Sportsmen Flood DNR With WMA Comments
Changing names and focus to 'recreation areas' not a good idea.
With little time to review and comment on a DNR plan to change the name and focus of WMAs to attract more “recreationalists,” sportsmen reacted quickly and with a strong voice to stake a claim to traditional hunting and fishing lands in Georgia, much of which they paid for through license-fee increases.
This DNR plan was at least nine months in the making, including work by a hand-picked steering committee selected by DNR for the task of attracting hikers, bikers, horseback riders — and their money — to the state’s WMAs and PFAs.
The plan was not shown to the public until May 17, and the close of public comment was originally to have been May 29, giving people less than two weeks to learn about, digest and comment on the plan. Based on how the plan has been received by sportsmen, one can understand why DNR might not have wanted the plan out where sportsmen could see it for very long.
While most sportsmen think other users of WMAs should pay for their use, sportsmen object to developing these wild lands so the land is more friendly to park-like activities. Yet this is clearly the direction DNR is taking.
Sportsmen generally support others using WMAs and PFAs so long as the use does not make the land less attractive to wildlife and does not impinge on hunting and fishing.
They also think the financial burden for a family going hunting or fishing should be the same for a family going horseback-riding or mountain biking.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, sportsmen do not think DNR treated them fairly when they selected the committee. DNR slighting sportsmen on a committee discussing the future for WMAs is a significant breach of trust between the agency and sportsmen. Some are calling for structural change to remove WRD from DNR.
The charts below show how sportsmen responded to DNR’s proposals to rename WMAs and to charge other users. Also included are a sample of comments from sportsmen about DNR’s proposals and how they went about presenting them to the public.
All comments by sportsmen to DNR via the GON link can be viewed in their entirety at <www.gon.com>.
• “I believe DNR does not care about hunters at all anymore! We hunted Hard Labor Creek last year, and there were loggers in there! Then we hunted a quota hunt at Rum Creek last year, and they had a crew doing a road project! Then at B.F. Grant on the blackpowder hunt in December loggers were in there with no plans on slowing down for a few days during the hunt! Again at Charlie Elliot during bow season — loggers!”
Chase Sinnard, Jackson
• “Because sportsmen have paid for a large portion of wildlife management areas through higher license and permit fees, I would like the name to remain WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREAS. They were purchased and developed in order to manage wildlife.”
Ralph Turner Sr., Sparta
• “There are too many sportsmen who have paid their own money and worked hard to get where we are to expect this plan to ‘sneak’ by without being noticed.”
Charles Walthour, Dallas
• “It is amazing that the DNR salaries are paid by sportsmen dollars. It seems that each year the DNR works harder to take more away from the very people who pay their salary!”
Jason Caughron, Flowery Branch
• “This is not a good idea!!!!! What are you people thinking?”
Chuck Harris, Albany
• “Georgia DNR is out of touch with true sportsmen! They continue to run it like a bunch of Washington politicians. If sportsmen are required to pay for a management stamp, ALL users should have to pay the same amount! Stop this stupidity, and get with the program!”
Joe Amick, Young Harris
• “I want the WMAs to stay just like they are. What the DNR is wanting will destroy our WMA land.”
Gary Cheshire, Smyrna
• “Must be time for CHANGE at the DNR like we will see in Washington this November.”
Richard McLean, Cumming
• “I think the DNR has done the small-game hunters very bad on many occasions, and this is just another bad deal you all are trying to hand the small-game hunters here in Georgia. I feed my beagle hounds 365 days a year, to get to rabbit hunt about 58 days?”
Aubrey Holcombe, Royston
• “Anytime you have a private or select group of people vote (hand-picked no doubt) something dishonest and sneaky is going on, and trying to rush things through is exactly what we have all been being exposed to in our so called leadership. I’M OPPOSED TO THE WHOLE THING!!!!!!!”
Larry Dollar, Woodstock
• “When the Ga. Game & Fish Commission became the Dept. of Natural Resources, the sportsmen and women of this state started losing their importance to the state. As the ‘leaders’ of this organization gradually changed from sound game management to more and more opportunity, our wildlife resources and sportsmen have suffered. We need to start a return to the original plan.”
Don Wofford, Toccoa
• “When deer season is open, the areas should be closed for users other than deer hunters unless there are specific areas marked for recreational users only.”
Clark Reynolds , Riverdale
• “Everyone should have to purchase a WMA stamp each year in order to use the WMAs. Also, there should be closed times where only hunters can use them and other times when they are just used for recreation.”
Phillip Thurman, Lawrenceville
• “(Cost) should be the same for all users. Since hunters and fishermen have already paid for this land, there should also be a one-time initiation fee charged to cover the cost of making it more user friendly.”
Kevin Hood, Lawrenceville
• “DNR cannot even manage state parks ‘fiscally.’ Why in the world would they embark on this project?”
Ronnie Fields , Helena
• “There is no reason to charge one person more than another for going to the same place.”
Michael D. Fender, Tifton
• “Not only should they pay the same WMA fee that I do, but non-sportsmen need to pay more because they probably don’t hold a hunting or fishing license. They also do not buy hunting products, which part of the money goes toward preserving wildlife, i.e. fishing rods and bullets.”
Daniel King, Statesboro
• “Charge ’em $19, and forget enhancing anything. Leave it the same. Plant some food plots instead. Another thing… why have they been buying all this land the last few years but can’t afford to plant a little rye on it?”
Glen Solomon, Georgetown
• “I think you need to remember that hunters and fishermen pay for conservation.”
Lee Prather, North Augusta, S.C..
• “It’s as simple as this — leave the WMAs alone. That’s why we have state parks. Go to them. Thanks GON for thinking of us sportsman, unlike the others.”
• “They need to pay what we pay to hunt or fish, and no biking or hiking when hunting season is in. We don’t want it when it’s hot, we want when it’s cold. Half for them, half for us!“
Mark Elliott, Social Circle
• “I agree with Mr Dickie that WMAs should be closed to other activities during hunting seasons. Also, I think the amenities should be kept to a minimum, after all, this is a wildlife area. If people want to go to a park, there are plenty of them already, while wildlife areas are shrinking.”
Harold Croft, Leesburg
For more sportsmen’s comments, or to add your own voice, log on to <www.gon.com>.
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