Commission Sets New License Fee Structure - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Commission Sets New License Fee Structure

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 UNION CITY, Tenn.  --- For the first time in a decade, the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved a license fee structure adjustment for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The increase was one of five rule amendments made by the TFWC at its January meeting, which concluded Friday at the Discovery Park of America. 

Tennessee hunting and fishing licenses expire on Feb. 28, but the changes will not go into effect until July 1. Sportsmen and women are encouraged to buy 2015-16 season licenses at the current prices before July.

TWRA has sought to increase license fees only twice in the last 25 years, roughly following rises in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In this case, the Agency's license revenue will be increased by around 19 percent against a CPI of approximately 22 percent over the last decade. The new structure introduces new licenses for professional guides as well as high-impact users of TWRA's Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). Under the new structure, horseback, mountain bike, and off-highway vehicle riders will contribute to the ongoing maintenance of the public WMA trails they use through a new annual license. (All of the new fees and changes will be listed on the TWRA website at www.tnwildlife.org). 

“Our funding as an Agency comes almost exclusively from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and matching funds from federal excise taxes on related equipment,” said Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Harold Cannon, who chairs the commission's budget and finance committee. “The license fee package passed in 2004 was designed to cover the revenue shortfall for a period of six to eight years, and we made it work for more than a decade. In 2013, we started working closely with the Agency to identify budget savings, but the reality is everything is more expensive than it was 10 years ago. Changes to the federal matching funds, capital expenditures and the general cost to state government—on top of the 22 percent cost of living increase—made it necessary to introduce this new fee structure.”

Major capital expenditures in recent years have included $3.5 million for HVAC/electrical system repairs at the Agency's Nashville headquarters, $1 million annually for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and a critical upgrade for inter-agency law enforcement communications for $7 million.

Another rule amendment simplifies the process by which the TWRA selects an organization to auction an annual permit for the special elk hunt.  

In other business, during Thursday's committee meeting, Daryl Ratajczak, TWRA Chief of Wildlife and Forestry gave report on several of the state's hunting seasons which have concluded. 

The final deer harvest is again in the 165,000 range. Reports indicate that this is the state's lowest percentage of 1 ½ year old bucks harvested at 36 percent with almost two-thirds of the bucks 2 ½ years or older. A complete report on the deer season will be made at the April meeting. 

The black bear hunting season number showed a slight decline from last year. Ratajczak said that an outstanding mast crop this year may have been a big reason as the bears did not have to move as much for food. It was also the first year of bear hunting in the redefined bear hunting zone and included a pair of harvests in the transitional zones.

The second sandhill crane hunting season concluded at the start of the year. The TWRA is waiting to receive all the postcards from those sportsmen who received permits, but the harvest is expected to be near of the inaugural harvest of 350. The number stands at 314 so far for the second hunt.

As requested from a prior TFWC meeting, TWRA Fisheries Division Chief Bobby Wilson gave a presentation in regard to stocking Florida bass in Tennessee waters.

The Agency's recommendation was not to stock all state waters due to concerns including backcrosses, genetic integrity, hatchery space, and outside of zones determined to be climate suitable.

The proposal is to continue current stocking at Chickamauga Reservoir, Lake Graham, Gibson County Lake, Brown's Creek Lake, and Shellcracker Lake. The new waters to be stocked are Nickajack Lake, Watts Bar Lake, Fort Loudoun Lake, the middle portion of Kentucky Lake, and TWRA's Herb Parsons Lake in Fayette County.

The first episode of the new television program, Tennessee Uncharted, was shown on Thursday. Don King, TWRA Chief of Information, gave a status report on the program and filming of season two which is scheduled to begin at this weekend's Sandhill Crane Festival in East Tennessee.

The meeting was the first for the TFWC at the Discovery Park which opened in late 2013. The TFWC will return to Nashville for its February meeting. The meeting will be a one day event on Thursday, Feb. 12.
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