What did Tennessee’s candidates for governor say about wildlife?

Oct 31, 2018

Headshots of Karl Dean (left) and Bill Lee (right).
Despite seeking to run the country’s most biologically diverse inland state, Tennessee’s candidates for governor were surprisingly quiet about the state’s wildlife and natural resources.

So, Tennessee Wildlife Federation asked. Continuing to fight to keep wildlife a priority in Tennessee as it has for more than 70 years.

Federation: What do you think are the most important conservation issues in Tennessee right now?

Dean: Our conservation efforts in Tennessee should focus on improving our public lands, building our economy in a way that does not have a negative impact on the environment, and working against invasive species in our state. We should preserve open space wherever we can. Tennessee is an incredibly beautiful state, as any candidate for statewide office can tell you, and we need to do everything we can to keep it that way.

Lee: One of Tennessee’s greatest assets is its natural beauty and its fish and game populations. These not only make life more enjoyable for Tennesseans, but they also attract millions of tourists to our state every year. As governor, I will work hard to make sure that we preserve these natural gifts so that our children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy them.

Federation: Research has shown that approximately two-thirds of all Tennesseans engage in some form of outdoor recreation, whether it be hunting, fishing, boating, hiking, camping, biking, wildlife watching, trail running, etc. If elected governor, please tell our audience about your beliefs and plans as to how your administration will protect and improve upon our lands, waters, and wildlife, which are the foundation of Tennessee’s outdoor recreation opportunities.

Lee: In business, I have learned that the first step towards success is assembling the right team. As governor, I would consult with leaders like the Wildlife Federation to identify what they see as the major issues facing the state.

I grew up hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping. Our farm was one of the first to help re-introduce wild turkeys and quail in Middle Tennessee, and today I enjoy taking my children and grandchildren to watch and hunt these magnificent animals. I’ve had a lifelong commitment to the outdoors and to conservation, and that won’t change when I’m governor.

Dean: Outdoor recreation is popular in Tennessee, and that means it’s a huge piece of our economy. I want to keep it that way. As governor, I will work to limit any threats to our outdoor recreation scene. Right now, that includes tackling the Asian carp invasion, limiting development that can be harmful to the environment and giving our public lands the proper resources to stay open and stay clean.

Federation: Previous gubernatorial administrations have produced rural development plans for our state. However, the significant economic value and impact of wildlife, water, and outdoor recreation in our rural communities has not been represented during the development of or in the final work products of these plans. First, do you believe that the value and positive impact of outdoor recreation and the wildlife, water and lands that provide these opportunities is important, and secondly, what will you do in your administration to ensure that the value of water, wildlife and outdoor recreation is a key factor when considering rural development during your administration?

Dean: Yes, I believe that the positive impact of outdoor recreation and wildlife is important. It’s important to ensure that any rural development does not hinder our outdoor recreation and resources in a major way. Outdoor activities are important to our economy, too. Supporting business and supporting conservation go hand in hand.

Lee: The outdoors play a critical role in Tennessee’s economic development. They have played an integral role in my life, from canoeing and hunting with my father, to now taking my own children and grandchildren on outdoor adventures. They also attract millions of tourists, which promote growth in rural areas. As governor, I will make sure that any conversations on rural development move forward with an understanding of the importance of outdoor recreation to our state.

Federation: Water is arguably Tennessee’s most valued and important individual natural resource. Given the growth pressures being placed upon our waters across the state, and continued pressure from the regulated community to weaken our rules and laws designed to protect the health and availability of our water, how would your administration work to ensure the long-term health and availability of our water resources?

Lee: In Tennessee, our rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds are some of our most precious resources, and they are a powerful engine for economic growth. However, we cannot take them for granted. Many states in the Western part of the nation have significant problems with a scarcity of clean water. As governor, I will work with our businesses and conservation groups to ensure we are protecting the quality of our water in Tennessee.

Dean: In most cases, regulation is necessary to protect our natural resources—especially waterways. I will work with my administration and the people of Tennessee to communicate how and why certain regulations will help our state and our economy in the long run.

Federation: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States. Tennessee’s state park system is widely considered one of the best state park systems in the country. Our state forests, wildlife management areas, refuges, national forests, recreation areas and local parks provide millions of Tennesseans with outdoor recreational opportunities, and drive significant rural economic activity. What will your administration’s policy be towards our public lands?

Dean: I want to give our public lands the resources they need. Smoky Mountains National Park is extremely popular, and I want to return our state parks to the best in the nation as well. As mayor of Nashville, I invested $190 million in parks, which went towards projects like redeveloping two riverfront parks, opening 25 miles of bike trails, building 40 miles of greenways, and preserving historical sites.

