The state leases about 90 of the wilderness tracts — such as the Berry College WMA and the Arrowhead WMA in The Pocket — totaling nearly a million acres.
DNR Commissioner Mark Williams said he won’t know which ones will be axed from the system until the annual lease negotiations are concluded.
“Worst-case, we’ll cut the leases by 15 percent; about 25,000 acres,” he told members of the House and Senate appropriations committees.
Other cuts in Williams’ tight budget proposal include the elimination of full-time housekeeping positions at other state parks.
The DNR also will end funding for historic preservation planners at the regional commissions.
Bill Steiner, executive director of the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission, said the agency will only be able to offer historic preservation assistance to its city and county members through paid contracts.
“The (DNR) funding was down to $14,000 a year, so we were subsidizing the position because local people wanted it done,” Steiner said. “But we can’t afford to put any more into it.”
Other budgetary innovations from Williams include initiating legislation to require licenses for plantation quail hunters and using bonds to fund repairs and maintenance of facilities.
Wednesday was the first of two days the appropriations committees set aside to hear budget proposals from the various state agencies. Today’s hearings are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
The fate of Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital in Rome is on the table today, in the budget slated for presentation at 11 a.m. by Dr. Frank Shelp, commissioner of the department of behavioral health and developmental disabilities.
The department announced last week it would close the hospital June 30, beginning a statewide shift to community-based care.
But state Sen. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, said a meeting Wednesday morning between the Floyd County legislative delegation and Gov. Nathan Deal may have bought time.
“There’s a possibility they’ll delay the closing,” Loudermilk said. “But you know that’s just a temporary reprieve.”
When the General Assembly reconvenes Monday, the House and Senate will start crafting their own versions of a state spending plan using the $18.2 billion revenue-figure set by Gov. Nathan Deal.
The versions must be reconciled and a final budget adopted before the close of the 40-day legislative session.