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Camping on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs)

Why do I need written authorization to camp on a Wildlife Management Area (WMA)?

A new regulation (4VAC15-20-155) effective January 1, 2021 makes it unlawful to camp on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) without written authorization. Written authorization establishes a starting and ending date for each camping trip. In case of emergency, written authorizations also provide the Department with a list of campers who are expected to be occupying a WMA and who may need assistance.

How do I obtain a camping authorization?

Camping authorization can be obtained from the Go Outdoors Virginia website or any DWR license agent. You will need to obtain a free customer ID number if you have not previously registered with Go Outdoors Virginia. Camping authorizations are located under “Special Licenses” in the online license catalog.

Is there a fee for camping authorizations?

There is no charge for camping authorizations at this time.

How many people can camp under one authorization?

Up to six people can camp under the same authorization. If a group of more than six people all live in the same household, they can camp under a single camping authorization.

Do I need any other license or permit in addition to a camping authorization?

Yes, camping is allowed while participating in authorized activities on WMAs (e.g., hunting, fishing, trapping, boating, wildlife viewing).

Hunting, fishing, and trapping activities all require users to possess valid licenses. Boats with motors must be registered. Any person 17 years of age or older who does not possess a valid hunting, fishing, trapping license or boat registration is required to purchase an access permit or Restore the Wild membership, which includes an access permit, to visit and utilize a WMA . In some situations, a special use authorization is needed in addition to the camping authorization (see next question).

When do I need a special use authorization in addition to a camping authorization?

A special use authorization is required for any group larger than 12 persons and for any activity not specifically authorized. Hunting, fishing, trapping, boating, and wildlife viewing are all specifically authorized activities.

What type of camping is available at a WMA?

Camping is primitive, temporary and dispersed. There are no established campsites and no amenities (electric, potable water, dump stations, restrooms, convenience stations).

Why can I only camp for 14 nights?

The Department does not have the funding or staffing to manage garbage and sanitation issues which can accompany long-term camping. Further, long-term camping can degrade wildlife habitat, which is a primary function of WMAs. In most cases, suitable camping locations are limited, and camping for longer than 14 nights could prevent others from enjoying this activity on the WMA.

Are there restrictions on where I can camp?

Yes, camping is only allowed in previously cleared locations; no vegetation can be cut to make room for a camp. It is unlawful to camp within 300 feet of any lake or facility (building, boat ramp, etc.). Camping is prohibited in certain other areas as displayed on WMA maps, publicized on WMA kiosks or where posted as “No Camping.”

Can I camp in a travel trailer or recreational vehicle (RV)?

Yes, but understand that WMA roads are not suitable for long vehicles or trailers. Keep in mind that no amenities are provided (electrical hookups, potable water, convenience stations). Some WMAs may not allow travel trailers or RVs due to the size and design of access roads and parking. Be sure to check the posted rules for your selected WMA on the DWR website.

Why are there food storage requirements when I am camping?

The food storage requirements are for the safety of people and wildlife. Improper food storage can lead to negative experiences between people and wildlife. If wildlife begin to see people as a source of food rewards, conflict is inevitable. Animals that lose their fear of people and continue to approach people or camps seeking food pose a public safety risk and must be destroyed. Please follow the food storage requirements for your own safety and to prevent the unnecessary loss of wildlife from lands purchased specifically for their benefit.

What can I do with my garbage?

All WMA users are responsible for cleaning up their sites to minimize impacts to wildlife, habitats and other WMA users. Be prepared, and practice the “Pack It In, Pack It Out” principle.

What happens if I camp on WMAs without written authorization, do not follow food storage requirements while camping or fail to remove my garbage?

You may receive a summons for the violation, which is a Class III misdemeanor, and be subject to a fine plus court costs. If cited more than once, you may lose the privilege to camp on WMAs.