New Bill Aims to Transfer WMA Away From State

Feb 4, 2022

Five deer wading into the water from a thick tree stand. A doe and fawn have waded out from under the trees. A buck and two young deer are still under the trees.
Public wildlife management areas (WMAs) managed by the state agency are a valuable asset to Tennesseans and Tennessee’s rural economies, and Yanahli is one of the state’s most popular.

Public lands are critical, and we should be seeking opportunities to expand these lands, not remove them.

Recently proposed legislation is seeking to transfer WMA ownership away from the state. The transfer of public lands is an increasing threat to conservation and recreation opportunities.

H.B. 1674 by Rep. Cepicky, and S.B. 1839 by Senator Hensley, if passed, will transfer ownership of the 12,800-acre Yanahli Wildlife Management Area from the state of Tennessee to Maury County government.

Hunters and anglers are concerned that should this become law, these properties will be diverted to other uses not compatible with hunting and angling, or will be poorly managed. The reason for this concern is well founded because of efforts over the past two years in Maury County to develop up to 500 acres of protected land within the WMA to build an agricenter.

We know of no county in Tennessee that has the expertise or resources to manage a state wildlife management area of this size and importance. Additionally, in Tennessee, counties do not have the legal authority to manage fish and wildlife. This authority is reserved for the state, as is indicated in the Tennessee Constitution.

Yanahli represents only 3% of Maury County’s land base but provides a disproportionate positive economic impact. According to University of Tennessee research, Yanahli generates visitor spending estimated to support 137 full or part time jobs, contributes $6.92 million to the GDP of the counties in the area, and helps generate $867,327 in local and state taxes—while costing the county nothing to operate.

Importance of Public Lands

Besides being a critically important area for outdoor recreation, hunting and fishing, Yanahli is recognized as one of the state’s top producing WMAs. WMAs in general have 140,000 annual users, are utilized by 64% of sportsmen’s license holders, and provide 3.44M recreation days per year for the public.

Public lands are critical. In middle Tennessee where public lands are limited, we should be seeking opportunities to expand these lands, not remove them. In 2001, the Tennessee Valley Authority gifted the 12,800-acre Yanahli WMA to the state of Tennessee and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Help us maintain the original intention of TVA and their donation by making your voice heard.

Join us in the effort to stop the erosion of our state’s critical wildlife public lands. Here’s what you can do:

  • Email your legislators and express your strong opposition to the bills using the form below.
  • Call Rep. Cepicky, Sen. Hensley, and Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles to express your thoughts and concerns.
  • Share your stories. Be authentic. And remember to be respectful.

Read more: Federation Clinches A Win for Public Lands

Logos of organizations partnering to stop the transfer of Yanahli WMA. From left to right: Tennessee Wildlife Federation, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, Quail Forever, Safari Club International, and Turkeys for Tomorrow.

Featured photo by Marcy Wielfaert

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