Wildlife Management Area Spotlight - Coosa Wildlife Management Area
Coosa Wildlife Management Area (WMA), located in Coosa County in east-central Alabama, represents one of Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries’ (WFF) older WMAs in our State’s public hunting lands. The WMA acreage was compiled throughout the 1950’s and into the 1970’s, once totaling nearly 40,000 acres. Many veteran WMA hunters likely remember hunting the area in those earlier years when it was not uncommon to have over 1,200 daily permits issued at the check station on a hunter’s choice hunt or “Doe Day” as they were commonly referred to at that time. During those years, each hunter had to stand in line to get issued a permit at the check station prior to going hunting.
Today, Coosa WMA comprises a much more conservative 18,000 acre footprint and provides an insight on how land has become available for public hunting and outdoor recreation within Alabama’s WMA collective and how WMA land has been lost.
Up until 2007, the entire 40,000 acre WMA was privately owned but leased to WFF by an in-kind service contract for no consideration other than services performed by WFF staff to maintain road infrastructure and boundary lines and provide security for the area. Following 2007, the Forever Wild Land Trust (FWLT) program stepped into the picture and purchased over 9,000 acres to add to the WMA (additional purchases have been completed since 2007, totaling over 11,000 acres owned in the WMA by the FWLT) from a private investment trust. Prior to that, Coosa WMA did not have a single acre of land owned by the State of Alabama.
Unfortunately for the public land hunter, in 2013, a shift in the timber investment trusts and real estate investment trusts land management goals and the need to generate more revenue precipitated a major decline in acreage in several WMAs. The trend continues, as those privately-owned timberlands, once part of the WMA system, have been understandably removed and leased to private individuals and hunting clubs to generate revenue for their owners and shareholders. To date, WFF has experienced a loss of over 200,000 acres comprised of these trust lands statewide, with Coosa WMA losing roughly 24,000 acres.
Fortunately, through purchases made by the FWLT and the partnership with Alabama Power Company for use of their lands along the shoreline of Lake Mitchell, one of Alabama’s oldest WMA's, although much smaller, will continue to be available for public hunting. This overview of Coosa WMA history provides a better picture on how the once 40,000 acres transitioned to its present-day size of roughly 18,000 acres. This unfortunate scenario has been replicated on several other WMAs that have lost acreage through the years or lost entirely. In an effort to more effectively address this concern of WMA acreage loss, a new strategy was implemented in 2015. That year marked the initiation of the partnership between the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division and the Forever Wild Land Trust and has thus far resulted in the purchase of nearly 24,000 acres added to WMAs and the new Special Opportunity Areas (SOA) across the State. This partnership allowed for the FWLT funds to serve as the 25% state match portion to be leveraged with the remaining 75% of the acquisition, funded from Pittman-Robertson Act funds managed by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and provided to WFF. These acquisitions are State-owned, as with other WFF and FWLT acres, to serve in perpetuity as additional lands dedicated for public outdoor recreation.
Coosa WMA also served as a pilot WMA for the introduction of the Outdoor Alabama WMA Check-in App and daily permit system, along with other WMAs within District II. It was only fitting to have one of the oldest WMAs implement this new technology which is already providing WFF staff with a better understanding of our public land use, hunting effort and success and wildlife habitat management needs to support the continued public use and interest. Beginning in the 2021-22 season, the use of the WMA check-in App will be required for all of Alabama’s WMAs.
To find out additional information on Coosa WMA or updates on the WMA Check-in App, prescribed burns, White-tailed Deer WMA Rut map and many other hunter resources, go to https://www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/wildlife-management-areas or contact your local district office under “contact us” at www.outdooralabama.com.
Alabama Deer Management Assistance Program
Alabama’s Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) offers cooperators an opportunity to gain assistance from wildlife biologist professionals with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) to better manage deer herds on both private and leased lands. The only requirement is for cooperators to collect data from all harvested deer. The biologists will then evaluate the data and generate deer harvest recommendations to guide the cooperators towards achieving their deer management objectives and goals. Habitat management advice is another service the biologists can provide if desired by the cooperator. All you have to do is contact your local District Office and they can put you in contact with one of our Private Lands Technical Assistance Biologists to get you on your way.