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State to Charge $2 Fee at Nine Wildlife Reserves

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Associated Press

State fish and game officials, in an effort to increase revenue and draw more visitors to state wildlife reserves, unveiled a plan Wednesday to charge a $2 admission fee at nine state-owned reserves and use the money to finance guided tours, trails and facilities for visitors.

The Department of Fish and Game program, which is supported by a variety of fishing, hunting and environmental groups, is designed to attract non-hunting and non-fishing visitors to the reserves and to help finance preservation of the wildlife habitats at a time when other revenue sources are declining.

Money from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses has been dropping due to a decrease in the number of people taking part in those activities, officials said. At the same time, however, greater numbers of Californians interested in other recreational activities are visiting the countryside.

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Department of Fish and Game Director Pete Bontadelli said at a Capitol news conference that the program could generate $5 million in wildlife support funds in its first 18 months.

If successful, the program could expand to many of the other 130 sites run by the department, officials said.

The sites include the Lake Earl Wildlife Area in Del Norte County, Ash Creek Wildlife Area in Modoc and Lassen counties, Gray Lodge Wildlife Area in Sutter and Butte counties, Grizzly Island Wildlife Area in Solano County’s Suisun Marsh, and the Los Banos Wildlife Area in Merced County.

Other sites are the Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve in Monterey County, San Jacinto Wildlife Area in Riverside County, Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve in Orange County and the Imperial-Wister Wildlife Area in Imperial County.

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