Starting with the 2010 legislative session, a small group of state House members undertook an effort to shut down the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) by placing the Agency in “wind-down” mode, which would prepare TWRA and its critical wildlife and fisheries management work for elimination.
Reauthorizations affect every state agency; the problem in the 2011 session was that Rep. Jim Cobb, who chairs the House government operations committee, refused to hear the bill that would reauthorize the TWRA and the Commission that governs it. Without the Commission, no fishing, hunting or trapping seasons can be set; no budget can be approved; no licenses or permits can be issued.
All of this in spite of the fact that the Senate had already passed a five-year extension for TWRA, a two-year Agency study committee had met and issued no findings, and the Agency’s audit and budget had both been reviewed and approved by the appropriate oversight committees.
The Tennessee Wildlife Federation worked with House leadership to find a solution that would strengthen our highly successful wildlife agency and the Commission that governs it. In the end, a new Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission was established, and the Agency continued its important work.
The Tennessee Wildlife Federation led the effort to establish the model game and fish legislation that resulted in the birth of the TWRA. Since then, the wildlife success stories attributable to this agency are almost too many to list. We did not take lightly a threat to our priceless natural resources, and certainly not one apparently rooted in political motivations.
The state constitution provides for checks and balances that help ensure state agencies are accountable, effective and efficient. This effort appeared to be a purely political move designed to harm the Agency. Once again, the Federation answered the call, as did throngs of sportsmen and wildlife lovers across the state.