WMAs Lose Another 10,000 Acres
Region 4 lands hit hardest; Ocmulgee and Cedar Creek lose nearly 7,500 acres combined in continuation of budget crunch.
You’ve read it in these pages over and over, but again — despite the fact that sportsmen are paying the same license fees as always — WMA lands, which are mostly funded by those license fees, are on the chopping block due to budget cuts.
This year Georgia’s public-land hunters are looking at about 10,000 fewer WMA acres to hunt, thanks to $100,000 in budget cuts that were allocated to leased WMA lands by WRD.
WRD Assistant Chief of Game Management Rusty Garrison said the division looked at personnel and service cuts, and it made sense that some of the cuts come from WMA lands.
“We had to make up some money in budget cuts, and we made our decisions to least impact hunters and not cut any WMAs (altogether),” he said. “That’s what we looked at, where can we reduce the impact on hunters. What we did was try to cut small tracts on the borders and edges and out-holdings.”
The result is the loss of leased lands on six WMAs. Hit hardest were WMAs in Region 4, where Cedar Creek and Ocmulgee WMAs experienced losses of 2,760 and 4,738 acres, respectively. Both tracts were leased from Plum Creek.
Those two tracts made up all of the properties leased from Plum Creek in Region 4, but Garrison said there are no hard feelings between WRD and Plum Creek, and that Plum Creek did not seek to remove lands from the WMA system.
Cedar Creek WMA now totals about 38,000 acres, and Ocmulgee WMA contains about 17,000 acres. Reflected in the totals on Ocmulgee WMA are the addition of 531 acres in two different leases provided at no cost by request of the property owner.
“We had over 40,000 acres of land at Cedar Creek, and it was identified early in the process because it was not going to impact hunters much,” said Kevin Kramer, supervisor for Region 4. “On Ocmulgee, (the tract that was cut) was the farthest from state-owned land on the WMA, and it made the most sense from a WMA management and logistical standpoint.”
Region 4 now has more than 123,000 acres of WMA land, including 35,559 acres that are paid leases from private entities and the University of Georgia. State-owned WMA acreage in Region 4 accounts for 27,000 acres, and 69,950 acres are made up of no-cost leases from the Forest Service, the Corps of Engineers and Georgia Power.
Region 1 lost 1,744 acres of leased WMA land. Johns Mountain WMA lost a 280-acre tract leased from a private landowner. Berry College WMA lost 846 acres that were leased from the college. Coosawattee WMA lost 618 acres in two private leases.
In Region 5, 505 acres formerly leased from Timbervest were cut from Hannahatchee WMA.
Additionally, WRD asked the parties it leases land from not to increase rates this year, and that request was granted by all parties, according to Garrison.
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