NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Fish & Wildlife Commission has voted to set all hunting and fishing regulations/seasons on a two-year rotation rather than every year. That means that hunting season & regulations set this year will not be addressed again until the year 2020. Fishing regulations will be set for two years during the odd years beginning in 2019.
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Asst. Director Bobby Wilson said the measure would provide more consistency for sportsmen and would provide a more accurate snapshot of “trending data” for biologists. He said it would also be a significant time savings for TWRA staff.
“It’s a two or three month process,” Wilson said. “There’s a tremendous amount of time spent in the regions and here in the Nashville office, plus the traveling back & forth. But other than time there’s not an appreciable cost savings.”
One member of the public, Ed Williams from McMinn County spoke out against the measure at the Thursday meeting.
Williams said, “I fail to see the benefit when most season opening dates already have consistent opening days set anyway.”
There was opposition to the measure on the wildlife commission. The measure has been discussed at several prior meetings and on Wednesday, prior to the final vote, Commissioner Bill Cox said, “I’m not going to go back over my displeasure for this.”
What Commissioner Cox did do was propose a formal amendment that will mandate that Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency personnel hold two public meetings twice a year in each of the four TWRA regions. The meetings will offer “face time” for sportsmen to directly offer input and ask questions of TWRA personnel. The amendment passed unanimously with several commissioners speaking out in support of mandated public meetings, although details of how and when those meetings will be held have yet to be determined.
Commissioner Bill Swan from Sequatchie County indicated he was initially against the two-year season setting process but said, “I see [the public meetings] as a fantastic opportunity for the Agency to reach out to the public and explain what we do and how we do it. I can’t see anything bad coming from it.”
TFWC Chairman Jeff Cook said, “I think it’s a great idea. The thing I do worry about is that with an ‘open mic night,’ does it just turn in to a Wild West complaint session.”
Commissioner Cox countered, saying, “When a public meeting is issue-based you have people there on one side or the other and you get more of the mob mentality. This is not an issue-based outreach. Sure you’ll have people complain and that’s fine. You need to listen to them. I listen to my customers complain from time to time.”
Commissioner Jamie Woodson spoke in support of the measure, saying, “Sportsmen appreciate notice. They appreciate consistency and they appreciate being engaged in meaningful ways. I heard from my constituents and across the state that consistency is very important. I think this [two year process] is helpful for the resource and for the folks we serve across the state.”
Commissioner Kurt Holburt supported the time savings the change would bring, saying, “That’s three months out of the year that [Agency personnel] can concentrate their efforts on other matters.”
The mandate for the public meetings seemed to negate opposition to the two-year season setting measure. The amendment and the measure to set seasons & regulations passed unanimously.
As usual the measures passed on voice votes. The majority of TFWC decisions are made by voice votes versus roll call votes, which mean commissioners rarely must declare their opinion publicly. On a voice vote, a bunch of commissioners simply exclaim “Aye.” Then when, or if, the chairperson calls for “Nays,” everybody sits there silent – even those who might be opposed often stay silent because they know they’re in the minority and are embarrassed to express their opposition publicly.
The two-year season setting measure still provides Commissioners to make season or regulation changes on an emergency basis.
Again, seasons and regulations for the upcoming hunting season will be set at the May meeting of the TFWC. The Commission is expected to be in Chattanooga for the July 12-13 meeting.