Save Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency's mission

Save Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency's mission

February 14th, 2012 in Opinion Times

Few things in politics are as exasperating as the arrogant corruption of due legislative process by petty politicians with a no-holds-barred personal vendetta. State Rep. Jim Cobb's current mission to single-handedly destroy the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is a case in point.

Despite the requests of House Speaker Beth Harwell and other Republican leaders, the Spring City Republican, chairman of the House government operations committee, has refused to schedule a promised hearing on the reauthorization of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. With no other legislator able to call up the required bill, Cobb seems inexplicably, weirdly, intent on letting the charter of the venerable agency expire under sunset rules on June 30.

His malignant sabotage of the TWRA is profoundly wrong. Letting the 65-year-old agency expire would be a needless disaster. The TWRA, widely considered one of the nation's top five such agencies, oversees the state's hunting, fishing and wildlife management activities. Funded solely by license revenues from the state's $2.2 billion hunting and fishing programs, the TWRA provides irreplaceable wildlife resource management activities that benefit all current and future Tennesseans.

Without its existence, there would be no way to operate or regulate hunting and fishing programs; to ensure protection of endangered species; to provide supervision, control and management programs for wildlife, fauna and habitat; to maintain boating and related regulatory standards; and to guard against abuse and exploitation of our wildlife, rivers and lakes.

The 600-plus employees of the TWRA do all that, and more. Like any department of the state, there may be room to quibble with some regulatory measures, but no thinking legislator would say there are reasonable grounds to destroy this widely lauded and clearly needed agency.

Cobb himself hasn't specified a documentable reason or grievance for his refusal to hold a hearing on the agency's reauthorization. His inexplicable intransigence, however, has raised speculation that he is linked with Rep. Frank Nicely, another reactionary Republican, who wants the state to allow individuals to capture, pen and farm the state's wild white-tail deer, and to allow visitors to such deer farms to shoot trophy animals in pens. For a host of sound wildlife management reasons, and the chronic wasting disease that plagues farmed deer, this is a ludicrous proposal.

In this controversial void, Speaker Harwell asked Speaker Pro Tem Judd Matheny to find a way to circumvent Cobb's stalemate and save the TWRA's service. Matheny's solution is to create a parallel State Fish and Wildlife Commission, operating under the same mission and budget as the TWRA, to supplant the TWRA. Hearings on this bill (HB2776) will be held today at 10:30 a.m. CST in Nashville. We strongly urge public support for it.

We also urge opposition to Niceley's abhorrent deer-capture-and-farming bill (HB3164), which will be heard at 1:30 p.m. CST. More information on both is available at the Tennessee Wildlife Federation website at http://capwiz.com/tnwf/issues/.