State funding cuts hamper DNR staff

Photo by Barry Levine

Photo by Barry Levine

ALBANY -- Like most state agencies, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has seen deep funding cuts over the past two years.

And like every other Game Management Section of the DNR, Region V has taken a major hit.

"Over the last two years, we have seen our budget cut by more than 30 percent," Region V Senior Biologist Julie Robbins told the Albany Rotary Club Thursday at Doublegate Country Club.

"We are also looking at another cut of 6 to 10 percent in the next fiscal year. We've also lost some leased acreage. But we are lucky that the state owns so many of its own acres or it could have been worse."

The state also eliminated 22 positions within the Wildlife Resources Division.

Robbins said the department is considering options to make up for the shortfall such as growing its customer base and raising some fees and creating others like parking fees at state parks for hikers and horseback riders.

Region V consists of 29 Southwest Georgia counties, from Columbus east to Interstate-75 and south to the Florida line. Within the region are 10 wildlife management areas, three shooting ranges and two water fowl impoundments.

Robbins touted the newest addition to Region V's portfolio: the Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area. The site is 8,400 acres and is adjacent to Lake Seminole near Bainbridge.

Silver Lake is also designated as a mitigation site for red-cockaded woodpeckers and is supporting at least 30 woodpecker family groups.

Robbins added that bird-watching is the No. 1 outdoor activity supported by the DNR, surpassing even hunting and fishing.

She drew laughs from the crowd while discussing legislative changes and brought up the state's recently revised Road Kill Law.

Now if you hit a deer with your vehicle, you can toss it into the bed of your truck without having to notify the DNR. But if you hit a bear, the department must be notified within 48 hours.

She said the department is still putting together recommendations for alligator kills.