By Bee Frederick, Southeastern States Senior Director
On February 26, the Tennessee Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus hosted its first Caucus meeting of the year. In addition to electing new Caucus leadership, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) provided an update on Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) to more than 20 legislators during the meeting.
The 2019-2020 Co-Chairmen for the Caucus are National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council Member Senator Mike Bell and Representative Jeremy Faison.
Sen. Bell remarked on the growth of the Caucus in recent years and the importance of a strong sportsmen’s caucus. “It is an honor to be reelected to serve as the Co-Chairman of the sportsmen’s caucus here in Tennessee as well as to serve on the NASC Executive Council. I am proud of the work we have accomplished in the state on behalf of sportsmen and women in Tennessee, and I look forward to continuing in our mission of protecting and advancing the interests of sportsmen and women in the Volunteer State.”
The TWRA updated attendees on the recent discovery of CWD in the southwest portion of the state as well as detailed efforts concerning their response plan. CWD, a fatal disease in cervids, was first detected in the state in December 2018. CWD poses a major threat to hunting traditions and conservation in Tennessee and the United States.
In response to the confirmed cases of CWD in Fayette and Hardeman Counties, the TWRA acted in December to enact its Chronic Wasting Disease Response Plan. On December 20, the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission issued a number of regulations by proclamation aimed to contain the spread of the disease:
- Establishment of a Chronic Wasting Disease Management Zone (CMZ) and delineation of Core Area, High Risk Area, and Buffer Area for the CMZ;
- Creation of a new deer hunting season (archery, muzzleloader, and gun) to increase harvest numbers for increased testing in the CMZ that will run from January 7 to January 31;
- Mandatory checking of deer for testing at physical stations for all deer harvested on weekends in the High-Risk Areas of the CMZ; and
- Carcass export ban instituted for the High-Risk Areas of the CMZ.
The High-Risk Area of the CMZ is currently relegated to the southwestern part of the state, including Fayette, Hardeman, and McNairy Counties, although more counties may be at risk. The CWD Response Plan also bans supplemental feeding - with exceptions - in these counties.
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- Improve hunter and target shooter involvement in regulatory and legislative processes. (11.52%)
- Enact or expand temporary hunter education deferral programs (apprentice license programs, multiyear options, programs for all first-time hunters regardless of age, and programs promoting hunting of multiple game species). (11.52%)
- Offer shooting sports and hunter education as school activities and recreation programs. (64.40%)
- Link existing programming into family-oriented organizations (such as churches and home-school groups) where participants will have the social support to continue. (12.57%)