WMA Land Totaling About 51,000 Acres To Be Cut

Lake Burton, the southern half of Blue Ridge, Rayonier and King Tract will be lost from the WMA system of state-managed lands.

Daryl Kirby | May 19, 2009

It may not be as bad as originally expected, but the WMA cuts settled on by the Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) are significant — approximately 51,000 acres on three and a half areas, said Mark Whitney, WRD’s Chief of Game Management.

Sportsmen should be upset by any cuts to services provided by WRD to hunters and fishermen. The budget for WRD has been cut year after year along with other state agencies, mandated by the Governor’s office and approved by legislators, despite sportsmen annually paying for about 80 percent of WRD’s budget through license fees and taxes on sporting equipment. Yet the cuts keep coming.

Two leased areas in southeast Georgia, 12,500-acre Rayonier WMA in Wayne and Brantley counties and 8,800-acre King Tract in Ware County, are on the chopping block. Neither of these areas currently have area managers, but the loss of hunting opportunity on these private tracts will hurt, particularly for dog-deer hunters. Rayonier is the only WMA in the state that allows dog-deer hunting, providing 10 days for deer-doggers in past seasons. Whitney said WRD is looking at options to add deer-dogging opportunities on other southeast Georgia WMAs to make up for the loss at Rayonier.

“Paulk’s Pasture and Dixon Memorial are proposed for some dog-deer hunting. We had 10 days on Rayonier, and we found two days on Paulk’s and two on Dixon. We’re proposing to find more opportunity on Little Satilla. We can’t do that in time for the May regs package for the (Department of Natural Resources Board), but we may be able to go through a public-hearing process this summer and get (some dog-deer hunting at Little Satilla) added during the board meeting in August,” Whitney said.

In the mountains, 12,884-acre Lake Burton WMA in the southwest corner of Rabun County will be taken out of the state-managed system, as will the southern half of Blue Ridge WMA — about 17,500 acres of Blue Ridge WMA mostly in Lumpkin County. Public hunting, likely mirroring state seasons for the most part, will still be allowed on lands formely managed as Lake Burton WMA and the southern portion of Blue Ridge WMA because these lands are part of the federally owned Chattahoochee National Forest. However, sportsmen expect a loss of hunting quality without managed hunts and habitat improvement provided for decades by WRD.

The list of WMAs on the cut list must be approved by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Board at its May 27 meeting, which is when hunting seasons and regulations for 2009-2010 will be set.

For more detail on the WMA cuts, see the June issue of Georgia Outdoor News magazine.

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