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By State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville.

NATURAL RESOURCES LEGISLATION ALWAYS IMPORTANT

Whether the issue is environmental regulations legislation, hunting and fishing seasons and bagging limits or issues involving water, land use and the coast, legislation in this arena always draws a lot of attention and many times conflicting views. The Department of Natural Resources is in charge of all of these areas including the management and operation of state parks and historic sites as well as hunting and fishing lands and wildlife areas.

LEGISLATION FROM THE NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEES THAT PASSED

--SB 72-This bill updated the hunting and fishing State Code. It removes the requirement for a hunting license for those hunting in wildlife management areas. Also allows the use of air guns and air bows in hunting big game in some instances. Alters the shotgun magazine and chamber limit in hunting deer and bear and removes the prohibition from baiting feral hogs. Removes the different northern and southern deer hunting zones and make the state mirror the southern zone.  

Gives DNR the ability to extend the archery deer season till Jan. 31 and increases the deer bag limit to 12 without regard to sex. Raccoon and opossum seasons are now statewide and DNR has the authority to remove the bear bag limit on state managed lands.

--SB 99-Hunters and fishermen can donate their organs after death by signing up when they purchase their hunting or fishing license similarly to the way citizens can sign up when getting their drivers license.   

--HB 201-Authorizes DNR to regulate anchorage areas and sewage discharge of live-aboard vessels in state waters. Authorizes a permit and allows the department to designate anchorage areas. Prohibits overnight stays on vessels without a permit. Live-onboard vessels must have a pump-out facility and marine toilet.  DNR Board has already published regulations.

--HB 223-Clarifies that application of pesticides when conducted according to labeling does not require notification of EPD. Also clarifies that EPD does not have to be notified of air emissions from decomposing animal waste deposited on farm grounds.

--HB 382-Amends the Outdoor Stewardship Act to allow for a 5% administrative fee to be paid to DNR out of the proceeds of the fund. Local governments applying for grants must be "Qualified Local Governments" as determined by DCA.

--HB 445-The "Shore Protection Act" changes the definition of dynamic dune field to conform with DNR's established definition. That boundary is to be 25 feet inland of certain markers on private property and 100 feet inland for public property. Gives DNR and Commissioner more waiver authority.

--HB 501-For a state not presently harvesting oysters, this bill was certainly controversial. Establishes the regulation and development of the commercial shellfish industry and give DNR regulatory authority for permitting and seasonal decisions.

FUNDING AND BUDGET ADDITIONS ENHANCING GEORGIA'S NATURAL RESOURCES

--$55,000 For grants to Resource Conservation and Development Districts (RC&D)

--$300,000 for a regional nature educational facility at Chattahoochee Nature Center

--$100,000 for construction and trail build-out in Heard County trail

--$25,000 to DNR for raising sunken vessels causing navigational hazards in Lake Lanier

--$215,000 to EPD for agricultural water metering per SB 451 (2018)

--$134,000 to EPD for two environmental compliance specialist positions

--$109,000 to EPD for statewide water planning

--$9.5 million in bonds to The Environmental Finance Authority for the Federal State Revolving Fund Match, Clean Water and Drinking Water Loan Programs

--$2.5 million to EPD for Drinking Water Lab in Norcross

--$13.55 million in bonds to DNR for facility major improvements and renovations

--$4.0 million in bonds to DNR and the North Georgia Mountains Authority for major improvements s and renovations

--$500,000 in bonds to DNR for Americans with Disabilities (ADA) related improvements statewide

--$6.3 million in bonds to Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority for major repairs and renovations

--$1.0 million in bonds to The Soil and Water Conservation Commission for rehabilitation and maintenance of flood control structures statewide

--$5.0 million in bonds to Stone Mountain Memorial Association for renovation of roadways, storm water culverts and campground site pad at Stone Mountain Park  

For staff use only.