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The Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Committee to the S.C. Natural Resources Board will conduct a public meeting near Clemson Thursday, Feb. 24 to receive public comment on a proposed fish hatchery permit and a proposed game zone restructuring.

The public meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24 in S.C. Department of Natural Resources Clemson (DNR) office at 153 Hopewell Road in Pendleton. DNR staff will be on hand to answer questions. The purpose of the meeting is to receive public input on the proposed fish hatchery permit and proposed game zone restructuring: For more information on the meeting call (803) 734-3886 in Columbia.

These proposals are part of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources 2005 legislative agenda, and state Rep. William D. "Billy" Witherspoon of Horry County and chair of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee suggested the public meetings be held across the state to gather input from constituents.

The proposed hatchery permit would cost $5.50, and be required of anglers harvesting striped bass, striped bass hybrids, smallmouth bass, brown trout, rainbow trout and brook trout. Populations of these species are maintained by stocking from DNR hatcheries. All revenues from the sale of this permit would support DNR hatcheries. Budget cuts have already forced the closure of two DNR hatcheries, and hatcheries operating now average 61 years old.

The proposed game zone restructuring is an effort to streamline hunting regulations by consolidating game zones that currently have the same seasons for most game species. The proposal would reduce the number of game zones from 11 to six and does not include any calendar changes to deer or turkey seasons. This type of consolidation will simplify the hunting regulations and allow hunters more freedom to hunt different areas without wondering if seasons are the same. The proposal will also simplify the annual hunting "Rules & Regulations" booklet because repetitiveness found under the current format will be eliminated.

Eight previous meetings were conducted across the state during January and February to discuss the proposals for a fish hatchery permit and game zone restructuring and to receive public comment. Earlier meetings were held Jan. 20 in Greenwood, Jan. 25 in Spartanburg, Jan. 27 in Lancaster, Feb. 1 in Florence, Feb. 3 in Aiken, Feb. 8 in Orangeburg, Feb. 10 in Moncks Corner and Feb. 15 in Varnville. Additional meetings may be scheduled if needed. For more information on scheduled public meetings call (803) 734-3886 in Columbia.
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