Lee: Growing up, we spent many vacations in Tennessee’s beautiful state parks. In fact, one of my most vivid childhood memories was of visiting Fall Creek Falls for the first time. As I grew older, I also started traveling to other parks across the nation, like the Grand Tetons. As a parent, some of my most treasured memories are of taking my daughter, Sarah Kate, horseback riding along the many trails at Big South Fork. As governor I will work to ensure our state parks remain the source of joy and serenity for future Tennessee families that they have been for our family.

Federation: Non-native, exotic animals such as Asian carp, wild hogs, and insects such as the gypsy moth, emerald ash borer, hemlock woolly adelgid, are invasive and highly destructive of our native Tennessee plants and wildlife; creating significant negative economic impacts. Historically, agencies and efforts to address these invasive exotic pests have been chronically underfunded and highly variable in their results. What will your administration do to face and address these threats across our state?

Lee: I have spoken to fisherman and sportsman across Tennessee, and the Asian Carp infestation continues to be a major concern for me. I’ll bring together leaders to try new barriers to contain the carp population, improve our research capacity for new genetic responses to stop the breeding of carp, and will continue to support our Asian Carp Harvest Incentive Program (ACHIP) to encourage fisherman to help us clear out the carp population.

Dean: I want to give our agencies adequate funding to approach these issues—particularly with Asian carp. The Asian carp invasion is detrimental to our waterways in West Tennessee, and it’s also a huge economic problem. We do not currently have the resources to fix anything, and I want to change that.

Federation: Where we locate development is critical for ensuring the integrity of our natural resources, containing state and municipal costs, and supporting Tennessee’s economy and brand, which relies on our rich natural environment. What steps would your administration take to make sure future development is properly located?

Dean: Maintaining Tennessee’s natural resources and natural beauty is a vital part of growing our state’s economy. Any development – especially in rural Tennessee – will be analyzed carefully for any negative impact on the environment. We have to get that right, because once open land is gone, it’s gone forever.

Lee: As with all development issues, the key to success is engaging the local officials, residents, businesses, and non-profits closest to the project in question. At the state level, I will continue to assess and seek improvements to our state greenbelt law, and I will work to ensure that our state agencies are working to preserve our state’s unique natural resources.

Federation: What process will you employ in choosing commissioners of key natural resource agencies, including the Department of Environment and Conservation; Wildlife Resources Agency, and Department of Agriculture? What qualities and/or characteristics will you be looking for in your appointments?

Lee: I will look for leaders who share my values, with an ability to motivate others and a personal passion for the mission of their agency or department. To find the best candidates with these qualities, I will consult with industry and non-profit leaders and maintain an open dialogue with the organizations that serve to protect our natural resources.

Dean: I will look primarily for candidates who have real experience in their fields and have an understanding of Tennessee’s needs. When it comes to natural resources, the problems facing Tennessee are not the same as the problems facing Kentucky or Montana, or any other state. We’ll need longtime Tennesseans to take charge of protecting Tennessee’s natural resources.

Candidate Information

About Karl Dean
Headshot of Karl Dean.

(Note: This biography was submitted to Tennessee Wildlife Federation by the campaign.)

Karl Dean led the city of Nashville to unprecedented economic prosperity that it’s still experiencing today. As mayor for eight years, he led the city through the Great Recession and the devastating floods in 2010, with Nashville coming out stronger as a result. Karl’s pragmatic approach to leadership focused on jobs, education and public safety.

He kept taxes low while making significant investments in public infrastructure, paving the way for new economic development in all parts of Davidson County. He made business recruitment and retention a priority. He increased funding for public schools and teacher pay, invested in after-school programs and brought more public school choices to Nashville. As mayor, Karl established Nashville’s Open Space Plan, which called for the city and private ownership to protect 22,000 acres of land over the next 25 years. His administration also acquired more than 4,500 acres of open space in Nashville, built 40 miles of greenways, and opened 25 miles of mountain bike trails. Karl’s experience makes him the right person to bring the same opportunities to every Tennessean.

About Bill Lee
Headshot of Bill Lee.

(Note: This biography was submitted to Tennessee Wildlife Federation by the campaign.)

I’m running for Governor, but I’m not a politician. I’m a cattle farmer, a businessman, a father and grandfather, and a seventh generation Tennessean. At my company, I work with electricians, pipe fitters, and plumbers. I’ve spent a good part of my life doing what I can to make life better for them, and now I’d like to try to make life a little better for six and a half million Tennesseans.

Traveling around the state, I’ve learned that most Tennesseans have a few things in common: they want a good job, a good school for their kids, and a safe neighborhood for their families. I hope to earn your support and deliver those things for your family and every other family across our state.

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