Monday, October 2, 2023
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Financial Gain Remains Concern Of Local Hunter Following TWF Ruling

Local hunter Mike O’Neal said his concerns remain the same about a proposed TWRA clearcutting proposal.

The Tennessee Wildlife Federation ruled that a TWRA plan in White County met the guidelines of the land gift. O’Neal said the Federation has a connection with TWRA, and both groups stand to make a profit from the timber.

“Tennessee Wildlife Commission’s mission statement is to work in conjunction with the hunters for their best interest, and obviously, they don’t listen to the hunters or any elected officials,” O’Neal said. “They have their own agenda that is connected to money.”

The Federation said in a statement that TWRA’s plan meets the requirements set forth in the gifting of the Bridgestone Firestone Wilderness Area. However, O’Neal disagrees.

“The greatest background for the argument was back in the late 90’s when this property was donated to TWRA for pristine wilderness,” O’Neal said. “That was the goal was for it to be maintained as a pristine wilderness, and now, they are going to clear cut it.”

O’Neal said his argument is not against the quail environment that would be created from the clearing. O’Neal said rather, it is the location TWRA has picked.

“When we had the meeting here in October with TWRA, a real close friend of mine questioned Wally Akins why cut the hardwoods and not the pines over in Mooneyham, and he basically told him that it was because the hardwoods brought more money,” O’Neal said.

TWRA alongside local and state officials held a public hearing on the habitat proposal in October. The Sparta Board of Aldermen also approved sending a letter to Governor Bill Lee asking to stop the clearcutting.

The proposed plan would transition about 230 acres into a quail habitat.