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.
The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission — for the second time in three years — is considering a sandhill crane hunting season.
Further from The Tennessean report If the commission approves the hunting plan at its August meeting, Tennessee would become the 16th state to allow crane hunting. The commission delayed a decision in January 2011.
The central question in the current debate is not whether the sandhill crane population can sustain a level of hunting — biologists on both sides of the issue agree it can — but whether a hunt is the right thing to do given how they attract bird watchers to the state.
Organized hunting groups, led by the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, support a sandhill crane season. But the plan has raised concerns among birders, and the Tennessee Ornithological Society says the cranes are too valuable a resource to hunt.
“What we want to see is the opportunity to hunt the cranes but do it in a wise and sustainable fashion and in a way that recognizes and helps promote the viewing opportunities as well,” Mike Butler, the federation’s CEO, told the commission in late June.
Melinda Welton, chairwoman of the Ornithological Society’s conservation policy committee, said Tennesseans oppose hunting the birds, the largest species found in the state. She said by allowing crane hunting, the commission and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, which it oversees, risk a major public outcry.
“I think the agency is going to get quite a bit of grief,” she said. “It is a golden opportunity for the agency to gain a lot of goodwill by proclaiming this the most watchable wildlife species in the state and celebrating that.”
The sandhill crane population in Tennessee is estimated as high as 87,000. There are as many as 650,000 of the birds nationwide.
A company that is negotiating with the state to mine for coal under public land has more than one link to the company largely owned by Gov. Bill Haslam and members of his family, reports Josh Flory. Hillsborough Resources Limited is negotiating with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to do mining work under Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, the 82,000-acre game-management area on the Cumberland Plateau.
The company drew scrutiny last month when it was disclosed that Tom Ingram, a consultant to Haslam, had failed to register as a lobbyist for the company. Ingram has said the failure to register was an inadvertent oversight on the part of Marcelle Durham, president of The Ingram Group.
Ingram also does consulting work for Pilot Flying J, the Knoxville-based truck stop chain that is run by the governor’s family. (And for the governor personally.)
Hillsborough also has another tie to Pilot.
Hillsborough is a subsidiary of Houston-based Vitol Inc., according to Vitol spokesman Don Goldberg. Vitol’s president is Miguel Loya, a Houston businessman
…It’s not clear if Loya still has an ownership stake in Pilot — the company has refused to fully identify its current owners — but Ingram confirmed that Loya serves on the board of Pilot.
Goldberg, the spokesman for Vitol, said there is “zero relationship” between that role and anything related to the Hillsborough proposal.
By Randall Dickerson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — How many wildlife agents does it take to catch a wild hog? Only one — under a new remote system used by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
Richard Kirk, an agency program manager, said the new system alerts an on-call agent when there is movement under the trap. Cameras are set up with the trap and the agent can watch feral hogs by video, springing the trap by pushing a button on a computer or smartphone from miles away.
Agents set up a corral that is 35 feet in diameter and bait it with corn. When hogs wander close and set off a motion detector focused on the gate, an agent gets a text message. Then they can watch the video and drop the trap.
Kirk said the new technology can save a lot of staff time. Previously, four agents would study the feeding patterns of a group of feral hogs, set up the trap and then return early on the day they hoped to capture them. Now, they study the feeding patterns, place the trap and wait for a text message.
“This system allows one person at a computer at 2 a.m. to make the capture, versus four people spending three to four hours out there,” Kirk said.
Tom Ingram, veteran consultant to both Gov. Bill Haslam and Pilot Flying J, faces a potential civil penalty for failing for three years to register as required by law as a lobbyist for a company that wants to mine coal on state-owned land near Crossville.
Ingram said Wednesday the failure to register was “inadvertent on Marcelle’s part,” a reference to Marcelle Durham, president of The Ingram Group, the public relations and lobbying firm that Ingram founded and operates.
Durham has written a letter to the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance acknowleding the “inadvertent oversight” and declaring she will submit belated lobbyist registrations for three years of lobbying for Hillsborough Resources Inc., which is negotiating with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to mine for coal on Catoosa Wildlife Management Area. (For copy of the letter, click on this link: Durham_Letter.pdf
In an interview, Ingram said is is careful to balance his lobbying work with his role as a consultant to Gov. Bill Haslam and to Pilot Flying J and does not see any conflicts of interest. (Note: WTVF story on Ingram lobbying HERE.)
