The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Bald eagle release by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

Written by TWRA

This bald eagle was shot but successfully rehabbed at Memphis Zoo

STEWART COUNTY  April 8, 2022  Return to the wild!

Rate this item
(1 Vote)
Published in Creature Features

Related items

  • TWRA to establish prime trout fishing opportunities at Big Soddy Creek Gulf
    By
  • Claws out: Sevier County is a center of raptor rehab
    in News

    service pnp ppmsca 22500 22588vLibrary of Congress

    Sevier County raptor center will be largest in North America

    Project Eagle has landed.

    The American Eagle Foundation broke ground Sept. 21 near Kodak, Tennessee on the largest raptor education and rehabilitation facility in North America.

    Scheduled to open fall 2022, Project Eagle will be the new home of Challenger, the famous bald eagle seen swooping across football fields as the proud national symbol of the United States of America.

  • Lunker sturgeon are out there again

    WBIR: Holston River sturgeon surging

    The population of lake sturgeon, a survivor since the Cretaceous Era that barely escaped the ravages of modern dams and reservoirs, is on the upswing in the Holston River and other branches and tributaries of the Tennessee River system. The last record of the fish in the valley before restoration efforts began is about 1960, according to WBIR.

    Significantly older fish were identified during a recent inventory of sturgeon, giving hope that some fish were closing in on reproductive maturity. The gradual recovery is largely the result of Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Tennessee Valley Authority restoration efforts, WBIR reports.

    “It makes our valley richer; that fish is supposed to be here,” one researcher told WBIR about the significance of the so-far successful restoration of native sturgeon habitats.

  • Part III: Clear-cut controversy in the Cumberlands
    in News

    Bridgestone Main 2048x1365

    Legal opinion cuts path for TWRA forest clearing in White County’s Bridgestone wilderness area despite local opposition

    This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

    A controversial plan by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials to clearcut forest in a popular hunting, hiking and recreation area in order to create habitat for Northern bobwhite quail has gotten a legal go-ahead, despite opposition from residents and local leaders in White County, a bipartisan group of lawmakers and environmental groups.

    The 16,000-acre Bridgestone Firestone Centennial Wilderness Area, a forested area adjacent to Fall Creek Falls State Park and Virgin Falls State Natural Area, was a late 1990’s gift to the state from the tire company that came with certain strings attached, including that state officials “preserve the property predominantly in its present condition as a wilderness area.”

    The Tennessee Wildlife Federation was charged with ensuring the state honors those conditions.

    On Friday, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Wildlife Federation confirmed that outside legal counsel hired to review the state’s clearcutting plan found it “meets the requirements” of the gift.

    “Speaking broadly as a conservation nonprofit, we have supported throughout our 75-year history the science-based, proactive management of lands to maintain or restore diverse habitats and diverse wildlife,” Kate Hill, a Tennessee Wildlife Federation spokeswoman, said via email. “The fact is savannas are an endangered habitat in the Southeast that were once common and provided essential habitat to many species across Tennessee.”

    Neither the Tennessee Wildlife Federation nor the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has communicated the outcome of the legal review to local residents, who have complained for months that they have been kept in the dark and offered no meaningful opportunity to weigh in on plans to radically alter a landscape that is both beloved and central to the local economy.

  • Tennessee Lookout: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency reportedly plans to raze mature hardwood forest
    in News

    Bridgestone Main 2048x1365Mike O’Neal, a longtime hunter, surveys an expanse of the Bridgestone Firestone Centennial Wilderness Area in Middle Tennessee where clearcutting of public hardwood forest is planned to create quail habitat. John Partipilo/Courtesy of Tennessee Lookout

    The plan to clear forest for quail habitat is raising the ire of hunters and hikers, as well as a bipartisan group of state lawmakers

    This story was originally published by the nonprofit Tennessee Lookout and is shared (with much appreciation) via Creative Commons License. 

    It’s a pretty bird, easily recognizable by dark stripes on rust colored feathers and a distinct two-syllable chirp that announces its name: “bob” (the high note) then “white” at a lower pitch — also known as the northern bobwhite, a species of quail.

