Georgia Right To Hunt Law Signed Into Law

Also, DNR Board resolves to offset hunting that was lost at Ossabaw Island by opening up some hunting access to State Parks.

GON Staff | May 1, 2001

On April 18, 2001, Gov. Roy Barnes added his signature to House Bill 301, the “right to hunt and fish” law, bringing a successful end to nearly six months of effort by the Conservation Congress and the Legislative Sportsman’s Delegation to achieve greater legal protection for outdoor sports.

House Bill 301, known also as the Wildlife and Heritage Protection Act, makes hunting, fishing and trapping “rights” in law rather than “privileges,” although DNR maintains the ability to regulate these activities. In fact, DNR now has the sole authority to do so — HB 301 stops local governments from regulating hunting or fishing.

HB 301 also establishes a no-net-loss policy for hunting opportunity on state-owned lands. Many sportsmen had already wondered if this part of the new law would require DNR to offset the loss that is about to be suffered on Ossabaw Island WMA, where traditional waterfowl, turkey and small-game hunts are ending. The answer is it will, and on March 28 the DNR Board passed a resolution strongly affirming its intent to do just that.

In a recent editorial, GON Publisher Steve Burch said that DNR’s actions at Ossabaw could set a dangerous precedent defining hunting as recreation with no inherent cultural or educational value. The March resolution by the DNR Board responds by outlining the Board’s recognition of these values in hunting. It asks DNR to “proceed with efforts to identify additional opportunities for public hunting on properties owned by the state of Georgia, including WMAs and state parks,” with special emphasis on replacing the hunting opportunity lost on Ossabaw. Though the small-game, turkey and waterfowl hunts will end at Ossabaw, the DNR Board resolution opens the door to a net gain of hunting opportunity, particularly on unhunted state-park land.

On April 18, representatives of the Conservation Congress attended the signing of House Bill 301 by Gov. Roy Barnes. Standing to the left of Gov. Barnes is Rep. Greg Morris of Vidalia, who led the effort to pass HB 301, and his family. Not all of the Conservation Congress groups were able to attend, but those that did included the DNR Wildlife Resources Division, Georgia Trappers Association, NRA, Georgia Forestry Association, Trout Unlimited, Georgia Waterfowl Association, Izaak Walton League, Turn in Poachers, Inc., Georgia Coalition of Dog Clubs, Heritage and Wildlife Conservation Council, Georgia Outdoor News, International Paper Corp., Quality Deer Management Association, Special Youth Challenge Ministries, Ruffed Grouse Society, Georgia Bowhunters Association, and Muzzy, Inc.

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