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An Update on Our Legislative Work in Tennessee

Asian carp is an invasive species making its way through Tennessee waterways. The Federation helped secure additional funding to address the issue.

Shaping public policy has always been at the core of Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s work and that held true during the recently ended Tennessee legislative session. In fact, with the addition of Joe McCord to the Federation’s policy team, we were able to be more deeply involved than ever before in decisions impacting our state’s great outdoors.

The Federation’s policy team worked on dozens of issues facing the state’s wildlife and natural resources, as well as the Tennesseans who enjoy them. While many issues were tackled, Tennessee Wildlife Federation informed and advocated for 12 bills and amendments this legislative session alone.

Tennessee Wildlife Federation engages in state and federal conservation policy like no other organization in the state. It looks for common sense solutions to complex problems affecting wildlife and access to it—ensuring its abundance and availability for the next generation.

Quick Links to the Issues

Bill: Fuel Sales Tax Re-Appropriation (HB0910; SB0230)

Our stance: In favor

Bill status: Passed

About: Annually, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) typically has received $500,000 from the state marina fuel sales tax to use in maintaining boat ramps and law enforcement on our public waters. The Federation was able to spearhead the inclusion of a formula in the existing fuel sales tax that will provide TWRA with $2.3 million in annual/reoccurring funding.

Not a new tax, these funds are to be used on our public waters in Tennessee to address issues such as invasive species, access, and law enforcement. The recurring funds represents the second largest allotment the Tennessee General Assembly has provided TWRA in its 68 year history.

Bill: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Lost Revenue Reimbursement (HB0468; SB0454)

Our stance: In favor

Bill status: Passed

About: This law requires Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) be reimbursed by the state for funding lost due to new free hunting and fishing licenses approved by the General Assembly after January 1, 2017.

The Tennessee Legislature regularly passes laws that provide particular groups free sporting licenses. These free licenses reduce funding to TWRA by more than $5 million annually, significantly impacting its capacity to manage the state’s wildlife.

The bill was carried by Rep. Reedy (Houston, Humphreys and part of Montgomery County) and Sen. Bell (Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe and Polk Counties) who are co-chairs of Tennessee’ Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.

Bill: Chronic Wasting Disease Transport and Taxidermy Bill (HB0341; SB0349)

Our stance: Against

Bill status: Dead for the year

About: This bill would have allowed for the transport of whole, big game carcasses into Tennessee from areas known to have Chronic Wasting Disease, if the carcass is taken directly to a taxidermist or meat processor.

Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, is a readily transmitted disease that infects deer, elk, and other cervids. It causes weight loss, tremors, repetitive walking patterns, an inability to hold head up, and eventually—but always—death. It has decimated animal populations and hunting opportunities in many areas of the country.

Defeating this bill was a critical component to maintaining Tennessee’s CWD free status. Allowing any transport of potential CWD-infected game or materials is a significant risk to Tennessee’s deer and elk populations, and the significant conservation funds generated through hunting.

Rep. Hulsey (parts of Sullivan County), who carried the bill in the House, understands the complexity of the problem that CWD presents to the state, as does the Senate sponsor, Sen. Niceley (Claiborne, Grainger, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson and Union Counties).

Read more >>

Bill: Recreational Water Use Study (HB0785; SB1335)

Our stance: In favor

Bill status: Dead for the year, discussions taking place

About: The bill requires the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) to study the use of non-motorized vessels, particularly those provided through commercial livery services, on the state’s waters.

Public waters are to be managed to allow safe, multiple uses and the influx of commercial non-motorized vessels may be negatively impacting public safety as well as access by anglers, private non-motorized boaters, and other users.

Tennessee Wildlife Federation will work this summer with all involved parties to develop language that would find a balance between commercial recreational boating and other uses.

Bill: Windmill Wildlife and Habitat Impact Review (HB1021; SB1336)

Our stance: In favor

Bill status: Passed

About: The Windmill Review law places a one-year moratorium on the siting, construction, and other activities associated with the installation of wind farm power facilities in Tennessee. It also creates a legislative study committee to investigate the topic.

This pause allows time for all parties to discuss proper regulation of windfarms in Tennessee—one of only four states with zero windmill regulations. It also allows Tennessee Wildlife Federation the opportunity to highlight the significant negative impacts windfarms pose, which include the death of 1.4 million birds and bats, permanent habitat loss, and the destruction of hundreds of acres of viewsheds.

