The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission heard a presentation and was given a copy of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s new strategic plan for the next six years at its February meeting.
The TFWC met in Nashville at the TWRA Region II Ray Bell Building. The TFWC will have a month to review the new document. After the commission approves the plan, it will be submitted to the United State Fish and Wildlife Service.
Wildlife and Forestry Division Chief Daryl Ratajcak gave the summary of the new plan to the commission. In the spring of 2012, the TWRA was challenged with establishing a new course for the future. The TWRA’s long and storied existence has centered on species management. Historically, the agency developed and utilized a species-based strategic plan that was focused primarily on game and fish management.
Within recent years, thanks to the TWRA’s belief and support of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, many game populations recovered to the point where their persistence is no longer in question.
With the healthier fish and wildlife populations in the state, the TWRA’s new strategic plan’s direction is focused on maintaining the habitat to support those populations. Fortunately the 1,400-plus species in Tennessee rely on similar environments that can be addressed using habitats as an umbrella program. In addition to creating a new habitat-based plan for resources management, the Agency was challenged to incorporate all the major functions of the Agency into one strategic plan.
After deliberations, it was determined the TWRA had four core functions that serve its one common mission. They are Wildlife Resource Management, Outdoor Recreation, Law Information, and Information and Education.
Agency employees involved with the research, development and implementation of TWRA’s first native mobile app were recognized. The (downloadable) mobile app became available prior to the start of the new year and allows sportsmen and wildlife enthusiasts to take along the latest agency info whenever they are on the go. Among those employees recognized for their work on the project were members of the Information Technology Division and Information and Education Division.
Scott Somershoe, TWRA’s state ornithologist, gave an update regarding golden eagle research that is currently underway in Tennessee. TWRA has been working with other states on the project to document and track golden eagles that frequent the state. He reported on two eagles in particular that were tracked as far as northern Canada in the summer and have returned to locations each winter to the North Cumberland WMA and southern Middle Tennessee.
Region IV Fisheries Biologist Jim Habera gave a presentation on the status of brook trout in Tennessee, which is the state’s only native trout species. A survey of all brook trout streams outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was completed during a study from 2011-13. Survey results indicate that the populations have improved in several areas in the East Tennessee mountains. However, it showed a decrease in the Watauga watershed where 12.5 miles of habitat was down in the 46 streams. Future focus restoration efforts will be in the Watauga and Nolichucky watersheds.
The TWRA presented an amendment to the proclamation regarding statewide non-protected wildlife and species deemed destructive which the commission approved. The amendment allows individuals licensed to hunt bear to take wild hogs during any proclaimed bear/dog hunt.
TWRA Hardin County Wildlife Officer Stephen Graves was honored by the Shikar–Safari Club International as its 2013 Tennessee Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. The annual award from the conservation-based organization honors the officer whose efforts during the year display outstanding performance and achievement among TWRA law enforcement personnel.
The TFWC will next meet March 26-27 (Wednesday-Thursday) in Nashville.