Proposed Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge
Conserving the Nature of America
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Frequently Asked Questions

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About National Wildlife Refuges

About Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge

About Land Transactions

About Recreation at Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge

Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge and Local Tax Revenue



What is a National Wildlife Refuge?

National wildlife refuges are areas of land and water set aside for fish, wildlife, and plant conservation, and managed by or in partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Collectively, refuges across the nation comprise the National Wildlife Refuge System, the world's premier system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve fish, wildlife and plants. Since President Theodore Roosevelt designated Florida's Pelican Island as the first wildlife refuge in 1903, the System has grown to more than 150 million acres, 553 national wildlife refuges and other units of the Refuge System, plus 38 wetland management districts.


What is the proposed Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge?

The Service proposes establishing a National Wildlife Refuge on up to 25,120 acres in Franklin County, Tennessee. The purpose of the proposed refuge is to protect streams and forests of the upper Paint Rock River watershed and the plants and animals found there, including a diversity of aquatic species, migratory birds, and several threatened and endangered species.


How would a refuge be created?

The Service would work with communities and willing landowners to establish the proposed refuge through several methods, including fee simple purchases, conservation easements, and/or cooperative agreements with landowners. The planning target is to work with partners and willing landowners to protect up to 25,120 acres for the refuge.


What is a conservation partnership area?

A conservation partnership area (CPA) is a place where we’ll focus efforts to protect streams and forests. This is the area where we’ll work with willing landowners to acquire land for the proposed refuge, but we’ll also pursue other conservation opportunities such as purchasing conservation easements, entering management partnerships, and providing technical assistance to private landowners. Having land in the conservation partnership area does not give the Service any special jurisdiction or control over these lands. Lands become part of the National Wildlife Refuge System when they are purchased from willing sellers or placed under agreements with willing landowners. Landowners who choose not to have their land become part of the refuge continue owning and managing their lands, with all associates rights and responsibilities.


What areas is the Service considering?

The Service has identified a conservation partnership area in the upper Paint Rock River watershed which contains numerous streams and large tracts of deciduous forest that the Service is trying to protect. A potential future refuge would consists of lands within this conservation partnership area.


How would the Service acquire funds to purchase refuge land?

The Service anticipates that funding for this project would be provided through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF includes monies collected from the sale of offshore oil leases. It’s the principal source of funding for land acquisition for the purpose of outdoor recreation by the Fish & Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Forest Service.


Who is leading this effort?

The Fish & Wildlife Service is leading this effort and is coordinating with multiple partners. For many years, numerous agencies, organizations, and landowners have sought to conserve streams and other habitats in the watershed. Portions of the watershed are already protected by a variety of organizations, including the State. The creation of this refuge would protect additional streams and forests.


Can I have information about specific parcels/CPA boundary?

The CPA boundary and parcels of interest will be made available to the public in the form of a Land Protection Plan, which is subject to National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) rules, including the need for public review.


What if my land is within the conservation partnership area and I do not want to sell?

You maintain every right to your land, including the right to sell your land to whomever you choose. It is the policy of the Service to purchase lands only from willing sellers. Having land within the conservation partnership area does not require you to sell your property to the Service. Please see our Landowner Options fact sheet for more information.


If I want to sell my land or otherwise make it part of Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge, what options do I have?

The Service acquires interest in lands in a variety of ways, including fee title purchase, donation, and conservation easement. Please see our Landowner Options fact sheet for more information.


I’m interested in selling my property, what happens now?

We’re currently gauging landowner interest in the proposed project and soliciting input from a range of stakeholders. This begins a period of planning and study, concluding in June, 2013, at which time the project would get final approval. Should the project be approved, someone from our Division of Realty will contact you to gauge your interest in selling and pursue negotiations if appropriate. Please see our Landowner Options fact sheet for more information.


If the refuge is created, will I be able to hunt, fish, hike and bird watch on lands acquired?

Most likely. The Service gives priority consideration to six wildlife-dependent public uses on National Wildlife Refuges: hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, and interpretation. If these uses are determined to be compatible with refuge purposes, and funds are available to manage them, they would be allowed within the proposed refuge. During the planning process, lands proposed for acquisition would be evaluated for the priority recreational uses. Some areas could be open to all six uses, while few or no uses might be allowed on other areas of the refuge.


Would I be allowed the same recreational opportunities on any privately-owned lands in the refuge?

Landowners who choose to sell their development rights would retain many other ownership rights. They would not be required to allow public use activities on their property.


How would tax revenues be affected if lands become part of the National Wildlife Refuge system?

While it’s true that lands acquired by the Service are removed from the tax rolls, the Refuge Revenue Sharing Act (Public Law 95-469), allows us to offset the tax losses by annually paying the county or other local government an amount that often equals or exceeds that which would have been collected from taxes if the land was in private ownership. This law requires that the revenue sharing payments to the counties for our purchased land will be based on the greatest of:

  • ¾ of 1% of the fair market value;
  • 25% of the receipts collected in connection with the operation and management of the refuge;
  • $0.75 cents per acre.

Funding for the payments comes from income generated on national wildlife refuges. If there is not enough revenue, Congress is authorized to appropriate money to make up the difference. Service lands are reappraised every five years to ensure that payments to local governments remain equitable. On lands where the Service acquires only partial interest through easement, all taxes would remain the responsibility of the individual owner.



Tennessee walls of Jericho

The Tennessee Walls of Jericho. Photo: The Tennessee Chapter of the Nature Conservancy.


Last updated: January 16, 2013