Sportsmen Take Aim at Bill to Abolish TWRA

"Hopefully the bill won't go anywhere.... "

Thursday, March 6, 2008 - by Richard Simms

Sportsman across the state of Tennessee are taking aim at what has been called "an ill-conceived, ridiculous bill" that would abolish the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

In summary, House Bill 2856 "creates the division of wildlife resources within the Tennessee department of environment and conservation, abolishes the Tennessee wildlife resources agency, (TWRA) and transfers all duties, responsibilities, and functions of the TWRA to the division of wildlife resources (under the Dept. of Environment and Conservation)."

The bill designates that funds from hunting and fishing licenses would go to Tennessee's general fund rather than being designated specifically for funding wildlife and fisheries programs.

The bill is scheduled to be heard next by the House Wildlife Subcommittee, but it has not been put "on notice," which means it has not been scheduled for discussion or a vote.

The Wildlife Subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Joe McCord (R - Maryville), a strong supporter of TWRA. However, the subcommittee's vice-chair is Rep. Willie Borchert (D - Camden) who has been very outspoken against TWRA on numerous occasions.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Sherry Jones (D - Nashville).

Rep. Jones said, "TWRA has no oversight whatsoever... I don't think the people of Tennessee want an agency with no oversight."

Of course supporters counter that TWRA does have oversight from the Wildlife Commission.... 13 men and women appointed by the Governor, House and Senate leaders on staggered terms who are directly responsible for overseeing the operation of Tennessee wildlife staff.

"The Commission system is fine as far as it can go," said Rep. Jones. "But (TWRA) staff members are only going to tell Commissioners what they want them to know. The Commissioners don't always get the information they need to know."

Rep. Jones' bill has fourteen co-sponsors, including Rep. Borchert.

TWRA Asst. Director Ron Fox said, "Hopefully the bill won't go anywhere. But there are a number of legislators who have signed on. We treat it as a bill that would have serious consequences to the Agency and sportsmen."

The Tennessee Wildlife Federation (TWF), a private conservation group which plays legislative watchdog for hunters and fishermen across the state will be actively campaigning against the bill.

TWF Executive Director Mike Butler said, "This bill is so terribly short-sighted and poorly written that it has (mistaken) references to the Department of Education written into it. It's obvious that author of the bill did not work very hard to write it."

As for any mistaken references to the Dept. of Education, Rep. Jones said, "TWRA is trying to nitpick the bill... our legal department draws up the legislation. Typographical errors always occur in nearly every piece of legislation and they're always corrected as bills work their way through committee. They're just looking for things to nitpick."

Butler went on to say, "It appears that this just may be an election-year stunt and several sportsmen have expressed anger to TWF that elected officials would waste time and money on such a ridiculous proposal."

Rep. Jones said her bill has nothing to do with the sportsmen of the state. She says it is simply intended to rein in an agency she says is out of control.

"TWRA has to prove to us all the good things they've done," she said. "How they've managed their money... and how they have provided good service to all the people of the state ... and they can't do that."

Butler says, "This bill would cost the State of Tennessee millions of dollars in lost federal funding that comes to TWRA. This is a perfect example of why we need (to maintain) an independent TWRA governed by a wildlife commission. It is unfortunately all too obvious that these elected officials clearly do not understand the ramifications of what they say they support by signing on to this legislation. We would strongly encourage all sportsmen to contact their elected officials and voice their opposition to House Bill 2856."

Rep. Jones said it is up to her to put the bill "on notice" to move it forward in subcommittee. She said, "When I get free moment I'll put it on notice. I've got about 20 bills next week. It's not one of them."

TWF maintains a group called the "Camo and Casting Coalition." Butler says the group has grown to become "5,000 strong and is having significant influence across the state."

Click HERE to learn more about the coalition, including access to a "Legislative Action Center" where you can find and contact your legislative representatives and share your opposition, or support, for the bill.

No legislators from Southeast Tennessee have signed on to co-sponsor the legislation.

Slow Ride And Shop Event Kicks Off Small Business Saturday

In celebration of Small Business  Saturday , community leaders along with River City Company, Bike Walk Chattanooga and Bike Chattanooga have teamed up to create a family friendly slow ride and shop event on Broad Street and along Northshore on Saturday, from 1–3 p.m. Small Business  Saturday  Slow Ride and Shop Event is designed to encourage locals to ... (click for more)

Tellico Hatchery Announces Winter Hours

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency announced winter hours for the Tellico Hatchery in Tellico Plains. Holidays along with hours of daylight and alterations in operations are the primary reasons for changes. Fish eat less during colder months. This reason, along with a reduction of seasonal responsibilities such as mowing grass and hatchery upkeep, means fewer people on staff. ... (click for more)

Woman, 61, Charged in Chattanooga With Promoting Prostitution After TBI Human Trafficking Probe

A joint investigation by Special Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Human Trafficking Unit and deputies with the Madison County, Ala., Sheriff’s Office has resulted in the arrest of a woman in Chattanooga on a charge of promoting prostitution. As the result of an ongoing two-year Human Trafficking investigation, TBI Special Agents, with the assistance of ... (click for more)

Alexander Says Republican Predictions Were Right That “Obamacare Was Historic Mistake”

Five and a half years after the White House health care summit at Blair House, Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander on Tuesday spoke on the Senate floor to discuss what he said Republicans warned the president would happen if Obamacare became law – and to outline what this “historic mistake” of a law looks like for millions of Americans today. Senator Alexander ... (click for more)

City Council, Please Reconsider On The 7-Story Apartment Variance - And Response

I would like to thank the Regional Planning Commission and the Regional Planning Agency   for denying the recent application for a variance from the current zoning requirements in place for the 1200 block of Cowart Street. The developers want to build a 7-story parking deck with 141 efficiency and one-bedroom apartments wrapped around three sides in an area with a 48' height ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My Garden In December

As the fallen leaves confirm today is the first of December, my monthly walk in life’s garden is more foggy than fun. In much-older times, good children would get a piece of candy on Christmas Day while bad ones would receive a lump of coal. So here are some things that deserve a helping of both: A PIECE OF CANDY to the amazingly few who can spy a nest of mistletoe high in area ... (click for more)