    The otherwise unassuming bird is now at the center of a fight over public lands in White County, Tennessee, pitting the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency against an unlikely coalition of hikers, hunters, cavers, local business leaders and state lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle.

    Internal TWRA documents leaked to a local hunter last month revealed plans to clearcut 2,000 acres of old-growth hardwood forest in the Bridgestone Firestone Centennial Wilderness Area to establish quail habitat and a research center focused on the birds, whose steeply declining populations have spurred national efforts to restore grasslands where the species thrive.

    The land slated for deforestation, a late-1990s gift to the state from the Bridgestone Corporation – then the Bridgestone/Firestone company — is part of stunning and centuries-old vistas visible along the path heading to Virgin Falls State Natural Area, where 7 waterfalls are connected by trails through tall canopies just north of Fall Creek Falls. For generations, the area has also drawn deer and turkey hunters to state owned land that offers hunting access at a fraction of the cost often associated with hunting on private property.

    “It’s going to scar the view-shed for most of the Bridgestone property,” said Marvin Bullock, president of the Sparta-White County Chamber of Commerce.

    Bullock is an energetic booster who grew up in the area and takes pride in his track record at the chamber. The county has seen a tourist-driven economic turnaround in recent times – aided, in some respects, by the pandemic. Six years ago, when Bullock first started the job, there were 50 empty storefronts and office spaces in downtown Sparta.

    “Now you’d be hard-pressed to find 10,” he said. “We have 400 remote workers and 80 Airbnbs. That’s a good indication of what an attraction Virgin Falls is. Right now we have some hardwoods that three of us together couldn’t reach around. It would take generations to grow them back. This is a really terrible idea that is not just aesthetically unattractive, it is economically unattractive.”

    TWRA gets pushback

    Since the map was leaked last month, hikers and hunters, and environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association, which is concerned about potential erosion damage to the Caney Fork River from clearcutting, have mobilized members across the state to weigh in. A bipartisan trio of lawmakers, Rep. Paul Sherrell, R-Sparta, Sen. Heidi Campbell, D-Nashville and Rep. John Ray Clemmons, also a Nashville Democrat, have pressed TWRA for answers. A community meeting organized by Sherrell is set for Monday evening in Sparta.

    “You’re going to be walking through a burned-out wasteland if this happens,” said Campbell, who said she has been getting emails from constituents upset by the plans.

    After weeks of pushback, TWRA has begun to respond publicly — a step it has not been required to take in its deforestation plans for public lands. The agency has no public notice requirements when it clears timber on the nearly 1.5 million acres is controls across the state, a sore point among those now learning of the plans in White County.

    TWRA biologist Aubrey Deck told the Lookout last week that some of the pushback is a result of a misunderstanding.

    The leaked map, Deck said Friday, is a “conceptual map for a larger project, not a planning map,” he said. 

    “The only plan right now is for 250-290 acres (of deforestation),” he said. “The exact acreage is still to be determined.”

    But Deck made clear that agency officials have hopes for a wider deforestation effort.

  • Another slice of the wild preserved in Cumberlands

    Knox News: Nearly 12,000 acres added to Skinner Mountain preserve on the Cumberland Plateau

    The Conservation Fund and state wildlife and forestry officials reached a deal to conserve and manage thousands of wild acres in Fentress County.

    The expanse was previously held by an out-of-state speculative investment company likely originally tied to timber companies.

    The Cumberland Plateau and escarpments have been increasingly recognized for their biodiversity along with the Smokies to the east beyond the Tennessee Valley. The Cumberlands are along a songbird and fowl migration route, and host a niche population of mature timber, mosses, lichens, fungi, mammals and amphibians. Elk were reintroduced a decade ago, and black bears have begun to range across the Cumberlands and their base.

    The area is pocked with caves and sinkholes, some containing petroglyphs and other carvings from previous populations.

    "On the Cumberland Plateau, the key to maintaining biodiversity is to retain as much natural forest (both managed and unmanaged) as possible," a forestry expert told the News Sentinel's Vincent Gabrielle.

