The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will hold its first ever mandated public "Listening Session" in Cleveland, Tenn. August 6.
In May of 2018, the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission (TFWC), the governing body over TWRA mandated that Agency staff hold public meetings for sportsmen to provide direct input on the management of the state's fish and wildlife. The mandate came along with the decision to only make changes to hunting and fishing seasons/regulations every two years, versus every year.
Wildlife Commissioner Tony Sanders says this year's sessions are primarily for hunters since it is an "off" year for setting hunting seasons. Next year's sessions will be primarily for fishermen.
"The Agency needs to hear from stakeholders," said Commissioner Sanders."I think they can get isolated. This is an opportunity for them to actually listen. When we went to two years season setting we wanted to get biologists and officers out there where they have a chance to talk to everybody."
TFWC commissioners instructed TWRA to hold two such meetings per year in each of the three grand divisions across the state. They said those meetings must be scheduled on nights or weekends when most sportsmen will have the opportunity to attend. Currently all monthly, regularly scheduled TFWC meetings are scheduled during working hours in cities far away from where most sportsmen can reasonably attend.
After fourteen months those meetings are finally coming to pass. The first meeting in TWRA's Region III (Chattanooga area and the Cumberland Plateau) has been scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019. The public "Listening Session" will begin at 7 pm in Cleveland (Tenn.) at Cleveland State Community College, 3535 Adkisson Dr NW. Other sessions scheduled across the state can be found on the TWRA Facebook page.
It is not unusual for Tennessee hunters and fishermen to discuss, or complain about, various hunting and fishing regulations. Until now, with the exception of the hard-to-attend TFWC Commission meetings, or other very rare public meetings, it has been virtually impossible for sportsmen to actually address TWRA managers face-to-face.
The listening sessions are expected to be conducted in a controlled environment. Attendees will break into smaller groups meeting face-to-face with individual biologists and law enforcement personnel. They say everyone in attendance will have a chance to interact in those small groups to express concerns or ask questions on related topics.
"It's not going to be a bunch of people standing up on stage just talking to everybody," said Sanders. "My understanding it will be fairly informal. You will have the opportunity to move from group to group to talk with various biologists and law enforcement. At least that's what [commissioners] are hoping it will be."
The sessions will also be streamed live on the TWRA Facebook page.
"Personally I always enjoy hearing from the people I represent," said Sanders. "I want to hear their questions and concerns, or their praises."
3535 Adkisson Dr NW
Cleveland, TN 37312
Google map and directions