TWRA Seeks Public Comment On Aetna Mountain OHV Issue

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is seeking public input on the management of the Cummings Cove Wildlife Management Area, located on top of Aetna Mountain. The 1,200-acre WMA has attracted controversy after misinformation was circulated by Off Highway Vehicle groups stated TWRA had plans to close Aetna Mountain to OHV use.

The Cummings Cove Wildlife Management Area, located on Aetna Mountain in Hamilton and Marion Counties, was purchased with federal funds from the Forestry Legacy Program administrated by the U. S. Forest Service and filtered through the Tennessee Division of Forestry.  The area became under the control of TWRA as a wildlife management area in 2006 when the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission proclaimed the land as the Cummings Cove WMA.

“Due to the activity by all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and off-road vehicles (OHVs) use during the last decade, parts of the WMA resemble a moonscape, void of vegetation, wildlife and stream aquatic species, once plentiful there,” said Kirk Miles, TWRA Region III, Wildlife Program Manager.

Recent visits to Cummings Cove WMA by state officials with TWRA and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation confirm the area has extensive erosion and siltation issues. During rain events in these areas, the run-off leads to erosion of unstable material and heavy siltation of streams. This silt moves down through adjacent properties leading into the Tennessee River. Water quality biologists are concerned with the discovery of small deltas, (the beginning of small land masses) in the near-by Tennessee River from stream flow originating on Aetna Mountain.

TWRA property and wildlife management areas are maintained and rules enforced by funds generated by those sportsmen and women who purchase hunting, fishing, and WMA permits. The use of Cummings Cove WMA by off-road enthusiasts was established long before TWRA took possession of the property. 

“We have law enforcement jurisdiction on the 1,200 acres found in Cummings Cove WMA that is present on all of the state’s wildlife management areas. We are not closing down the entire10,000 acres Aetna Mountain area to ATV and OHV use and have no authority to do so. We do plan to seek public input on WMA procedures utilized on our managed lands at Cummings Cove,” John Mayer, TWRA Region III Manager said.

“Cummings Cove WMA has the potential to provide additional hunting opportunities for hunters in Tennessee - particularly for hunters in Hamilton, Marion, and surrounding counties.  Currently, hunting opportunities on the WMA are limited due to the lack of usable access for hunters and the overwhelming use of the area by ATV/OHV riders.  Lands management plans for Cummings Cove WMA include improving access for hunters by developing an established access point and a road system that would allow hunters to travel across the WMA.  In order for these new roads to provide adequate and usable hunter access it is critical that the ATV/OHV use on the area be controlled.  This will ensure that roads can be maintained and eventually will allow areas heavily impacted by ATV/OHV use to heal,” Mr. Miles said.

“We would like to work with adjacent landowners, hunters and OHV groups interested in using the unique features on the Cummins Cove WMA to find a working solution to improve current environmental issues,” Mr. Mayer added.

Persons wishing to comment on how TWRA should manage the use off road vehicles on the Cummings Cove Wildlife Management Area can go to TWRA.comment@tn.gov or mail comments to OHV TWRA Region III, 464 Industrial Blvd. Crossville, Tn. 38555. 


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