Sunflower Fields At The Forks Of The River Wildlife Management Area Draw Wildlife As Well As Spectators

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Forks of the River WMA in Knox County is in full color as sunflowers planted for wildlife management are in full bloom, but the fields are not only drawing in wildlife.  Local residents are also flocking to the area to enjoy the bright, showy blooms.

TWRA managers and technicians annually plant around 70 acres of the WMAs 600 acres in crops that are beneficial to wildlife, but none of them offer the aesthetic value that sunflowers do.

However, while the large blooms are pleasing to the human eye, the seeds that the flowers leave behind are the greater purpose.  WMA Manager Bill Smith says that the fields are planted primarily to attract mourning doves, which rely heavily on planted crops as their food source.  Smith also says that the Forks of the River WMA is the best area in the region for mourning dove hunting.  Hunters harvested over 1,300 birds on opening day last year, which offered the highest average per hunter in TWRA’s east Tennessee region.

The sunflowers also benefit a host of other nongame birds including Gold Finches, Northern Cardinals, Indigo Buntings, as well as a variety of sparrows and other songbirds.

Mr. Smith plants the fields on a two-year crop rotation in order to prevent diseases or insect problems that might develop.  Other crops rotated with sunflowers include millet, buckwheat, grain sorghum, corn and popcorn.

The WMA, which came under TWRA ownership and management in the 1990s, is also being managed for early successional habitat.  By use of herbicides and mechanical means, some areas are being converted into native grasslands and shrub/scrub habitats benefitting Prairie Warblers, Northern Shrike, Yellow-breasted Chad, Red-eyed Vireo, Northern Bobwhite (quail), American Woodcock, a variety of sparrows, and Eastern Wild Turkey nesting and brood habitat.

While hundreds of visitors, hikers, bikers, and wildlife watchers enjoy the showy sunflowers and benefits of the wildlife management area, the sportsmen and women of the state who purchase hunting and fishing licenses pay the cost.  “If it were not for the seed, sweat, and upkeep of our WMAs by the TWRA and the funding from hunting license dollars, theses areas wouldn’t be available for all to enjoy,” said Mr. Smith. “If you enjoy them, thank a hunter.” 

The 2014 dove hunting season will open at noon on Sept. 1, and will have a daily bag limit of 15 birds.  Along with the Tennessee Small Game Hunting and Fishing License (Type 001), an appropriate WMA Small Game Hunting permit will be required to hunt doves at the Forks of the River WMA.  An Annual or Lifetime Sportsman License covers both the license and permit requirement.  Hunters will also be required to possess a Tennessee Migratory Bird Permit except for the following: disabled veterans, Tennessee residents over age 65, Tennessee residents under age 13, Lifetime Sportsman License holders, and military personnel on leave or furlough.


Secretary Jewell Announces Decision To Protect 75,000 Acres Of Eastern Tennessee Mountains From Future Surface Mining

At the request of the State of Tennessee, the Department of the Interior has agreed to designate approximately 75,000 acres of mountain ridgelines as unsuitable for surface coal mining operations. Today’s action helps protect a spectacular area of eastern Tennessee that is critical to the region’s tourism and outdoor recreation economy, provides valuable fish and wildlife habitat ... (click for more)

Alexander Given Scenic Byway Trailblazer Award

Senator Lamar Alexander was one of two recipients on Tuesday, of the Scenic Byway Trailblazer Award from Scenic America, the National Scenic Byway Foundation and the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership. Senator Alexander was recognized at an event celebrating the 25 th  anniversary of the National Scenic Byways Program. He said, “When I was governor of Tennessee ... (click for more)

Cleveland High School On Lockdown After Veiled Threats Made On Social Media Thursday Morning; Lockdown Later Lifted

A Cleveland High School student was suspended from school on Wednesday .     On Thursday  morning, a social media post was found that made veiled threats against school personnel.  As a precautionary measure, extra police presence was ordered at the school, and a lock down was underway restricting hallway access and entrance/exit to the building.  ... (click for more)

Walker County Will No Longer Have Full-Time County Attorney Under Whitfield Tenure; Will Add Full-Time Communications Director

Incoming Walker County Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield said under his administration there will no longer be a full-time county attorney. "We will outsource this service on a fee basis," he said. Mr. Whitfield said he has begun interviewing attorneys who might be able to help out the county from time to time. Don Oliver has long been the county attorney for Walker County ... (click for more)

Vehicle Emissions Testing Causes More Pollution Than It Prevents - And Response

While a noble cause to make sure vehicles are operating efficiently with the minimum amount of pollutants, a simple analysis makes it somewhat evident the VET program in Chattanooga causes more pollution that it prevents.  Though I don't know how many vehicles are tested on an annual basis, if you assume an average round trip of 10 miles to the nearest testing station (five ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Cost Of No Discipline

At the start of the current school year, state education officials gathered at some “state testing task force” when disciplinary records from across Tennessee happened to be revealed. You probably are unaware of this, as it seems to have been kept on the “down low,” but statewide a full 20 percent of the black males in our public schools were suspended at least once during the 2014-2015 ... (click for more)