JACKSON, Mississippi — Threatened by federal budget cuts, three popular wildlife management areas will remain open for now.
Lake George in Yazoo County, Sky Lake in Humphreys and Leflore counties and Muscadine Farms in Washington County are owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and managed by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. The agreement between the two is that the Corps is responsible for providing funds to carry out the management.
Federal budget cuts have threatened that agreement, but U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., recently announced the availability of funds for various Corps projects in Mississippi.
Greg Raimondo, spokesman for the Corps' Vicksburg District, said a portion of that money will be used to fund maintenance at the three wildlife management areas.
"It's really good news," Chris Emerson, of Pearl, said. "We've been hunting there 10 or 12 years."
Emerson said he prefers to hunt public land rather than joining a deer hunting club and Lake George Wildlife Management Area is one of his favorites. He and friends hunt there on weekends and depending on vacation time, Emerson said he will lease a nearby cabin for a couple of weeks each season.
"It's great hunting," Emerson said. "You've got some big deer in there."
Rob Trammell, of Yazoo County, is also happy the wildlife management areas will remain open, but the possibility of closure in the future overshadows that.
Trammell, who grew up near Lake George, said he has watched the wildlife management area slowly transform from farmland in the early 1990s into acres of hardwoods.
"It's just now starting to get to the point that in five years, there will probably be two or three thousand acres of mature timber," Trammell said. "The next 10 to 15 years, it's going to be perfect.
"We've waited over 20 years to get to this point and now they're going to shut it down? That's what bothers me the most about it."
While concerned that future federal funding cuts will be deeper, Raimondo said the Corps remains dedicated to finding a solution to keep the lands available to the public. Raimondo said several entities have expressed interest in resolving the issue.
"We're still looking for a long-term solution," Raimondo said. "That's one-year funding, so we're still going to be looking for a non-federal government sponsor to help out."
The Mississippi Wildlife Management Area system includes 50 areas encompassing over 665,000 acres. The wildlife management areas are located in the eight major physiographic regions of the state. They reach all the way from the upper edge of the coastal marshes in Jackson County to the lower reaches of the Appalachians in Tishomingo County.
Some areas are owned by the MDWFP. Many are managed under memoranda of understanding with the U. S Forest Service or private corporations. Others are operated through long-term license agreements with the Corps of Engineers.
Wildlife management areas, http://www.mdwfp.com/wildlife-hunting/wmas.aspx
Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com
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