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Thursday, January 20, 2011 - 10:07am

Wildlife Areas Could Dwindle

Georgia’s Wildlife Management Areas are at risk because of dwindling state funds, and hunters and anglers may have to pay more to access the recreational lands.

The Department of Natural Resources proposes spending $200,000 less on leasing land for Wildlife Management Areas.

Georgia oversees 98 WMA’s covering nearly one million acres.

While the state owns most of that acreage, or gets it donated for public use, the DNR still must lease 150,000 acres a year at a cost of $1 million.

The department’s Todd Holbrook says timber and paper companies, and large private landowners, charge the state for use of their land.

“Hopefully we can negotiate down significantly some of those lease prices and not have to cut acres. But there’s a very real possibility that some of these leased acres will have to be dropped out of the system.”

Holbrook says while state fishing and angling licenses bring in $20 million a year, the state may have to raise fees even more.

“The longterm trend in hunting unfortunately is down, running 1.7 per year over the last couple of decades.”

Holbrook says part of that downturn is fueled by a lack of access to hunting areas, which would be exacerbated by the cuts.

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