With Federal ESA Ruling, Land Company Pulls 19K Acres from Public Hunting

Big and small game hunters are losing 19,000 acres that have been made available for public use by a major timber company following the addition of a snake to the federal Endangered Species Act list.

Scotch Land Management Company owns thousands of acres in southwest Alabama. For the last six decades has worked with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to provide the land for public hunting.

Scotch WMANow, though, Scotch is pulling 19,000 acres due to the addition of the Black Pinesnake as a Threatened Species under the federal ESA. That ruling came in 2015. The Black Pinesnake is found in parts of the Southeast.

Here is the company’s press release:

Citing the rising threat of ever-stricter regulations from the Federal government, Scotch Land Management Company, LLC announced today it would remove roughly 19,000 acres of land from the Scotch Wildlife Management Area.

The decision ends nearly 60 years in which the land was made available to the public for hunting and other recreational purposes as part of an agreement between Scotch and the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources.

Gray Skipper, a spokesperson for Scotch, said Scotch feared it might lose effective use of the land if it did not move to withdraw it from the WMA.

“For almost 60 years, our family-owned timberland has provided public access to our land, as a part of the Scotch Wildlife Management Area (WMA). We would have been happy to continue to do so for another 60 years, if it were not for government action that threatens our use of the land,” Mr. Skipper said.

“With the listing, in 2015, of the Black Pinesnake as a Threatened Species under the Endangered Species Act, we have good reason to believe that we are now on a slippery slope toward a time when our use of our own timberland will be seriously restricted,” he said.

When Scotch first allowed its land to be included in the Wildlife Management Area, Eisenhower was in the White House, gasoline was 25 cents per gallon, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the year at 4,788.85.

Skipper said Scotch came to the decision “reluctantly.” The withdrawal will be effective in 90 days.

Managers at Scotch emphasized that their decision was in no way directed at or caused by the thousands of responsible hunters who have enjoyed the land over the past six decades.

“To the many law-abiding citizens who have enjoyed hunting and other recreational and conservation activities on the land for nearly 60 years, and to the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, we say thank you for being such good stewards of the land,” Mr. Skipper said.

“We ask those who have enjoyed the use of this land to consider the fact that we were led to this action only by what we regard as environmental regulatory over-reach by the Federal government,” he said.

Skipper said the listing of the Black Pinesnake as a Threatened Species by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was made without a public hearing, over almost unanimous negative comments from local landowners, and on the strength of what some believe is insufficient scientific evidence.

“We did not arrive at this decision lightly or without much deliberation, but recognizing our responsibility for ensuring that this land remains available and productive for future generations, we feel we had no other choice,” said Skipper, adding that Scotch would continue to strictly follow all applicable environmental laws and regulations, as it has for generations.