I’ve always thought that Virginia’s Wildlife Management Areas
flew under the radar for those outdoor-loving, but non-hunting and angling, Virginians. WMAs are packed during hunting season, and fishermen know the opportunities they provide. But I’m not sure other outdoor enthusiasts — trail runners, hikers, bikers and bird watchers — realize how much the WMA’s have to offer — the amount of trail, the natural beauty. Well, in a few days, those non-hunters and anglers are going to have to pay — though not much — for the pleasure.
Beginning January 1, visitors to Wildlife Management Areas and public fishing lakes
owned by the DGIF who are age 17 and older will need to have an Access Permit unless they possess a valid Virginia hunting, freshwater fishing, or trapping license, or a current Virginia boat registration. Daily and Annual Access Permits for WMAs and department-owned public fishing lakes will be available January 1 for purchase at www.dgif.virginia.gov, by calling 1-866-721-6911 during business hours. Cost for the Daily Access Permit is $4 and the cost for the Annual Access Permit is $23. The Access Permit, whether Daily or Annual, can be used to access any WMA and DGIF-owned public fishing lake statewide.
The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
owns more than 201,000 acres of land on 39 Wildlife Management Areas located across the Commonwealth. The DGIF also owns 35 public fishing lakes statewide. Most of the land and the lakes were purchased using primarily revenue from the sale of hunting licenses, freshwater fishing licenses, and trapping licenses. Revenue from these sales has also paid for upkeep of the DGIF-maintained roads, parking areas, kiosks, and wildlife and fish habitat and management work done on these properties. Over the years, hunters and anglers who shouldered the cost to acquire and to maintain these sites, have shared the property with bird watchers, wildflower enthusiasts, horseback riders, and others who have had the benefit of accessing these locations at no cost. But that is going to change on January 1.