Fish and Game Departments need hunting license revenues to carry out their programs, so most of them are working hard these days with private landowners to create new hunting opportunities. Witness the "Landowner List" program in Wyoming, mentioned above; the Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit program in Utah, which we covered last month (see pages 8-10); and so on. Now, even the state of Florida is getting into the act. Seems officials there have come up with a new way to incentivize timber companies to allow hunters on their lands. Previously, they simply paid timber companies a fee to designate their properties (or parts of them) as "Wildlife Management Areas" (WMA's). Trouble is, the state has not been able to pay fees large enough in recent years to keep the timber companies interested in the program. Enter the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission's new "user-pay" program. Under it, a designated number of hunters who want to access certain WMA's will have to pay the commission a flat fee to that is considerably higher than the $25 levied against all other hunters who want to access non-participating WMA's. The commission then pays the timber companies a fee based on how much hunting actually occurs on their land. If successful, the "user-pay" program should not only help keep lands open to the public but also, by limiting access, improve the quality of the hunting available on them.
So far, the program is in effect on only two WMA's - 35,000-acre Nassau WMA near Jacksonville, and 52,000-acre Miami Corporation WMA in northwestern Brevard County, both of which offer deer hunting. The fee to hunt Nassau WMA is $96.50 and the fee to hunt Miami Corp. WMA is $125. The hunting on these two WMA's is not of sufficient quality to interest traveling hunters, unless they plan to be in the area anyway on a winter vacation. Still, it is worth noting that "user-pay" permits can indeed be purchased by non-residents. Applications are available now and will be issued on a first-come first-served basis. The contact details to do that are: Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish........(continued)