After the controversial removal of William “Chink” Brown from the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission in February, Gov. Bill Haslam has finally appointed a replacement, reports Nooga.com David Watson, an executive and part owner of Mountain View Ford Lincoln in Chattanooga, will serve out the remainder of Brown’s term as the District 4 representative on the TFWC. The TFWC is the governing body over the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
The 13 members have authority over hunting, fishing and boating regulations in Tennessee.
In the letter notifying Watson of his appointment, the governor wrote, “In the thorough and aggressive search for candidates, your individual characteristics and professional qualifications were exceptional among the number of nominees who expressed interest.”
Watson’s appointment will last until February 2015; however, insiders think it is possible that Watson will be reappointed for another six-year term at that point, although that is not guaranteed.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Anglers who caught the attention of federal lawmakers have preserved access to fishing below dams on the Cumberland River in Kentucky and Tennessee.
President Barack Obama on Monday signed into law a bill blocking the Army Corps of Engineers from erecting barriers to prevent fishing in the tailwaters. Those tailwaters are prime fishing spots in a region known as a recreational haven.
Local officials said the restrictions would have hurt tourism, a key contributor to the region’s economy.
Congress waded into the controversy by passing the Freedom to Fish Act. It puts a two-year moratorium on any barriers that would block access to tailwaters.
Sen. Mitch McConnell praised Obama for reversing a decision to place barriers along the river.
A proposal to permanently ban barriers is pending in the House.
— Note: News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander below (interestingly, it doesn’t mention Obama)
By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes seriously the concerns of environmentalists that two East Tennessee mines are a threat to endangered fish, a spokesman says.
The Sierra Club and several other groups claim in a lawsuit filed on Thursday that Fish and Wildlife did not use the most up-to-date science when it agreed to allow surface mining at Zeb Mountain and Davis Creek. They say two endangered fish are threatened by the mining work because the runoff water from the sites is high in dissolved salts, making nearby streams too salty for the blackside dace and Cumberland darter to survive.
“We take very seriously our duty to protect endangered species, and we will look at all aspects of this lawsuit to ensure the best protection for the species involved,” Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Tom MacKenzie said in a phone interview from his Atlanta office. He said the service’s legal advisers will prepare an appropriate response to the suit.
A coalition of environmental groups have filed a lawsuit claiming federal agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, unlawfully approved surface mining on Tennessee mountains, according to The Tennessean. The Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club and others sued the agencies in U.S. District Court in Nashville for not considering how pollution from the mining would impact endangered fish — in particular, the blackside dace and Cumberland darter.
“Extinction of endangered species is too high a price to pay for surface mining,” said the Sierra Club’s Mary Anne Hitt. “Mining pollution from these sites clearly poses a risk to the dace and darter; these permits should have never been allowed to go forward.”
The fish use the creeks downstream of Zeb Mountain and David Creek, both outside of Knoxville (Note: They’re in in Campbell County.). The fish have been dwindling in numbers for years.
Extinction of the fish, the lawsuit says, could harm the area’s entire ecosystem. Citing violations of the Endangered Species Act, the groups contend federal officials have leaned on outdated safety research when approving mining permits.
News release from Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency:
NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Nashville office was the site for a news conference where U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, and officials from the Tennessee Valley Authority, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, TWRA, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources announced a new agreement Friday to continue popular trout stocking programs in the Tennessee Valley region.
TVA will provide more than $900,000 per year over the next three years to support federal fish hatchery operations that provide trout for stocking. The stocking will occur in reservoirs and tailwaters of certain TVA dams in the region. In addition, the agencies also signed an agreement to form a working group with key stakeholders who benefit from the recreation-based trout stocking to identify a long-term funding source.
“The funding of the federal hatchery operations is vital to our agency’s ability to meet the demand for quality trout fishing in Tennessee,” said Ed Carter, TWRA Executive Director. “Their continued operation will help continue providing a tremendous recreational activity to thousands of Tennesseans. An associated but very important side benefit is the significant economic boost to local businesses associated with the fishing and outdoor industry.”
News release from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has developed secure funding agreements with many federal agencies and regional utilities to enable the agency to continue raising and stocking fish in streams affected by federal water development projects and power generation activities. However, unless a similar agreement is reached soon with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to cover fish rearing and stocking operations in Tennessee and Georgia, the Service will be forced to halt this work on behalf of the TVA.
