Kill Bill on the Hill

There’s a piece of bad legislation quietly floating around the state legislature: and I nearly missed it. Apparently, Rep. Sherry Jones [D – Nashville] and Sen. Beverly Marrero [D – Memphis] have introduced a bill to abolish Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

House Bill 2856 creates the division of wildlife resources within the (TDEC) Tennessee department of environment and conservation, abolishes the Tennessee wildlife resources agency, (TWRA) and transfers all duties, responsibilities, and functions of the TWRA to the division of wildlife resources (under the Dept. of Environment and Conservation).”

Of course, my first thought was… are they freakin’ serious?

Yes, apparently they are.

The bill also designates that funds from hunting and fishing licenses would go to Tennessee’s general fund rather than being designated specifically for funding wildlife and fisheries programs.

According to TWRA, the federal government prohibits the shifting of wildlife funds into comingled accounts. Such prohibition is found in both the “Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act” and the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act.”

Therefore, by plopping the money into the General Fund (aka Phil’s cookie jar) and reorganizing into one big state DNR: we could lose approximately $16,717,100 in federal funds to the state and $1,216,400 from interest earned on the federal funds.

And this is a good plan?

Well, according to Rep. Jones, the bill is to reign in an agency that is out-of-control.

Jones says: “TWRA has no oversight whatsoever…”

Although TWRA does answer to the Wildlife Commission (13 men and women appointed by the Governor, House and Senate leaders on staggered terms who are directly responsible for overseeing the operation of Tennessee wildlife staff) Jones claims:

“(TWRA) staff members are only going to tell Commissioners what they want them to know. The Commissioners don’t always get the information they need to know.”

“TWRA has to prove to us all the good things they’ve done,” she said. “How they’ve managed their money… and how they have provided good service to all the people of the state … and they can’t do that.”

TWRA maintains a budget, do they not? What precisely do Commissioners want to know that they haven’t been told?

And perhaps TWRA’s success isn’t as obvious to Jones as it is to me: but Tennessee boasts one of the largest wild turkey populations in America, one of the few growing elk herds and huntable black bear populations. They stock the rivers, lakes and probably the mud puddles with fish and preserve animal habitats.

They enforce state and federal game/wildlife regulations. MORE IMPORTANTLY, they enforce the laws of the lakes and rivers (aka… keep me from getting wiped out at Boomsday by some liquored-up Sailor.) Also, in Hawkins County, the officers usually end up fielding what would normally be considered animal control calls – if you lived in a county with animal control, which I don’t.

Besides, we’ve tried this before. Wildlife resources has been handled by other state departments, including the DEC, in the past. It didn’t work. This is the reason it was established as an independent agency.

So my question is: if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

The bill is scheduled to be heard next by the House Wildlife Subcommittee, but it has not been put “on notice,” which means it has not been scheduled for discussion or a vote.

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9 thoughts on “Kill Bill on the Hill

  1. Wow, insanity. I agree with you TWRA is a great run agency and should not be interfered with in any way. Stealing their entire budget and putting them under the control of some environmental agency? I can imagine where that is headed – banning all hunting, while letting wildlife run wild. We got way too many deer as it is and need more hunting before we have an epidemic of deer spread lyme disease. Hunting saves lives and prevents needless suffering, lyme is nasty business.

  2. Oh and I bet this is politics. Somebody in Nashville doesn’t like what somebody at the TWRA said about something, or wrote up someone’s nephew for poaching and refused to back down or something like that. It’ll be in there if someone looks for it.

  3. Some links to articles about this terrible bill:

    http://host1.bondware.com/~nwtntoday/news.php?viewStory=8975

    http://www.tndeer.com/tndeertalk/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=635866&page=1&fpart=2
    (this one has a history of the agency)

    discussion:
    http://tnrockyraccoon.proboards26.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=general&thread=1205336589&page=1

    And I wonder is this the same Sherry Jones that got shot by her husband when she was sleeping with her boyfriend, and then sued the state for allowing her husband to have a big bad gun?

    http://cases.justia.com/us-court-of-appeals/F3/296/417/

    That would be quite a kicker if it was the same Sherry Jones from Tennessee.

  4. Pingback: Save the TWRA : KnoxvilleTalks.com

  5. Deborah, I don’t know that much about Jones’ background: I only know of her because she sought to legalize medical marijuana. I will say she has introduced some solid legislation in the area of women and children. In fact, I think she sponsored the bill which would eliminate the need for rape victims to pay for their test kits.

    I don’t know if the motivation is personal: I suspect it has more to do with a simple lack of knowledge and understanding about what the agency does. Sportsmen, outdoorsmen and rural Tennesseans perhaps have a clearer view of the needs TWRA serves and why we need them to remain independent and focused on wildlife preservation, animal population control and protection of the state’s largest and most profitable recreational activities: hunting, boating and fishing.

    You know, prior to the 50’s or so, TDEC did control the wildlife resources division. At times there were conflicting goals and gross neglect in the area of preserving native species. It simply did not work.

    And though I don’t always agree with their “wildlife” management practices (I certainly do not share their appreciation for bog turtles and copperheads) I have to say TWRA is one of the more effective state agencies and abolishing it altogether is just a horrible idea.

  6. Thanks, I do agree with medical (but not general) legalization, I did not know we had even had a try at such a bill here. Reading more about it last night there was a mention that the other author of the bill has had some long time ongoing conflict about the TWRA, so it seems she may have just got drug into this whole thing under some pretense. The whole thing just doesn’t make sense in a way that I just know there is some ulterior personal motive for all of this. One article said that the commercial fishing industry was supporting the bill strongly and sport fishermen were against it, so perhaps there is some situation where commercial industry wants to have a go at our streams and lakes for their own purposes, perhaps they want to set up trawling nets in Cherokee Lake or something that the TWRA opposes, that’s probably where the next layer of the story is hiding.

  7. good lord angie. is this a joke? if it is, it’s not funny.
    I thought the tdec was the historical people who make monuments in parks. they probably think a bipod plays mp3s twice. this is bad. where do i sign a petition to fight it or who do i write?

  8. Roger, while it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on Nashville, I think it is a little premature to get your long johns twisted. (Hee) At least, I’d wait and see if it survives the committee before I went to the trouble of organizing a protest march.

    I do think the TWF has the Camo and Casting Coalition: they might be doing something to oppose the bill. (http://tnwf.org/) Also, Rob Somerville, who wrote the material for Woods&Water (link Deborah provided up there) has an email petition going. Go check that out.

    Deborah also has a link to TNDeer (http://www.tndeer.com/) Anything, anywhere in the state of Tennessee (and a bit beyond) which has to do with hunters (or not) can be found on those message boards. Keep checking in with them.

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