Asian carp, awards addressed by TFWC Commission

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An update on Asian carp, results of a recent Tennessee duck hunters survey, and annual divisional awards presentations were among the business conducted at the October meeting of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The one-day meeting was held Friday in the Tom and Wendy Beasley Education Center at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Buffalo Ridge Refuge. It was the TFWC’s first formal meeting at Buffalo Ridge Refuge which comprises about 2,000 acres in southern Humphreys County.

Cole Harty, TWRA’s Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator, provided an update on Asian carp. There has been no significant change in carp distribution since the previous update. TWRA and Tennessee Valley Authority fisheries crews conducted concentrated surveillance in East Tennessee reservoirs and tailwaters and did not encounter any silver, bighead, or black carp.

It was reported that TWRA has been awarded nearly $1.7 million from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct carp control and monitoring in the coming year. This is a substantial increase from previous years that will advance the agency’s capacity to control and monitor carp populations. Asian carp work will be conducted in the Tennessee and Cumberland basin as well as Reelfoot Lake. Plans include providing incentives for the commercial removal of Asian carp, monitoring population characteristics, tracking movement to direct control efforts, and working with state and federal partners to make informed decisions about any future barrier placement.

As requested by the TFWC, results of a recent survey of Tennessee duck hunters were presented. The survey was conducted by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and shared by Wildlife and Forestry Division Chief Joe Benedict. Results provided insight on how to increase hunter opportunity, how to improve the draw process for hunters, and the best way to be equitable and fair in utilizing public lands for duck hunting.

The TFWC passed Tennessee’s threatened, endangered, and in-need of management lists. The lists are required to be reviewed every two years.

The Wildlife and Forestry Division recognized its Wildlife Technician and Wildlife Biologist/Manager of the Year. The Biologist of the Year winner is Luke Hadden, who works as a wildlife manager with the forestry unit on Catoosa Wildlife Management in the Upper Cumberland Area. Bobby Buttram is the Wildlife Technician of the Year and also is part of the forestry unit at Catoosa WMA.  He is a 30-year veteran.

Wildlife Manager Brandon Gilbert of Wolf River WMA received the Firebird Award. The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to habitat restoration of bobwhite quail populations. Appreciation awards were presented to West Tennessee CWD partners and processors Chad and Sadonna Cardwell and Barry and Cindy Clampitt for their contributions in the CWD campaign.

The Boating and Law Enforcement Division announced a pair of annual awards. Wally Lessig was named the TWRA Part-Time Boating Officer of the Year. He serves in TWRA Region IV in District 41 which encompasses 10 counties in East Tennessee. Dustin Buttram is the Boating Officer of the Year. He serves in Region III’s District 31 which contains Center Hill Lake, Dale Hollow Lake, and the Caney Fork River.

Retiring Agency pilot Barbara Shaffer was honored. She served as TWRA’s lead pilot for 22 years. She played an instrumental role in activities across multiple divisions within the agency which included wildlife counts and surveys, fish transportation, and law enforcement details.

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