I've let this story rest in the back of my brain for many weeks, trying to decide how I feel about it. Every time I sit down at my writing desk, Tennessee River Country stares up at me. I've finally decided... it makes me mad!
Billed as "a Glovebox Guide to TVA Places for Family Fun," Tennessee River Country is a slick little handbook TVA published back in April. In the original TVA press release Kate Jackson, Executive Vice President of River System Operations & Environment, proclaims, "this book is a comprehensive guide to the varieties of fun that families can find at TVA reservoirs.”
I looked forward to reviewing a copy and TVA's press office kindly sent me one for free.
The glovebox guide takes the reader down the Tennessee River from end to end, and provides an outstanding summary of recreational opportunities available on each reservoir. I was immediately impressed by a huge array of outstanding photography, easy-to-understand maps, well-written narratives, and clever symbols pointing out the various opportunities on each and every lake. I had been reading the guide for a long time before I noticed one thing missing.
I searched and searched throughout the 102-page publication. The great narratives and guide symbols direct you to camping, fishing, canoeing, hiking, bird watching and swimming, just to name a few. But throughout the publication the word "hunting" NEVER appears. Not once! Nary a single solitary mention of hunting as one of the many recreational opportunities available on the Tennessee River or TVA lands.
It doesn't say you can't hunt (which you can). But while portraying the abundance of fun offered on TVA-controlled lands and waters, it completely ignores one major form of recreation enjoyed by tens of thousands of users.
I asked a TVA spokesman why. Two days later, this is the written comment I received: "Hunting was not included in the book because it is primarily a land-based activity (except for duck hunting). Also, the book is geared toward water-focused activities and activities that a family can do together on a spontaneous day trip. Hunting did not fit in those categories, it was decided. The guide is not meant to be an in-depth, exhaustive inventory of all recreational activities available on TVA reservoirs and recreation lands."
A decent effort at spin control, but I don't buy it.
Camping, hiking, bicycling, tennis, volleyball, bird watching are all featured prominently in the guidebook, and are all primarily "land-based" activities, so that argument doesn't hold water.
And according to TVA, it's not feasible for thousands of parents to take their sons and/or daughters on a "spontaneous day trip" hunting... although fishing apparently qualifies.
And in the original press release Jackson says, "this book is a comprehensive guide to the varieties of fun that families can find at TVA reservoirs."
But when asked about hunting, the TVA spokesman now says, "The guide is not meant to be an in-depth, exhaustive inventory of all recreational activities available on TVA reservoirs and recreation lands."
What's the difference between "comprehensive" and "in-depth & exhaustive?" Plus, I've tried hard and I can't find any recreational pursuit missing in the guide, except for hunting.
Spin it however you wish. In my opinion it's a gross oversight and a slap in the face to those of us who consider hunting a valuable and note-worthy part of our lifestyle and heritage... and we aren't ashamed to say it.
There's no way to know exactly what was in the mind of the person who decided to ignore hunting in the TVA guidebook. But it's a clear reflection of the mindset hunters face in this day and age.
In another example the Make-A-Wish Foundation recently voted to stop granting hunting trips as the "wishes" for terminally ill children (details in Outdoors Notebook to left).
I guess you could call it discrimination of sorts. Hunters are constantly barraged by direct assaults from anti-hunting organizations; as well as indirect assaults by those who may not object to hunting, but they are scared to publicly acknowledge our rights and our worth.
Through license fees and excise taxes hunters have single-handedly paid for the overwhelming majority of professional wildlife management in the Tennessee Valley. In the State of Tennessee that's more than $20,000,000 every year! We have paid for the conservation of most of the wildlife that the bird watchers, campers and hikers visit TVA lands to see.
Over the years, the "non-consumptive" users have been offered numerous opportunities to open their pocketbooks and help. Tennessee specifically has offered voluntary "Non-game Permits," a mechanism to allow non-hunters to help fund wildlife management efforts. Other states have offered "income tax check off's" so non-hunters can help enhance wildlife funding. Most such efforts have failed, and in many cases, abandoned.
Now wildlife managers across the country are desperately lobbying to pass the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA). Originally the plan was to add excise taxes to items such as birdseed, binoculars and backpacks. A ground swell of opposition destroyed that idea. Now if Congress passes CARA it will reinvest half of the money received by the federal government from offshore oil and gas leases to wildlife conservation and other environmental protection efforts.
But still the non-consumptive users.... the campers, hikers, bikers and bird watchers will get a free ride in conserving our wildlife.
And the consumptive users... honest, respectable hunters who pursue their sport with dignity and honor, and pay heavily for the right, continue to be attacked, shunned, or ignored.
It is a sad time for those of us who feel we may have been born a hundred years too late.
Tennessee River Country sells for $10 and is available at the TVA Company Store locations in Chattanooga and Knoxville. To order the book, call the Chattanooga store at 751-7904 or the Knoxville store at 632-4220. The book is also available at area Barnes & Noble and B. Dalton bookstores.
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Send E-MAIL to Richard Simms if you've got a comment on this column. It will be posted here.
GulfBum4 had PLENTY to say:
Looks like the "tree hugging public", antihunting sentiment has infected the TVA. As usual it's easy to kick the mean old hunter who is going to be the downfall of this country.
This is the same sort of exclusion type mentality that is directed towards smokers. (Smoking and the tobacco industry is looked down on as a shameful practice and industry). In the same breath no thought is usually never given to the jobs generated by tobacco growing and processing, or the taxes that are collected due to tobaccos production and use. If you check the investment port