Effective Jan 1, You May Need an Access Permit to Visit WMAs and DGIF-owned Public Fishing Lakes in Virginia

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Holders of valid Virginia hunting, freshwater fishing, and trapping licenses, and people with Virginia boat registrations will be exempt.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) owns more than 201,000 acres of land on 39 WMAs located across the Commonwealth. 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, 2012.

Beginning January 1, 2012, visitors to Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and public fishing lakes owned by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries 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, 2012 for purchase online at www.dgif.virginia.gov, by calling 1-866-721-6911 during business hours, or at any license agent. DGIF has a network of more than 700 license agents statewide at most sporting goods stores and bait shops.

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.

More information about the Access Permit as well as lists of WMAs and DGIF-owned public fishing lakes can be found on the agency website www.dgif.virginia.gov.

About Wildlife Management Areas

The goal of DGIF's Wildlife Management Area Program is to maintain and enhance habitats that support game and nongame wildlife while providing opportunities to hunt, fish, trap, and view wildlife. Other uses of WMAs may be allowed, as long as they do not interfere with these goals and uses.

The Access Permit is required for access for appropriate, wildlife-related and compatible activities for visitors age 17 and older who do not possess a valid Virginia hunting, freshwater fishing, or trapping license, or a current Virginia boat registration.

Only approved uses of these specific properties are allowed. Bird watching, wildflower viewing, and day hiking are examples of compatible activities. Some WMAs also permit horseback riding and primitive camping. A few WMAs have shooting ranges that are intended for sighting in firearms for hunting.

Rules are posted on the agency website and are posted on signs at the facilities. Some WMAs allow certain activities that are not permitted on others. Please check allowed activities on the specific WMA you plan to visit online prior to your visit. Visitors should also check the Lands and Facilities Closures and Notices page on this website prior to visiting a WMA to make sure the WMA is open and roads are passable (such as in icy or flood conditions).

DGIF asks that visitors be respectful of the environment and to take their trash with them to dispose of where appropriate.

Inappropriate activities for WMAs include mountain biking, swimming, golfing, ATV riding, skateboarding, sports such as football, soccer, baseball, and other activities not compatible with wildlife-related recreation and habitat conservation. Virginia offers excellent federal, state, and local parks and private recreation facilities for these activities. Your local parks and recreation department, State Parks (www.virginiastateparks.gov) and tourism office can provide information about locations designed for those activities.

Because the goal of WMA management is to maintain and enhance wildlife habitat, DGIF uses science-based habitat management techniques which can include timber harvest, prescribed fire/burns, and agricultural techniques on its lands to create habitat that will support optimum populations of native wildlife. At times certain areas of WMAs are closed to the public while these techniques are being employed. For more information about WMAs and their use read the Wildlife Management Area Study: Final Report approved by the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries at their October 20, 2011 meeting.

DGIF's Conservation Police Officers routinely patrol WMAs and DGIF-owned public lakes and will ask anyone age 17 years of age or older to see their Access Permit or valid Virginia hunting, freshwater fishing, or trapping license or Virginia boat registration. Violators are subject to prosecution and may be given a fine up to $50 by the court for each violation.

It is the mission of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to maintain optimum populations of all species to serve the needs of the Commonwealth; to provide opportunity for all to enjoy wildlife, inland fish, boating, and related outdoor recreation and to work diligently to safeguard the rights of the people to hunt, fish and harvest game as provided for in the Constitution of Virginia; to promote safety for persons and property in connection with boating, hunting and fishing; to provide educational outreach programs and materials that foster an awareness of and appreciation for Virginia's fish and wildlife resources, their habitats, and hunting, fishing and boating opportunities.