Forest Management – It’s a Hot Topic in Tennessee

Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator

  • Habitat management, particularly harvesting timber on public lands, has been an increasingly hot topic in Tennessee.
  • Over the past several months, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) has faced scrutiny on a proposed habitat management plan on the Bridgestone/Firestone Wildlife Management Area (WMA,) as well as on the Catoosa WMA.
  • During the 2022 General Session, there were several bills introduced that would have hampered the TWRA’s ability to conduct active forest management on state-owned property due, in part, to the increased public opposition to timber management on public lands.
  • These bills included: transferring ownership of the Yanahli WMA away from the TWRA (HB 1674 and SB 1839), limiting timber harvesting on WMAs to ten acres lands (HB 2769 and SB 2860) and directing proceeds of timber harvests on state-owned land to the state General Fund rather than stay with the TWRA (HB 1969 and SB 1814).

Why It Matters:  Members of local communities in Tennessee have expressed concerns about harvesting hardwood species and the supposed consequential negative impact on wildlife populations and hunting opportunities. However, the TWRA’s utilization of science-based active forest management practices, including timber harvesting and prescribed fire, to improve wildlife habitat is critical to supporting robust and diverse wildlife populations.

While the proposed habitat management project is stalled on Bridgestone/Firestone WMA due to misguided public opposition, proposed habitat work on Catoosa WMA has been well received by sportsmen and women who showed up to speak in favor of the proposed habitat work at a public meeting.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), in coordination with pro-sportsmen organizations, signed on to an action alert, led by the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, opposing the transfer of ownership and management authority of the Yanahli WMA away from the TWRA. Thanks to strong opposition from the sportsmen and women’s community, the effort was defeated, ensuring 12,800 acres remained open to public access.

Bills limiting timber harvest on WMAs and directing proceeds of timber harvests on state-owned land to the state General Fund rather than staying with the TWRA directly threatens the TWRA’s ability to conduct science-based wildlife management and funding for conservation. CSF will continue to coordinate with our partners to oppose similar efforts.

To learn more about misguided public opposition to sustainable forest management on public lands, particularly in the Southeast, please consider registering for CSF’s latest installment of our 2022 Summer Webinar Series: Emergent Threats to Hunting and Wildlife from Misinformed Opposition to Sustainable Forest Management on Public Lands.

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