Permit Required: State wildlife areas could charge all visitors - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Permit Required: State wildlife areas could charge all visitors

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Story by Paul Shahen
Eyewitness News Reporter

SUCK CREEK, TN. (WRCB)-- Georgia officials are talking right now about charging people who go into wildlife management areas.

That means anyone from a hiker to a bird watcher will need a permit.

And this initiative could soon come to Tennessee.

"I mean, it's a sign of the times, the economy is horrible," says Clint Smith with Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency.

Not only is TWRA receiving less money from the state, but Clint Smith says their main source of income, hunting and fishing sales, are rapidly declining.

Meaning Tennessee could follow Georgia by charging everyone who uses state wildlife areas.

"Users like kayakers, and hikers are not funding the bill for managing the property, from mowing the grass, caring for roads, there's a lot to look after," says Smith.

Georgia's proposed prices could be $3 for a 3-day pass, or $19 annually.

Avid outdoorsman James Sherrell says he sees both sides, but would be willing to pay on one condition.

"If I'm paying, I'd assume it would be going to the parks. If it doesn't, I'd be ticked off," says Sherrell.

Over at the nature center, director Kyle Waggener agreed.

He says he's seen places first hand that need more funding, and he'd be willing to pay out of pocket to help.

"That's all paid for by hunters who buy duck stamps and things like that," says Waggener. "Yeah other people use it, so maybe it's only fair that everyone who's using it is helping to pay for it."

TWRA says if they enforce this law, the money would stay with wildlife management.

Smith says it's something hunters have been talking about for years.

"They have to spend a bit of money to get these licenses, and I get complaints that we have to buy these permits, but if you come out here and ride a bike, ATV, or you hike, you don't have to pay anything," says Smith.

If Georgia puts the initiative into effect, Tennessee will monitor the results and make a decision from there.

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