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Wildlife Management Areas Program

Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) are lands owned by New York State under the control and management of the Department of Environmental Conservation's Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources. These lands have been acquired primarily for the production and use of wildlife.

The WMA program is part of a long term effort to establish permanent access to lands in New York State for the protection and promotion of its fish and wildlife resources. Beginning in the early 1900s with the acquisition of abandoned farm lands and fields, DEC and its predecessor (NYS Conservation Department) have worked with the federal government, state government and sportsmen and women to secure these land parcels for public use.

Money used to acquire lands included in the WMA system has been a combination of state and federal funding. The Conservation Fund (begun in 1925) was the first dependable source followed by two federal programs in the 1930s: 1) the Federal Resettlement Administration bought marginal and worn-out farmland and later donated it to the state for wildlife management purposes, and 2) the Pittman-Robertson Act, still in effect today, places an excise tax on guns and ammunition to fund restoration and management efforts for wildlife, including purchase of habitat. In addition, several New York State Bond Acts (1960, 1972 and 1986) have also helped expand the WMA system.

WMA sign

WMAs provide unique areas for the public to interact with a wide variety of wildlife species. Since sportsmen and women have funded the acquisition of a large portion of the WMAs through their license fees and the federal tax on guns and ammunition, the emphasis is on game species.

However, while fishing, hunting and trapping are the most widely practiced activities on many WMAs, they are not limited to these activities. Most WMAs also provide good opportunities for hiking, cross-country skiing, birdwatching, or just enjoying nature.

WMAs also provide areas for research on various wildlife species. A grouse study conducted on Connecticut Hill WMA is considered the standard reference on ruffed grouse in the Northeast. In addition, habitat management methods and techniques such as mowing, use of controlled burns, and planting of wildlife shrubs and food plots have been established and refined on WMAs.

Anyone using a WMA should be aware of the rules and regulations governing that particular area. For most areas, statewide hunting and fishing regulations as well as statewide WMA regulations are applicable. In general, prohibited activities include any use of motorized vehicles including motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles (except on town, county or state highway rights-of-way), overnight mooring or boat storage. No fires are permitted except for cooking, warmth or smudge. Activities prohibited, with exceptions under certain conditions, include camping, swimming, skiing (other than cross-country), picnicking and mechanized boating. In certain cases, however, additional special regulations are also in force. These special regulations are usually reductions in hunting hours, restrictions on the number of people using the area and increased requirements for sportsmen and women to report on the results of their activities.

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