Tennessee Wildlife Federation will work with Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation this summer to develop rules and regulations that must be adopted next year.

The bill passed thanks to the leadership of Sen. Bailey (Cumberland, Jackson, Overton, Bledsoe, Putnam, and White Counties) and Rep. Sexton (Cumberland, Van Buren, and Putnam Counties) in continued and ongoing support from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander.

Read More >>

Bill: Shelby County Boat Ramp Maintenance Appropriation

Our stance: In favor

Bill status: Passed

About: This effort provided much needed funding to maintain a Shelby County boat ramp that is a heavily used access point into the Mississippi River. The infrastructure languished for years without a clear overseeing agency. Without these funds, southwest Tennessee would lose this critical avenue for fishing and other recreation of our public waters.

This is the first of many examples of the public benefit that will come of the recurring funds secured through the Fuel Sales Tax Re-Appropriation for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s (TWRA’s) water-based efforts.

Both the House and Senate Finance Committees recognized the importance of this appropriation to the Memphis-area sporting and tourism communities.

Bill: Asian Carp Appropriation

Our stance: In favor

Bill status: Passed

About: This effort provided $65,000 to the Asian Carp Task Force to implement a solution to provide cold storage to commercial fishermen who incidentally catch Asian carp on Kentucky Lake, in an effort to allow this catch to reach markets internationally.

Rep. Wirgau (Henry, Benton and Stewart Counties) is chairman of the Asian Carp Task Force. Tennessee Wildlife Federation CEO Michael Butler is an active task force member as well.

Read More >>

Bill: Wild Hog Eradication Funding (HB0526; SB0609)

Our stance: In favor

Bill status: Dead for the year, discussions taking place

About:  This bill would prevent the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) from using sportsmen and women’s license dollars to fund wild hog, an invasive species, eradication efforts.

Despite the numerous stakeholders impacted by the invasive species—particularly the agriculture industry—the sole source of funding for wild hog eradication efforts is from license revenue from sportsmen and women. By extension, this limits funds and manpower available to the management of all wildlife in Tennessee, which is TWRA’s responsibility.

Through Rep. Lollar’s (parts of Shelby County) and Senator Southerland’s (Cocke, Greene, Hamblen, and Sevier Counties) leadership on the issue, leadership of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and TWRA are reviewing how to share the burden of hog eradication.

Tennessee Wildlife Federation has long raised concerns about the inequity of wild hog eradication funding and is pleased that conversations about the issue are taking place.

Bill: Trapping Management Authority Consolidation (HB0733; SB0906)

Our stance: In favor

Bill status: Passed

About: This law places all authority to manage trapping solely in the hands of Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the Tennessee Fish & Wildlife Commission.

It reverses several private acts within Tennessee and gets the Tennessee General Assembly out of the business of forming trapping regulation. The results will be more cohesive policies that are based on wildlife management best practices.

The bill passed with the leadership of Rep. Lollar (parts of Shelby County) and Sen. Bell (Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe and Polk Counties).

Bill: Stormwater Permitting (HB0362; SB0295)

Our stance: Against

Bill status: Dead for the year in Senate; Passed House but with amendment that neutralizes our objections

About: This bill would have prohibited the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) from issuing a permit unless it had been first approved by the legislature’s Government Operations Committee.

It would have politicized the clean water permitting process and allowed home developers to disproportionately pollute Tennessee’s waters. Tennessee Wildlife Federation secured an amendment that neutralizes its concerns about the bill.

Bill: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) Oversight Reduction (HB1017; SB0899)

Our stance: Against

Bill status: Passed but implementation delayed until March 2018

About: This law removes oversight by Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) of more than 250 concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in Tennessee.

CAFOs are high-density, high-intensity livestock and poultry farms that often concentrate animal waste in “lagoons” that pose a threat to surrounding natural habitats—particularly streams and rivers—if not properly maintained. Without the oversight of TDEC, maintenance of these lagoons would not be verified and increase the risk of failure.

Working with permitted agricultural producers, most of which favor of oversight, Tennessee Wildlife Federation secured an amendment that delays the implementation of this law to March 2018. This allows the opportunity for agricultural producers and TDEC to come together and for further discussions to take place.

Bill: Blaze Orange Fine Control (HB0865; SB0633)

Our stance: In favor

Bill status: Passed

About: For those who are fined for not wearing enough blaze orange while hunting, the law limits court costs to $50. Before, a citation of less than $20 could result in hundreds of dollars of court fees.

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