Tony Sanders of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission said there are several “problems” he wants to address as one of 13 commissioners of the organization. As he told the Pachyderm Club, one of his top concerns is bringing in the next generation of hunters and outdoorsmen.
“One of the things we’re putting a lot of effort into is recruitment, reactivation, and retention,” said Mr. Sanders, “We have thousands of kids involved in the shooting sports.
But we’ve got to do more. We’ve got to find a way to get them to turn off their electronic devices.”
According to the speaker, the TFWC has a budget of almost $100 million, and $80 million comes either directly or indirectly from hunters and fishers. And as fewer and fewer people hunt and fish, those funds are becoming harder and harder to come by. Because of this, recruiting younger members is vital for the continued survival of the commission.
He also spoke about the many roles the commission has, and how there is more to the commission than only working for the hunters and fishers. The organization also is involved in conserving wildlife and helping the ecosystem, despite the majority of their funding coming from hunters.
“One of the biggest issues we face is - you heard me - the funding formula. Hunters and fishers are funding the agency, but half of what we do is non-game,” said the speaker, “So you can see there’s a conflict. We have an obligation to take care of all of the wildlife of the state, but it is all being funded by the game side.”
Mr. Sanders, who has been with the organization since 2017, also spoke about the Asian carp conundrum. The species is a massive problem in the Tennessee ecosystem, said the speaker. Asian carp eas up the majority of plankton in an ecosystem, depriving other fish of a necessary food source. This clears out other fish from once-vibrant lakes and rivers.
“It is a huge issue. We’re now working with Tennessee Tech on a sound barrier to stop them from going through the dam,” said Mr. Sanders, “The only way to stop them is to stop the water system, and that’s not going to happen.”
This kind of carp are such a nuisance that the state have come up with several creative ways to deal with them. TFWC has incentivized hunting these carp en masse, and is looking at different ways to use the carp after they have been caught. Mr. Sanders said California is feeding them to students in schools, while Maine has used them as lobster bait.
Mr. Sanders has a radio show on 102.3 FM, which airs every Saturday. He covers a variety of outdoor topics, including hunting, over two hours on the weekend.