I recently attended the monthly meeting of the Tennessee Fish & Wildlife Commission and came away with renewed appreciation for the job that it and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency does.
The meeting was held at TWRA headquarters in Nashville and involved reports and discussions on a wide range of issues that affect hunters and fishermen, yet generally go unnoticed and unappreciated by most of us.
TWRA Executive Director Ed Carter, under whose leadership the Agency has thrived, was present to answer questions and provide information when it was requested by the Commissioners. (The Commission sets policies and regulations, and the TWRA carries them out.)
One of the more interesting items on the agenda involved Tennessee's partnership with Ducks Unlimited and the North American Waterfowl Plan. The TWRA contributes to wetland preservation and acquisition in Canada.
Officials made a presentation that showed the relationship between Canadian wetlands and the flocks of ducks that annually migrate down flyways to Tennessee. A duck hunter hunkered in a blind on Old Hickory Lake may not realize how vital Canadian wetlands management is to his sport.
Switching subjects, TWRA Fisheries Chief Bobby Wilson discussed a range of topics, including the growing concerns of silver carp in state waters. There were also discussions ranging from turtle-harvesting regulations to the complex problem of landowner-rights along public waterways. The water-access regulations are hazy, often vary from one location to another, and generally have to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Daryl Ratajczak, TWRA Wildlife Chief, explained the new sandhill crane hunting regulations and how this fall's first-ever hunt will be managed. Four hundred permits will be made available during a one-day draw.
On interesting aspect explained by Ratajczak was how the TWRA compromised with bird-watchers and other opponents of the sandhill hunt to sooth the controversy. It will issue fewer permits than the federal law allows, meaning fewer birds will be killed, and will require each hunter to pass a "crane identification course" to lessen the chance of a protected species being shot by mistake.
Ratajcazk also gave a report on the first segment of dove season, which included an emphasis on getting more youngsters into the field.
The TWRA issued a report on a new wheelchair-hunting area that has been developed, complete with ramps and other accommodations for wheelchair-bound hunters.
Agency engineer Dwight Hensley gave a slide presentation showing how a new boat ramp was constructed on the Cumberland River this summer. The TWRA helps build and maintain hundreds of ramps and courtesy docks around the state, which are utilized for free by thousands of boaters and anglers annually. Boat ramps are probably the Agency's most over-looked service.
There was even time allowed for a disgruntled fisherman to address the Commission. He felt that the regulations regarding the harvesting of big catfish need to be tightened. He contended that too many catfish over 36 inches are being taken out of state waters and transported to commercial "trophy fishing" ponds up North.
Frankly, I thought he made a good point, and the Commissioners and TWRA officials indicated they will take his suggestions under advisement.
Listening to hunters and fishermen and heeding their suggestions has been a TWRA trademark in recent years, and under Ed Carter's leadership I expect it to continue.