06 April 2012

Why I Gladly Purchased A VA DGIF Access Permit...

As of January of 2012, if you want to photograph (or hike, bird, etc...) at a Virginia state Wildlife Management Area (WMA) you must purchase a daily or annual access permit ($4 for the daily permit, $23 for the annual permit). This means that my favorite spring wildflower area, G. Richard Thompson WMA, now requires a permit (a non-fishing or hunting license if you will). While some may look on this development as a pain, imposition, and/or outrageous fee, my response is "it's about damn time!"

I gladly and proudly plunked down my $23 dollars for an annual permit and hope to do so every year from now on. Though I may only use it for a few trips to Thompson this year, I'm thrilled to have the chance to contribute towards the conservation of the resources that I love and use. I've always thought it was improper that only hunters and fishermen were required/able to contribute funds towards the conservation of the lands and wildlife that they use, while us "recreational users" got a free ride.

Now on the website, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries suggests that by purchasing either a fishing or a hunting license for the same fee, instead of an access permit, the federal government will match the funds. I must admit it was tempting to double the effectiveness of my contribution and leave open the possibility of taking my daughter fishing at some future date. But ultimately I decided to purchase the access permit, and here is why; I want the state to know that my contribution is coming from a "recreational user" and that this is the primary way that I utilize the resource. When it comes time to make management decisions about our resources, I want the agency to know that my money is coming from a recreational use and not from fishing or hunting. I want them to know how our resources are truly being used and who the stakeholders truly are. Maybe with enough interest and pressure, we can convince the federal government to start matching our contributions as well.

This is not to say that I have anything against hunters and fishermen. Far from it. And I know historically there has been some resistance on the part of the hunting/fishing community to these "recreational permit" programs going into place, for fear of losing the unique leverage they've had in determining the management of our resources. For the most part I view us as partners in conserving our natural resources, with completely compatible goals and aims.  But I think it is only fair for resource managers to take all competing uses of a resource into account and the proportion of stakeholders engaging in each use, when making management decisions. I also think it is only fair, for all users of a natural resource (whether technically "consumptive" or not) to share in giving something back to the continued survival and quality of that resource. So I'm proud to now count myself as a "contributing" user of our state wildlife resources.

All of the images in this post were made this week at G.R. Thompson WMA. The wildflower season there seems to be about two-three weeks ahead of schedule along with the rest of the state. I wanted to explain the title of the image above in more detail. Last year I never got to photograph any of the beautiful bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) flowers while fresh and open. I saw them while out hiking with family, but by time I got back with my photography equipment, they had mostly gone by. This year I was determined that I was going to catch them, but the early spring and my continuing recovery interfered once again. I saw the flowers, but missed my chance to photograph them at Turkey Run. I hoped for one last chance when I visited Thompson this week; I knew that the elevation would keep the flora slightly behind where we were in the lowlands, but I suspected I'd be too late. As I feared, all the bloodroot at Thompson was long gone to seed.  I saw plenty of leaves and seeds on the old flower stalks, but not even a hint of the flowers. Then, on the way back to the car, I found this one perfect flower that didn't seem to have gotten the memo that the season was over. It was not only out, but in perfect shape, giving me the chance to finally capture this beautiful sign of early spring.

Hope you enjoyed the post and are out enjoying this glorious spring.  Remember to give back to the natural areas you love, in any way that you can.


  1. Elijah, I love the Bloodroot image, how nice of it to bloom just for you!

    I hope that other states will allow non-consumptive users of WMA's to contribute by purchasing access passes, and that recreational users will also be able to have some input into the uses of the WMA lands.

  2. Magical, stunning spring photographs! I oohed and aahed viewing each gorgeous image.