We’re not going to rename state-managed hunting areas as recreational areas, but other users of some Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) will have to purchase a stamp or short-term pass called a GORP. Those are the recommendations of a DNR steering committee that looked at WMA uses and users.
When revealed last May, both proposals drew thousands of comments from sportsmen. The vast majority didn’t want a name change. Initially, the process seemed to steer the focus of WMAs away from hunting and toward recreation areas for non-hunters. That didn’t sit well with sportsmen whose funding purchased many of these lands and who also fund the agency charged with managing the areas.
Regarding fees for non-hunting users of WMAs, most who commented felt non-hunters were using WMAs in ever-increasing numbers anyway, and that they should pay their way. Currently, sportsmen must purchase a $19 WMA stamp if they want to hunt or fish on WMAs and Public Fishing Areas (PFAs). Bikers, horseback riders— no other users pay. That will change with establishment of the Georgia Outdoor Recreation Pass (GORP), to be sold as either a three-day or annual pass for WMA users on certain areas who don’t have a WMA hunting license or a three-day fishing license. A GORP would be required only on 29 out of more than 100 state-managed areas. The cost of a GORP would be $3 for a three-day individual pass or $19 for an annual GORP. Also, small-group passes would be sold for groups up to 12 — $10 for a three-day pass and $35 for an annual group pass. A service charge of $2.75 to $4 would be added to the cost of the pass.
The Georgia Hunting Fishing Federation (GHFF) opposes the $10, three-day pass for a group of 12. “This amounts to .27 cents a day per person. The State Park System does not have a pass like this. Why do we need one?” said GHFF president Reggie Dickey.
A series of public meetings the first week of January give sportsmen the chance to offer input on the GORP pass, plus on any other changes they’d like to see in hunting regulations. The January meetings are the first step for any changes to the hunting regs.
“We go out and get input at the public meetings, and folks can also send input by e-mail and written comment,” said John Bowers, assistant chief of Game Management. “Proposals will go to the Board (of Natural Resources) in March, and also at that same time they go out for public notice, and then in April we’ll have public hearings.”
At the meetings, WRD will float the idea of the GORP pass and also an increase of the bear limit for north Georgia counties to two per season.
“We have a steadily increasing bear population, and we’re trying to come up with ideas that would stabilize that growth, even reduce it a little bit. We are toying with the idea of increasing the bag limit for bears in north Georgia to two,” said Bowers.
You can submit written statements by Jan. 14, 2011. Mail to Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, Game Management Section, Attn: John Bowers, 2070 U.S. Highway 278, SE, Social Circle, GA 30025; or e-mail to <John.Bowers@dnr.state.ga.us>.
All public meetings begin at 7 p.m.
Jan. 3: Albany Technical College-Kirkland Conf. Center, 1704 S. Slappey Blvd., Albany.
Jan. 3: Little Ocmulgee State Park Conference Room, 80 Live Oak Tr., Helena.
Jan. 4: Augusta Technical College Auditorium, 388 Tech Drive, NW, Thomson.
Jan. 4: The Colonnade Center, 264 Catoosa Circle, Ringgold.
Jan. 5: College of Coastal Georgia Auditorium, 3700 Altama Ave., Brunswick.
Jan. 5: Georgia Forestry Commission, 5645 Riggins Mill Rd., Dry Branch.
Jan. 6: Franklin Springs City Hall, 2135 E. Main St., Franklin Springs.
Jan. 6: Smyrna Community Center – Banquet Hall, 200 Village Green Cir.