TWRA’s Deputy Director Chris Richardson said in a letter to legislators that the proposed habitat project will continue on the south side of the Bridgestone Firestone Centennial Wilderness area.
Richardson said the decision to stop the clear-cutting project on the north side of the wilderness area is based on community feedback not science.
Wednesday’s letter from Richardson to State Senator Heidi Campbell serves as the first official word from TWRA officials that the habitat creation project will not happen for now. Campbell serves on the State Senate’s Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
In the letter Richardson said the agency based the decision on community opposition only and not what is best for wildlife.
Richardson said “the community feels we have not communicated sufficiently about our plans and have not been transparent.” However, in multiple public meetings, a concern about communication has not been mentioned. Rather, concerns focused on the need for the project, the damage to the wilderness area, and the impact on local users and the tourism industry.
“In future management decisions we will continue to engage with the public, and we will continue to be mission-driven, science-driven, and data-driven in our decision making,” Richardson wrote.
The northern part of the project pertains to the, “Farm Unit,” on the north side of the area. The original plan included a total of six plots to become quail habitat over three to five years. The north side or, “The Farm,” would have impacted some 825 acres. The south side or the, “Big Bottom,” which is still happening according to Richardson, will yield 1,221 acres.
According to Richardson, the science confirms a critical need for savanna like environments.