The Georgia Board of Natural Resources voted unanimously Tuesday to impose limits on comments posted on its third-party social media websites that critics say violate free-speech rights.

The new Department of Natural Resources (DNR) social media rule allows the agency to remove comments not related to the topic of the posting or that contain profanity.

Court rulings have held that such “limited public forums” do not violate freedom-of-speech protections under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, Kate Iannuzzi, the DNR’s deputy executive counsel, told board members before Tuesday’s vote.

“This isn’t really silencing,” she said. “It’s just effectively communicating with the public. … We’re just keeping up with the time and how folks communicate.”

In other business Tuesday, the board approved the purchase of 909 acres in Paulding County that will be added to the 4,850-acre Paulding/Sheffield Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

The area offers opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking and camping much closer to Atlanta than most of Georgia’s WMAs.

“This is one of the places I go to because I can get there in 40 minutes,” DNR Commissioner Mark Williams said.

The price tag for the property is $2.6 million. The largest chunk of the funding – $1.5 million comes from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Other contributors include the DNR, the Knobloch Family Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Dave Williams writes for Capitol Beat News Service

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