Every year, I have the opportunity to address our state’s sportsmen and women through the Georgia Hunting Guide publication.
I like to tell stories from the hunt, share details about our diverse natural resources, and talk about the work we are doing to protect and enhance Georgia’s wildlife. I am proud of the work that we do and this year I am pleased to announce that we will soon have the ability to further our mission and enhance our level of service to the sportsmen of our state thanks to Governor Nathan Deal and the General Assembly.
Georgia had not seen its resident hunting and fishing licenses increased in 25 years and we had some of the lowest fees, not only in the Southeast, but in the nation. As you know, every time we buy hooks and bullets we pay into a federal fund where dollars are then appropriated back to the individual states based on a formula. Because of the way our licenses were structured, we were leaving millions of dollars of this federal fund on the table.
HB 208 was introduced this legislative session by Rep. Trey Rhodes of Greensboro. This legislation brings the cost of our licenses right to the average cost of the Southeastern states. It also simplifies some of our licenses to make knowing which license to purchase easier. Additionally, it will allow us to bring millions of federal funds back to the State of Georgia.
Gov., Deal signed HB 208 into law on April 25. The efforts that led to HB 208 started several years ago when we started a series of statewide public forums and online surveys. After thousands of responses from you, our customers, we found we had great support to align our fees with the Southeastern average. Additionally, we were honored to have the support of sportsmen’s organizations such as the Georgia Hunting & Fishing Federation, the Georgia Wildlife Federation, Quality Deer Management Association, and the Georgia Chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited and many more. The reason for our near-universal support was because all of these additional funds will go right back into making Georgia the best place to hunt and fish.
Because of the leadership of the General Assembly and Gov. Deal we will soon have the ability to increase access to our public lands and waters, enhance our wildlife management practices, improve our fisheries programs, hire additional game wardens, and augment our youth education programs.
This legislation all started with the support of you, our sportsmen and women.
I want to thank you all for your support and hope you enjoy all of our efforts to make Georgia a great state to hunt and fish!
Williams is commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources