Our History

In the early 1900s, Tennessee had only 20,000 deer left. Elk hadn’t been seen in the state for generations. Turkey existed only in a pocket or two.

Then there was a turning point. A conservation movement started and, ever since, Tennessee Wildlife Federation has been working methodically to bring our wildlife populations back from the brink.

Tennessee Wildlife Federation was founded by outdoor writers, sportsmen, and community leaders who gathered to build a new organization to restore the integrity of all of Tennessee’s wildlife and natural resources. Their goal, establish new leadership focused on science-based wildlife management.

Over time, the Federation grew to a diverse group of hunters, anglers, bird watchers, hikers, gardeners, and other outdoor enthusiasts—all united by their concern and passion for Tennessee’s great outdoors.

Building Upon A Legacy

Leadership on public policy has been a hallmark of the Federation throughout its history. For 75 years, the Federation has found success by rallying supporters and finding common ground with opponents.

As a result, the Federation has been instrumental in issues regarding air pollution, water pollution, endangered species protection, forest management, resource management, and other legislation that impacts Tennesseans’ opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors.

Today, the Federation continues to tackle Tennessee’s most urgent conservation issues through public policy and strategic programs that serve our wildlife and community.

The Federation is also on the ground statewide. It engages this generation of conservationists and the next through Hunters for the Hungry, Hunting and Fishing Academy, and the Tennessee Scholastic Clay Target Program. Through its Habitat Conservation program, the Federation is restoring and conserving thousands of acres of wetlands, grasslands, forest land, and streams.

Our Work Over the Years

  • 2020

     

    Launched Adult Hunting Experiences for Beginners

    Our Hunting and Fishing Academy program launched its first-ever, adult-only experiences for those looking to pursue an outdoor lifestyle for the first time could try their hand at hunting.

  •  

  •  

    Asked U.S. Senate Candidates to Share Their Opinion on Conservation

    To keep outdoor enthusiasts informed during Tennessee’s 2020 U.S. Senate race, the Federation interviewed candidates Marquita Bradshaw and Bill Hagerty about their opinions on conservation in Tennessee.

  • The Great American Outdoors Act

    Supported the effort to pass The Great American Outdoors Act. The Act provides 5 years of funding, up to a total of $9.5 billion, to address the national parks’ maintenance backlog and provides full and dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

     

  •  

    Water Resources Development Act

    The Federation helped secure the Water Resources Development Act  (WRDA) which authorizes $25 million to manage and prevent the spread of Asian carp in the Tennessee and Cumberland river basins.

  • 2019

    Began Restoring 5,400 Acres of Cumberland Plateau Habitat

    Tennessee Wildlife Federation began work on a project to restore and enhance 5,400 acres of shortleaf pine forests on the Cumberland Plateau.

     

    2019

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  •  

    Protected Rare Dragonfly Habitat

    The Federation helped facilitate the expansion of a rare dragonfly habitat in Hardin County. In that West Tennessee paradise are 407 plant species, 132 bird species, 58 butterfly species, and 45 dragonfly and damselfly species.

  • 2018

    Launched Hunting and Fishing Academy

    Hunters and anglers pay for the vast majority of wildlife conservation in Tennessee. The Federation’s Hunting and Fishing Academy works to grow the number of sportsmen and women by providing hands-on instruction in the art of being an outdoorsman to first-time hunters and anglers of all ages.

     

    2018

  •  
  • Named Affiliate of the Year

    In 2018, the Federation was named Affiliate of the Year by the National Wildlife Federation for the fourth time. “Tennessee Wildlife Federation is one of the most effective conservation organizations in our nation. Period.” Collin O’Mara, National Wildlife Federation CEO

     

  • 2015

     

    Big Game Poaching

    The Federation plays an instrumental role in drafting legislation establishing fines for the poaching of big game.

  • 2012

    Tennessee Prescribed Burning Act

    Led the passage of the 2012 Tennessee Prescribed Burning Act to reverse the negative impacts of fire suppression in the State.

     

    2012

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  • 2011

     

    2011

  • 2007

     

    Secured the Future of Public Hunting Lands

    The Federation writes and secures passage of legislation to ensure no-net-loss of public hunting lands.

  • Elk Viewing Tower Constructed

    The Hatfield Knob Elk Viewing Tower is constructed with the support of the Federation and numerous volunteers for the enjoyment of all Tennesseans.

     

  • 2005

     
  • 2004

    Changed Name to Tennessee Wildlife Federation

    Tennessee Conservation League changes its name to Tennessee Wildlife Federation.

     

    2004

  • 2000

     

    Reintroduced Elk to Tennessee

    The Federation teams up with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to reintroduce elk to Tennessee, releasing the first elk to inhabit Tennessee in more than 135 years.

  • 1998

    Hunters for the Hungry

    The Federation restarts Hunters for the Hungry. The program has since provided more than 7.6 million meals to Tennesseans in need.

     

    1998

  • 1986

     

    Wetlands Acquisition Act

    Led the campaign to pass the Wetlands Acquisition Act that has since conserved hundreds of thousands of acres of critical and sensitive wetlands and uplands across the state.

  • 1984

    Launched Deer Registry

    The Federation and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency jointly launch the Tennessee Deer Registry providing a database to help monitor the quality of Tennessee’s deer herd.

     

    1984

  • 1983

     

    Project CENTS

    The Federation’s Project CENTS (Conservation Now for Tennessee Students) is initiated. Project CENTS helps hundreds of thousands of students learn math and science through conservation examples and became standard curriculum for that state’s school system for many years.

  • 1982

    Hunter Education Bill

    The Tennessee Legislature passes the Federation’s Mandatory Hunter Education Bill requiring anyone born after January 1, 1969, to complete an approved hunter education course. Today, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency administers hunter-ed courses where new hunters learn how to safely and ethically hunt in Tennessee.

     

    1982

  • 1980

     

    Eagles at the Land Between Lakes

    The Tennessee Valley Authority begins a five-year project to bring eagles back to the Land Between the Lakes. The Federation takes over the project in 1982.

  • Joined Lawsuit to Protect Waterfowl Habitat

    The Federation joined four citizens in a lawsuit to stop the channelization of the Obion and Forked Deer river basin to conserve critical waterfowl habitat.

     

  • 1972

     

    First Employee Hired

    As the Federation’s first employee — and the executive director of the organization for 23 years — Tony Campbell set the groundwork for what the Federation would accomplish in the decades to follow.

  • 1971

    Water Pollution Control Act

    The Federation leads the writing and passage of the Tennessee Water Pollution Control Act.

     

    1971

  • 1969

     

    Tennessee Environmental Council

    The Federation proposes an umbrella organization, the Tennessee Environmental Council, to handle emerging environmental issues. The council was charted the following year.

  • 1953

    Outstanding Affiliate of the Year

    For the first time in its history, the Federation is named Outstanding Affiliate of the Year by the National Wildlife Federation.

     

    1953

  • 1949

     

    Established the Tennessee Fish and Game Commissions

    The Federation successfully campaigned for the passage of the law that established the Tennessee Fish and Game Commissions, the precursor to the state’s first professional wildlife management agency.

  • February 12, 1946

    Tennessee Wildlife Federation Was Born

    Tennessee Wildlife Federation was founded on February 12, 1946 as the Tennessee Conservation League at Chattanooga’s historic Read House Hotel.

     

    February 12, 1946

2020

Launched Adult Hunting Experiences for Beginners

Our Hunting and Fishing Academy program launched its first-ever, adult-only experiences for those looking to pursue an outdoor lifestyle for the first time could try their hand at hunting.

Generated National Support for Purple Martins

150,000+ purple martins were roosting around the Nashville Symphony, creating an expensive mess. Bird lovers, music lovers, and conservation groups came together and donated tens of thousands, saving the symphony grounds and the purple martin migration.

capitol building

Asked U.S. Senate Candidates to Share Their Opinion on Conservation

To keep outdoor enthusiasts informed during Tennessee’s 2020 U.S. Senate race, the Federation interviewed candidates Marquita Bradshaw and Bill Hagerty about their opinions on conservation in Tennessee.

The Great American Outdoors Act

Supported the effort to pass The Great American Outdoors Act. The Act provides 5 years of funding, up to a total of $9.5 billion, to address the national parks’ maintenance backlog and provides full and dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

sunset over trees

Water Resources Development Act

The Federation helped secure the Water Resources Development Act  (WRDA) which authorizes $25 million to manage and prevent the spread of Asian carp in the Tennessee and Cumberland river basins.

2019

Began Restoring 5,400 Acres of Cumberland Plateau Habitat

Tennessee Wildlife Federation began work on a project to restore and enhance 5,400 acres of shortleaf pine forests on the Cumberland Plateau.

Reauthorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund

With other organizations nationwide, the Federation secured the permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Protected Basic Rules on Waterways

The Federation assembled a delegation of anglers, paddlers, and fishing guides that reached out to legislators about the critical need for basic rules and data collection for paddle craft rental companies that have rapidly grown on our rivers.

Protected Rare Dragonfly Habitat

The Federation helped facilitate the expansion of a rare dragonfly habitat in Hardin County. In that West Tennessee paradise are 407 plant species, 132 bird species, 58 butterfly species, and 45 dragonfly and damselfly species.