For more than four decades, the Service has used its own funds to work with state fish and wildlife agencies, tribal governments and other partners to lessen the impact of dams and other water development projects that have contributed to the decline of native fisheries by impairing stream flows and water quality. But increasing costs and budget constraints have made it impossible for the Service to fund this work in the future.
Anticipating this crisis, the Service has worked for more than three years to secure agreements with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Administration that provide most of the funding needed for this work through the end of fiscal year 2013. Ongoing discussions have yielded no similar agreement with TVA, a federally owned corporation created by congressional charter during the Great Depression to provide navigation, flood control and electricity generation in the Tennessee Valley.
If the Service cannot reach an agreement with TVA by April 1, 2013, to provide nearly $1 million in annual operational funding, the agency will not be able to produce fish for delivery in fiscal year 2014.
Former state Sen. Jamie Woodson of Knoxville, who was Senate speaker pro tempore before resigning last year to become the chief executive of a statewide education reform organization, has been appointed to the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission for a six-year term representing a Middle Tennessee district.
More from Georgiana Vines’ report: Woodson, president and CEO of State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE, confirmed Friday by email that her official address now is in Lebanon, Tenn., although she said she is maintaining her West Knox County home.
Woodson, a Republican, was out of her Nashville office on Friday, but in an email response to questions, she said Lebanon is where the family farm is for her and her husband, Bill Woodson, who runs a Knoxville financial investment firm.
“Since SCORE is headquartered in Nashville, Lebanon has been a great Middle Tennessee home base for our family and for the commute. It has also been the center of our family’s interest in fishing, turkey and duck hunting as well as other outdoor interests,” she said.
She said she had changed her voter registration to Wilson County.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission is a new panel, replacing the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission. Some legislators, particularly state Rep. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, had argued in recent years that the commission had abused its authority, ignored legislators and mistreated some hunters and fishermen. Commission defenders disputed the claims.
“I am very honored to serve on the commission,” Woodson said. “It will be a tremendous opportunity as we work to conserve, manage and protect the fish and wildlife resources of our great state.”
She also said she and her husband continue to own Horse Fly Farm off Nubbin Ridge Road.
The new commission continues to have 13 voting members, with nine appointed by the governor and two each by the speakers of the House and Senate. Also, two members of the governor’s Cabinet are “ex-officio” members.
Nearly 400 animal and plant species in the southeastern United States, from the Tennessee forestfly to the Texas trillium, are part of a national push by the Obama administration to settle whether hundreds of varieties are endangered, reports The Tennessean.
As part of a settlement with environmental groups, the administration has agreed to consider whether more than 700 freshwater species nationally — most in the Southeast — deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act.
More than 80 of the species are found in Tennessee, ranging from the state’s official amphibian, the Tennessee cave salamander, to the Cumberland Gap cave beetle and the Smokies snowfly, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the environmental groups that sued the federal government to spur reviews of the species.
Sixteen of the species live only in Tennessee.
“It’s a lot of species that people have never heard of … but they’re very striking,” said Noah Greenwald, the center’s endangered species director.
Patrick Rakes, co-director of the nonprofit Conservation Fisheries Inc. in Knoxville, described the freshwater fishes on the list as “very, very rare.”
“Some of these fish, you’re looking at fewer than a thousand in the world,” Rakes said. “These fish truly warrant consideration for listing.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Small fish native to Tennessee and Kentucky are among five species being added to the federal endangered species list.
Among them are the Cumberland darter, found only above Cumberland Falls in Tennessee and Kentucky. The species was historically found in 21 streams in the upper Cumberland River system, but now survives in short stretches of less than one mile along a dozen streams.
Also being listed is the chucky madtom, a small catfish. Since 2000, only three examples of the species have been collected from one stream — Little Chucky Creek in northeastern Tennessee.
The laurel dace, found in only six streams on the Cumberland Plateau, is also being added.
The species’ listing becomes effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register on Tuesday.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency says federal fish hatcheries in Tennessee are in jeopardy because of proposed budget cuts.
The agency said in a news release Wednesday that the cuts would eliminate a majority of the funding for the Dale Hollow and Erwin hatcheries to provide quality fishing at dozens of locations in the state. Both facilities are operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The cuts would take effect in October. The TWRA said the hatcheries are responsible for raising 60 percent of all trout in Tennessee.
The Dale Hollow hatchery is part of a winter trout program that delivers the fish to communities in Middle and West Tennessee.