His latest role, as Ingram described it, is “managing communications on the investigation” by the FBI into allegations that Pilot Flying J cheated some trucking companies in billings for diesel fuel. Ingram said he is actually retained in that role by Neal and Harwell, the law firm hired by Pilot Flying J.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is balking at enforcing dam tailwater fishing restrictions by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
TWRA Executive Director Ed Carter said anglers have a good safety record in fishing below Cumberland River dams and the agency doesn’t see the justification of banning tailwater fishing.
While Carter said TWRA wants to work with the Corps on safety solutions, the state agency won’t supply enforcement of permanent waterborne restrictions.
TWRA has asked the Corps to reconsider implementation of the ban, but noted the federal agency on Tuesday said it was putting the plan into place and asking wildlife agencies in Tennessee and Kentucky to enforce it.
Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission Chairman William “Chink” Brown’s Senate confirmation vote for a new term on the panel may be dead in the water, according to the Chattanoga Times-Free Press.
Freshman Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, on Thursday “bumped” the confirmation of Brown, a Signal Mountain attorney and former judge, from a consent calendar. The consent calendar is a list of usually noncontroversial bills and resolutions that are passed en masse on any given day on the Senate floor.
Other nominees to the Fish and Wildlife Commission were confirmed. But Brown’s nomination was re-referred to the Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Senators say at least five of the nine-member committee won’t vote to send Brown’s nomination back to the Senate floor.
…At least part of the opposition appears to come from residual resentment by some lawmakers over a two-year battle they fought with the TWRA and the-then Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission, which oversaw the agency.
Brown was chairman of the commission during the fight. The commission eventually was renamed and other changes made.
Gardenhire, elected to the Senate last fall after the flap, said Thursday evening he had warned a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency official, which the commission oversees, over a week ago that he wouldn’t be voting for Brown “but I wouldn’t do anything to cause attention to it.”
…Brown, a Democrat, was renominated by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.
Gardenhire said he warned an administration official last weekend that Brown’s confirmation was in danger but no one got back with him to discuss it.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Commercial fishermen in Tennessee say they could help reduce the number of invasive Asian carp with a relatively minor change in fishing regulations.
The carp grow up to 50 pounds. In addition to having a voracious appetite for the same food native fish feed on, the carp have injured fishermen by jumping into boats.
The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/Ybu4qj ) reported fisheries chief Bobby Wilson of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency calls them a gigantic problem.
Fishermen want the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission to approve nets with wider openings.
Fishermen say there’s a market for the fish in China, where the flesh is considered a delicacy.
The species was accidentally released into American waters two decades ago.
News release from Capitol Resources:
(Nashville, TN)- Capitol Resources, the South’s leading government relations and lobbying firm, with offices across the region, is pleased to announce Tennessee Republican Party Executive Director Adam Nickas will head the firm’s office in the Volunteer State.
Nickas led the Tennessee Republican Party’s highly successful effort to expand the Republican majority in the Tennessee General Assembly, and he has worked on local, state and federal campaigns throughout the region.
Capitol Resources is one of the largest and most versatile state-based lobbying firms in the country, with offices in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee and Washington, D.C.
“Adam is an excellent fit for Capitol Resources,” said Henry Barbour, a partner in the firm. “His leadership is proven and his drive is unquestioned. The GOP gains in the Tennessee statehouse were noticed around the country, and he will be a tremendous asset to our clients.”
“Capitol Resources has an established reputation for excellent service to its clients throughout the South,” said Nickas. “I look forward to helping our clients achieve their objectives and working closely with the leaders and members of the Tennessee General Assembly and the Tennessee Executive Branch.”
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kentucky is the worst state in the nation when it comes to toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants, according to a report released Thursday by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The analysis examined emissions from power plants in 2010, the most recent data available.
As for the other states bordering Kentucky, Ohio ranked 2nd, Indiana 4th, West Virginia 5th, Tennessee 11th, Virginia 12th, Missouri 15th and Illinois 16th. Delaware was No. 20 in the group’s “Toxic Twenty” states.
As for Kentucky, Council officials said its power plants are “poorly controlled” and that it has “failed to … adopt any kind of state law or regulation that requires substantial reduction in mercury or toxic pollution from the power sector.”
The report said Tennessee was one of the few states to increase its output of toxic air pollutants from 2009 to 2010, spewing out 9.6 million pounds of pollutants from its power plants. Power plants in Tennessee emitted 8.8 million pounds of pollutants in 2009.