A Friendly Reminder to Buy Your Wildlife Tags

With recent law changes, tags give wildlife a better chance.  Thanks to new legislation, the wildlife license plates that provide critical funding for work involving nongame, northern bobwhites and trout will cost less and provide even more support.

After July 1 the cost of buying or renewing the eagle, hummingbird, quail and trout tags will be $25 and dedicates more than 75 percent of that fee to wildlife programs the plates benefit. The breakdown is that $19 of every plate purchase and $20 of each renewal will, by law, go to help conserve and manage native Georgia wildlife and natural habitats, from bald eagles to longleaf pine forests.

The support from these plates is critical, considering that the state does not provide general revenue for the core missions of DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, which conserves rare and other nongame wildlife, and the Bobwhite Quail Initiative, which is focused on restoring quail populations and habitats.

The three nongame plates – the eagle and hummingbird designs – account for more than half of all contributions to the Georgia Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund, the source of non-federal funding for the Nongame Conservation Section. The bobwhite, deer and turkey plate is the sole funding source for the Bobwhite Quail Initiative’s support for habitat restoration efforts on private lands – efforts that benefit bobwhites and a host of other game and nongame wildlife species.

DNR’s wildlife tags will soon give Georgia wildlife an even better chance, and this is your better chance to make a difference.

9th Annual Sportsmen’s Dinner and Auction to be Held on August 28, 2014

Don’t forget the 9th annual Sportsmen’s Dinner and Auction, which will again be held at GWF’s Alcovy Conservation Center in Covington.  It’s our “don’t miss event” of the year, and the agenda includes an old-fashioned pig-pickin’ and barbecue, raffles and auctions, and perhaps best of all fellowship with other sportsmen and women.

Make your reservations now, as seating is limited. Tickets are $50 each. Tables with seating for ten are $500. Those who purchase tables will be entered into a special gun raffle at the end of the evening. We’ll have tons of fun gifts on hand for the auction, so mark your calendars now to join us.

Annual Spring Georgia Water Coalition Meeting a Great Success

The annual spring Georgia Water Coalition meeting, hosted by the GWF at our Alcovy Conservation Center on June 5, was a great success. Seventy-six people attended, representing 46 of the 216 GWC partners groups. With our meeting room filled to near capacity, all manner of important topics were discussed, including the recent coastal marsh buffer rollbacks, a review of the 2014 Legislative Session, the July 1 expiration of the Aquifer Storage and Recovery Moratorium, toxic groundwater pollution from legacy industrial sites, and a review of the Georgia Environmental Action Network (GEAN) and the Camo Coalition.

In between the morning and afternoon sessions, the group enjoyed a scrumptious Italian lunch at our Tupelo Pavilion before reconvening to revise the GWC 2013 Biennial Report: Recommendations for a healthy water future. To learn more about the GWC, visit www.gawater.org

Clay Shoot for Conservation Raises Funds for the Camo Coalition

The shooting and laughter were loud and boisterous, and when coupled with outstanding food and camaraderie, melded together for a successful Clay Shoot for Conservation. The 7th annual shoot, held at Burge Plantation near Mansfield on April 25, 2014, was hosted by the Georgia Wildlife Federation and chaired by former Governor Sonny Perdue.

A crowded field of 28 teams, comprised of more than 120 shooters from all across Georgia, enjoyed the excitement of the day against the backdrop of the historic plantation. A few bobwhite quail pranced the fields and woods around the shooting range and provided some locally colorful wildlife.

GWF would especially like to thank our major sponsors of Thomas D. Jones, CFP, and CSX. Without the help of our sponsors and donors, including The Meadows, Polywad, Cheng Ma, Beretta, Atlanta Braves, Adventure Outdoors, and Decoy Hy-Wyd, the shoot could not have been possible.

Most of all, GWF is proud of its enthusiastic team of volunteers, led by GWF’s own – and equally enthusiastic – Adam Schiavone, who all did a tremendous job of making sure the shoot ran smoothly.

Make plans now to join the GWF in the spring for next year’s eighth shoot.

Georgia Outdoor Map is Key to Year ‘Round Outdoor Activities

Want to know where to hunt, fish, camp, hike, boat, or just enjoy outdoor recreation in Georgia?  Have you ever wanted to explore the Peach State’s historic sites and town squares or archaeological sites?  Then be sure to check out the new Georgia Outdoor Map at www.GeorgiaOutdoorMap.com.

The easily-to-navigate map pinpoints locations for things to do in Georgia’s outdoors, from picnicking sites to boat ramps to wildlife watching spots to golf courses and everything in-between.  Bookmark it now to help plan your next afternoon away from the office, a weekend getaway, or even an entire month of outdoors fun.