2018

Launched Hunting and Fishing Academy

Hunters and anglers pay for the vast majority of wildlife conservation in Tennessee. The Federation’s Hunting and Fishing Academy works to grow the number of sportsmen and women by providing hands-on instruction in the art of being an outdoorsman to first-time hunters and anglers of all ages.

2018 Race for Governor

Tennessee Wildlife Federation was the one organization to get Bill Lee and Karl Dean on the record about the great outdoors.

Named Affiliate of the Year

In 2018, the Federation was named Affiliate of the Year by the National Wildlife Federation for the fourth time. “Tennessee Wildlife Federation is one of the most effective conservation organizations in our nation. Period.” —Collin O’Mara, National Wildlife Federation CEO

2015

Elk Tower tn

Big Game Poaching

The Federation plays an instrumental role in drafting legislation establishing fines for the poaching of big game.

2012

Tennessee Prescribed Burning Act

Led the passage of the 2012 Tennessee Prescribed Burning Act to reverse the negative impacts of fire suppression in the State.

prescribed burn tn
deer farm

White-tailed Deer Breeding and Farming Act

2011

The Right to Hunt and Fish

The Federation led the successful campaign to amend the state constitution to secure the right of every Tennessean to hunt and fish.

hunt and fish

2007

Secured the Future of Public Hunting Lands

The Federation writes and secures passage of legislation to ensure no-net-loss of public hunting lands.

Elk Viewing Tower Constructed

The Hatfield Knob Elk Viewing Tower is constructed with the support of the Federation and numerous volunteers for the enjoyment of all Tennesseans.

Elk Tower Tennessee

2005

sctp state 2019

Adopted Youth Shooting Program

The Federation adopts the Tennessee Scholastic Clay Target Program, one of the largest youth shooting programs in the nation.

2004

Changed Name to Tennessee Wildlife Federation

The Tennessee Conservation League changes its name to Tennessee Wildlife Federation.

Tennessee Wildlife Federation logo

2000

Reintroduced Elk to Tennessee

The Federation teams up with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to reintroduce elk to Tennessee, releasing the first elk to inhabit Tennessee in more than 135 years.

1998

Hunters for the Hungry

The Federation restarts Hunters for the Hungry. The program has since provided more than 7.6 million meals to Tennesseans in need.

1986

wetlands Tennessee

Wetlands Acquisition Act

Led the campaign to pass the Wetlands Acquisition Act that has since conserved hundreds of thousands of acres of critical and sensitive wetlands and uplands across the state.

1984

Launched Deer Registry

The Federation and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency jointly launch the Tennessee Deer Registry providing a database to help monitor the quality of Tennessee’s deer herd.

1983

hunters for the hungry

Project CENTS

The Federation’s Project CENTS (Conservation Now for Tennessee Students) is initiated. Project CENTS helps hundreds of thousands of students learn math and science through conservation examples and became standard curriculum for that state’s school system for many years.

1982

Hunter Education Bill

The Tennessee Legislature passes the Federation’s Mandatory Hunter Education Bill requiring anyone born after January 1, 1969, to complete an approved hunter education course. Today, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency administers hunter-ed courses where new hunters learn how to safely and ethically hunt in Tennessee.

1980

Eagles at the Land Between Lakes

The Tennessee Valley Authority begins a five-year project to bring eagles back to the Land Between the Lakes. The Federation takes over the project in 1982.

Joined Lawsuit to Protect Waterfowl Habitat

1972

First Employee Hired

As the Federation’s first employee — and the executive director of the organization for 23 years — Tony Campbell set the groundwork for what the Federation would accomplish in the decades to follow.

1971

Water Pollution Control Act

The Federation leads the writing and passage of the Tennessee Water Pollution Control Act.

1969

Tennessee Environmental Council

The Federation proposes an umbrella organization, the Tennessee Environmental Council, to handle emerging environmental issues. The council was charted the following year.

1953

Outstanding Affiliate of the Year

For the first time in its history, the Federation is named Outstanding Affiliate of the Year by the National Wildlife Federation.

Clark Akers, Dr. Greer Ricketson, Tony Campbell and Dr. Edward Thackston pose for pictures during the National Wildlife Federation’s 1980 annual convention in Miami. Akers received one of the whooping crane statuettes for his success in stopping the West Tennessee Tributaries Project. Thackston accepted the other “Connie” for the Tennessee Conservation League as outstanding NWF affiliate for 1979.

1949

Tennessee Wildlife Federation Founders

Established the Tennessee Fish and Game Commissions

The Federation successfully campaigned for the passage of the law that established the Tennessee Fish and Game Commissions, the precursor to the state’s first professional wildlife management agency.

1946

Tennessee Wildlife Federation Was Born

Tennessee Wildlife Federation was founded on February 12, 1946 as the Tennessee Conservation League at Chattanooga’s historic Read House Hotel.