species, 31 fish species, and 35 reptile species. Biodiversity is one of the ONPPI’s areas of focus as they advocate for its re-designation.

The staff of the Georgia Wildlife Federation (GWF) are serving on the ONPPI committee to advocate for hunter and angler rights as the legislation for the park proposal is updated. Mike Worley, President of GWF and J.T. Pynne offered their wildlife and land management perspectives to the proposal discussions. 

“We [GWF]were brought into the fold to broaden the support of the initiative, but specifically to make sure that we included the perspectives of hunters and anglers,” Worley said.

“[Ocmulgee Wildlife Corridors] is an existing corridor that is valuable from a biodiversity standpoint, but also protects 1/4 that has traditionally been utilized for hunting, angling, and outdoor recreation,” 

Unlike traditional national parks, the designation of park and preserve permits hunting as a tool of land management. J.T. Pynne, a private lands biologist, said hunting is a tool in the preservation toolbox.

“Preserve implies there is natural resource utilization and use.. When I say use, I mean people can go out and enjoy it, when I say utilization I mean people can go out and harvest,” Pynne said.

Currently, the park encourages specific recreational activities. The types of recreational use permitted include fishing on specific water banks, biking on designated trails, and hiking. The park’s new designation as both a park and preserve would update the use of the land to include hunting. 

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, hunting is both an outdoor tradition and a wildlife management tool. In the Southeast people utilize both public and private land to hunt during set seasons and abide by game limits. These seasons and limits are set by wildlife resource divisions of a state’s Department of Natural Resources.

ONPPI Executive Director Seth Clark said that just as individuals need a state-issued hunting or fishing license to utilize state-managed land in Georgia, the same rules will apply to the land designated for those purposes in the preserve component of the park. 

“Understanding that connectivity, understanding the hunting practices and the fishing practices of species management is an act of land management. That and an act of, frankly, environmentalism, of caring for the land,” Clark said.

Fletcher Sams removes a fly from a Shoal Bass’ mouth in the Ocmulgee River in Juliette, Ga on April 24, 2023. (Ma)

 An initial concern for the hunting and angling community was the effect re-designation would have on the wildlife management areas (WMA), connected to the Ocmulgee River corridors. 

There are multiple WMAs connected to the Ocmulgee wildlife corridors including Oaky Wood WMA and Ocmulgee WMA. After discussion with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, WMAs were pulled from the park boundary expansion plan. These WMAs will remain state-managed lands for public use.

The land originally belonging to the Muskogee (Creek) Nation has undergone many transfers of ownership. Through becoming a national park and preserve, the ownership of land will move back towards its roots- meaning it will be co-managed by the National Parks Service and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation residing in Oklahoma. 

Clark said it’s the National Park Service’s (NPS) job to lift up the voices that make up the identity of the U.S. He hopes co-management between the NPS and the Muskogee (Creek) nation will ensure the story of Ocmulgee’s land is told in an authentic manner. 

“While my ancestors have 100 years of good stewardship and conservation of this land, the ancestors of the Muskogee (Creek) Nation have 17,000 years on top of that,” Clark said. 

The ONNPI continues to work towards advocating for the park’s re-designation and the plan for co-management. For more information on their vision for the Ocmulgee National Park & Preserve visit their website