The map, a creative new project from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, is sure to come in handy as you plan your next outdoors adventure.  And to remind you again, the website is www.GeorgiaOutdoorMap.com.

Celebrating Earth Day at Mill Creek

On April 19, despite gusty winds and misty rain, GWF volunteers celebrated Earth Day by working diligently to clear Chinese privet from the Mill Creek nature trails. But, it wasn’t all work and no play, as participants were able to soak up the sights and sounds of the wetland through guided bird and nature walks.

Later that evening, Robert Hill from Zoo Atlanta headed a 2-hour night hike through the wetland. Of the six species of frogs thought to be on the property, four were spotted –  the spring peeper, and green, leopard, and gray treefrogs.

SUMMARY – 2014 Session of the Georgia General Assembly

ImageThe 2014 Session of the Georgia General Assembly came to a close on March 20. All things considered, it was success for fish, wildlife, hunters, and anglers. There were a number of bills of interests to members of the Camouflage Coalition. Three, Senate Bill 213, Senate Bill 299, and House Bill 881, were all very positively affected by the Camouflage Coalition. The absence of any new bills to allow private ownership and breeding of whitetail deer reflects on a significant win by our coalition near the end of the 2013 Session. A summary of these and other law changes follow.

SB 213:  The Flint River Drought Protection Act was a hotly contested and rapidly changing bill that held major implications for the renowned shoal bass fisheries of the Flint River. In 2014, it bounced around with multiple trips through the House Rules Committee, the House Agriculture Committee, and the House Floor, picking up amendments all along the way. The amendments were all important. Stream “augmentation” was defined and limited. The opportunity for creative interpretations of the new law were as a result, constrained. The geographic footprint was restricted to 4 creeks that feed the lower Flint, and the purpose for withholding traditional riparian rights was restricted to the protection of vulnerable aquatic life. With these amendments, the risks to the Flint and risks to Georgia water law became inconsequential. Reasons for opposition to the proposed law evaporated. The bill passed in a form supported by proponents of fisheries, wildlife, and stream health. It awaits the Governor’s signature.

SB 299: The Camouflage Coalition also spoke against the original form of SB 299 which altered minimum standards for water to be polluted and impacted current stream buffer requirements associated with water supply systems. After active involvement from the Georgia Council of Trout Unlimited and input from the Camouflage Coalition the bill was amended by its author and the harmful elements were removed. The bill is in a form that does not rollback current law, and it awaits the Governor’s signature.

HB 881: Camouflage Coalition members will recognize and associate this bill with HB 730, Wildlife License Plates. The original version died in committee with no committee vote taken. Advocates who felt that revenues from sales of nongame, bobwhite quail, and trout license plates should go to those DNR programs rather than the general fund did not give up. The result was continued support from Representative Epps and Knight, and with their help the wildlife-friendly language was attached to a license plate bill supporting Grady Hospital. Now, all that remains is the Governor’s signature, and members of our coalition can start buying wildlife license plates again, with the knowledge that their voluntary fees actually will go to support these key fish and wildlife programs.

SB 322: Currently, the provision exempting homes of poisonous snakes from protections has been used by some to dispense gasoline or other chemicals into gopher tortoise burrows. Many species of wildlife – including the gopher tortoise and threatened indigo snake – live in these burrows and are harmed by gasoline fumes. Harming these species is against the law, but the law needed clarification. SB 322 passed and awaits the Governor’s signature.

SB 93: Some hunters, particularly those who enjoy predator and hog hunting, hoped to see Georgia’s prohibition against the use of suppressors for hunting eliminated. SB 93 proposed this change with certain constraints like requiring landowner permission on private lands and DNR approval on public lands. This language was amended onto HB 60, a broad weapons carry bill. After being taken off then amended back on, the language allowing use of suppressors under certain provisions passed with HB 60.

Deer Breeding: While no state legislation was introduced to allow for individuals to own and breed whitetail deer in the 2014 Session, we can anticipate it coming back in 2015. Nationwide there has been a lot of activity by deer breeders, mostly from breeders in northern states, who are looking to expand markets by making this activity legal in the south. This activity includes changes proposed by APHIS for CWD Program Standards published in the Federal Register that are a rollback of protections against spread of CWD as presented in 2012 standards. As most deer hunters know, CWD or Chronic Wasting Disease, is a 100% fatal disease, transmissible within the deer herd. CWD like other prion diseases has an incredible shelf-life, persisting in the environment for decades.