Georgia Sportsmen’s Caucus Wants National Park Service to Hear Hunters Out

Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator

Highlights

  • The National Park Service (NPS) is conducting a special resource study to determine the efficacy of establishing a national park unit in Georgia along a 50-mile stretch of the Ocmulgee River between Macon and Hawkinsville.
  • Hunting is generally not allowed within NPS units, and this proposal affects 3 state-owned wildlife management areas (WMAs) that provide hunting and fishing access for Georgia’s sportsmen and women.
  • Similarly, hunters lost access to public hunting grounds when the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve was established in West Virginia last year. 
  • On March 31, 2021, Georgia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Co-Chair Representative David Knight introduced HR 529 to express concerns over the NPS restricting hunter and angler access and usurping the state’s primary authority for fish and wildlife management by the creation of a new NPS unit along the Ocmulgee River.

Why it Matters: Hunting and fishing are critical aspects of Georgia’s cultural heritage. Establishing a new NPS unit could limit hunting and fishing access on thousands of acres, many of which are currently under the management authority of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The NPS is conducting a special resource study to determine whether the Ocmulgee River Corridor meets the criteria to be included as a unit of the NPS system. There are many publicly owned lands contained within this study area that are currently open to hunting. These areas include Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Oaky Woods WMA, Ocmulgee WMA, and Echeconnee Creek WMA. Two public boat ramps are also found in the study area, in addition to private lands that are popular for hunting.

Lack of access is often cited by hunters as a major barrier to hunter participation. The Caucus understands the importance of maintaining access for hunters while keeping the management authority of state-owned lands under the direction of the Georgia DNR to ensure the conservation, rather than preservation, of the state’s natural resources. 

While hunting is an important aspect of Georgia’s heritage, it also serves as an economic driver for the state’s economy. Georgia’s 1,059,000 sportsmen and women contribute approximately $54 million to fish and wildlife conservation each year through the American System of Conservation Funding. Hunters and anglers in the Peach State generate more than $2.3 billion to the state’s economy which helps support 39,640 jobs. Input from the sportsmen’s community must be considered by the NPS while conducting this study.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation supports the Caucus in their efforts to protect hunting and angling access for Georgia’s sportsmen and women and will continue to monitor the Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative as it moves forward.

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