March 25, 2024

CSF Opposes Legislation that Would Restrict Stream Access for Georgia Hunters and Anglers

Article Contact: Conner Barker,

Why It Matters: At the core of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is the key tenet that wildlife is managed as a public trust resource for the benefit of all citizens. The Public Trust Doctrine is the center of this key tenet which establishes a trustee relationship for the government to manage fish, wildlife, and waterways for the public’s benefit. Access to places to hunt and fish, including navigable waters, is critical to facilitating participation in hunting and fishing, and in turn supporting conservation funding, and the legislation moving in Georgia this session threatens to restrict access to navigable streams that traditionally allow hunting and fishing access for the public.


  • In 2023, Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 115 into law which ensured that Georgia’s sportsmen and women can access navigable streams in the state.
  • Fast forward to 2024, House Bill 1172 (HB 1172) is currently working its way through the Georgia General Assembly despite concerns from the sporting community about its negative impact on access.
  • HB 1172 would undercut the legislation enacted last year and prohibit sportsmen and women from pursuing their quarry in traditional manners.
  • On March 21, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted written testimony to the Senate Committee on Rules (Committee) encouraging Committee Members to not advance HB 1172. The bill is currently scheduled to be heard in Committee on March 25.

If passed, HB 1172 would limit access for hunters and anglers to navigable streams in the state. Specifically, the bill creates ambiguity regarding access to stream bottoms as the “low-water mark” is difficult to define. While some waters allow for access to hunt and fish exclusively by boat or paddle craft, it would be nearly impossible to hunt or fish without accessing the stream bed in many instances. This means that duck hunters would no longer be able to touch the stream bottom when setting decoys and wade shoal bass fisherman would have difficulty accessing their favorite holes without breaking the law.

Senate Bill 542 offers clarification on this issue by explicitly allowing access to stream beds when actively hunting or fishing but failed to pass the House Judiciary Committee last week.

With lack of access often cited as a barrier to hunter and angler recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3), it is imperative that access to public waterways is not restricted. Sportsmen and women are the backbone of the “user pays – public benefits” structure known as the American System of Conservation Funding through their purchases of hunting and fishing licenses and related equipment including firearms, ammunition, rods, and reels, among others. In 2023 alone, there were 1,852,225 paid license holders in Georgia that generated $85.0 million in license sales and matching Pittman-Roberston and Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux funds for the Peach State.

With the Georgia regular legislative session coming to an end this week, CSF hopes the legislation will die on the vine but will continue to work with our partners and the Georgia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus to ensure that the hunting and fishing traditions that depend on access to navigable streams will continue to be enjoyed by Georgians.

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