The Federal Government's 1943 Acquisition of Land at Harris Neck, Georgia

Gao ID: RCED-85-76 May 29, 1985

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed various issues raised about the federal government's 1943 Harris Neck land acquisition which, in 1962, became the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge in McIntosh County, Georgia.

GAO noted that, since the government's Harris Neck land acquisition occurred about 42 years ago, obstacles limited the availability and verification of information that could be obtained to address questions on fair compensation to former landowners and racial discrimination. GAO found: (1) nothing in the government's existing land acquisition records that indicated any irregularity in the land acquisition process, or that the government made any repurchase commitments to the former landowners; (2) no evidence in the government's land acquisition records of any unpaid claims; and (3) that the final judgment files contained an opinion of the Attorney General stating that full disbursement of funds had been made and the proceedings were conducted in a proper and regular manner. GAO also found that: (1) the average $33.32 per acre compensation the former landowners received was greater than the compensation other former landowners received; (2) the federal government had broad discretion to reclassify and convey the land to McIntosh County for airport purposes; and (3) McIntosh County failed to meet the terms of the conveyance agreement, and the land, therefore, was reverted back to the United States and subsequently transferred to the Fish and Wildlife Service for use as a wildlife refuge.

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