Public Lands Undergoing Name Change
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recently took action to consolidate public hunting lands under the wildlife management area (WMA) designation.
Since the 1970s, Florida has had both Type I and Type II public lands open to hunting. Hunters have generally understood that they needed a $25 state WMA permit to hunt Type I areas but have been less clear about what Type II public lands were or what permits they needed.
“The Type II system was created in the 1970s to give industrial timberland owners a way to open their lands to hunting for a nominal fee and in return the (then) Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission enforced the permit requirement and rules,” said Tim Breault, the FWC’s assistant division director of wildlife. “The similarity in nomenclature between Type I and Type II areas perplexed a lot of people and created confusion.”
Breault said that over the years the industrial timber companies found out they had certain liability when it came to charging a fee for the use of their lands. At the same time, he said, they also found out they could make substantially more money by leasing their lands to private hunting clubs.
“It’s been about five years since the last of these companies pulled their lands from the Type II system,” he said. “This change in terminology reflects changing times.”
Beginning with the 2003-04 hunting season, hunters will need a $25 WMA stamp for public lands, which now includes all WMA lands, and water management district lands formerly known as Type II areas. The only exceptions to the $25 permit fee on established WMAs are military bases open to hunting. Military bases are authorized to establish and charge their own fees for hunting.
The three military bases open to hunting are Avon Park in Polk and Highlands counties, Tyndall AFB in Bay County and Eglin AFB in Okaloosa and Walton counties.
With over 130 WMAs and 5.5 million acres open for public hunting, Florida remains one of the top states for providing public hunting opportunities.