Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex proposes new hunt permit fee

sbowman@islandpacket.comAugust 18, 2013 

The Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex has a new idea that is sure to get hunters fired up.

The Complex -- composed of seven refuges along a 100-mile stretch of coastline in South Carolina and Georgia -- is proposing a once-per-season $25 permit fee for anyone wanting to hunt at the refuges.

The fee would cover all the refuges where hunts are held -- Pinckney Island, Savannah, Blackbeard Island, Harris Neck and Wassaw National Wildlife Refuges. The Complex currently hosts many hunts for which more than 500 hunters don't have to pay.

"We really want to keep those hunts for people, but with budget cuts we need some way to fund them," said Monica Harris, visitor services manager for the refuges. "There are lots of costs associated with these hunts that you wouldn't even think about."

Harris said some of those costs include maintenance of facilities, vehicles and boats, fuel, printing brochures, law enforcement time and staffing during hunts.

Such costs are not directly funded through the complex's annual budget now, but she said the permit fee would help to cover them and further improve the hunts and facilities.

Having a permit fee system would also provide a better idea of how many people hunt the refuges for deer, turkey, squirrel, feral hog and waterfowl -- a number Harris said there's no way of knowing now.

The complex first proposed the new fee requirement Aug. 12 and will accept public comments until Nov. 12. Harris said not much feedback had come as of Friday, but she thinks more will come as hunting season in October nears.

She said the comments have been mixed.

One frequent hunter to the Savannah Refuge, Hardeeville Fire and Rescue Chief Dan Morgan, said he thinks it's a great idea as long as there is enforcement.

"It's very unregulated right now as far as who's coming and who's going, and I think this will help keep some of the unethical hunters out," said Morgan, who has been hunting the refuge for seven years.

"As long as fees are used to enhance the properties and make the hunts better and safer, then I'm for it 100 percent," he said.

He said he's sure that some people will see the rule as punishing or think they should be able to hunt for free, but Morgan said he hopes the proposal moves forward.

The complex made sure to keep its fee consistent with those charged by the Georgia and S.C. Departments of Natural Resources for their area hunt permits. Harris said all comments will be considered before a final decision is made on the fee's implementation.

To submit a comment, send them to the Project Leader at the Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex headquarters office by via email (savannahcoastal@fws.gov), phone (843-784-2468), fax (843-784-2465), or by mail to 694 Beech Hill Lane, Hardeeville, SC 29927.

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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