    The Foothills Land Conservancy has also helped protect thousands of acres along the plateau and its escarpments in recent years.

  • State’s fight against Asian carp scales up

    WATE: Commercial fishing pulls out 10 million pounds of exotic carp from Tennessee River system

    If you never thought there’d be an Asian carp commercial fishery in Tennessee waters, you were wrong.

    Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Asian Carp Harvest Incentive Program has yielded 10 million pounds of the exotic fish since 2018, the bulk caught downstream on the Tennessee River system at Kentucky and Barkly reservoirs. The fish has been spotted as far upstream as Knox and Anderson counties.

    The Tennessee Valley Authority and TWRA are experimenting with acoustic barriers to prevent further upstream spread of the fish, which compete with native fish for food and habitat.

    “There are four types of Asian carp: bighead, silver, black and grass,” WATE reported. “Experts say the species threatens to disrupt aquatic ecosystems and starve out native species due to their ability to out-compete native species for food like plankton.”

    So what do fishermen do with 10 million pounds of carp?

    It can be sold to wholesalers for distribution abroad and also makes for really good fertilizer.

  • Lead is flying as bald eagles face ambush on road to full recovery
    in News

    Thompson Eagle lead poisoned 1This grounded bald eagle at a wildlife refuge in Missouri eventually succumbed to lead poisoning. Lead from bullets and shot are the latest threat to bald eagles, the recovery of which is an American conservation success story. Betty Thompson

    Once again bald eagles are in trouble: This time the threats are a deadly recipe of lead and neurotoxins.

    The recovery of America’s bald eagles is one of the greatest environmental success stories of the past 50 years. From an estimated overall population of about 800 at the depth of their decline, they have rebounded to about 100,000 today living near water in Alaska, Canada and all of the lower 48 states.

    Hellbender Press has covered the success story that brought our national symbol, the bald eagle, back from the brink of extinction.

    The cause of that long-ago calamity was ferreted out with the help of an early citizen-scientist, a retired Canadian banker living in Florida named Charles Broley, who became interested in eagles and obtained a permit to band eaglets. Between 1939 and 1946 he banded a total of 814 of them in the nest before they fledged.

    As the years passed Broley observed a population decline and initially thought habitat loss was to blame. But in an Audubon article he penned in 1958, Broley concluded, “I am firmly convinced that about 80 percent of the Florida bald eagles are sterile.”

    But why? Broley was the first to speculate that the use of organochlorine pesticides, most notably dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or DDT for short, was somehow the cause; but he had no proof and didn’t know how the chemical compound actually affected adult eagles.

    Broley’s suspicions and others were brought to national attention by Rachel Carson in her landmark 1962 book, “Silent Spring.” DDT was outlawed in 1972 and the eagle population slowly began to recover.

    And today? Bald eagles still face problems — both old and new.

    The old one is lead poisoning.

  • Biodiversity in crosshairs as burgeoning Middle Tennessee fears water shortage

    Duck RiverMarshall CoThis biologically rich stretch of the Duck River could soon be the site of a large municipal water intake facility.

    Duck River targeted by thirsty, growing municipalities in Nashville area

    This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout

    Marshall County, located outside what was once considered the boundary edge of growing suburbs circling Nashville, has seen explosive growth of its own in recent years — call it the Williamson County overflow effect, says County Mayor Mike Keny.

    Drawn by more affordable housing, jobs and the rural character of the county — about an hour from Nashville in the “heart of the Southern Automotive Corridor” (as local economic development officials call it) — the influx of residents, and some relocating business and industry, has brought new urgency to a long-standing reality.

    The county doesn’t have its own water supply. For decades, it has had to pay wholesale for drinking water from the cities of Murfreesboro and Lewisburg. That supply is no longer adequate.

    A new proposal by county officials calls for building a water treatment facility along the banks of the Duck River in northern Marshall County capable of siphoning up to 6 million gallons of water per day; establish a reliable local water supply for decades to come.

    The need for Marshall County,  to have its own water supply, which it has never had, is becoming more urgent with an influx of new residents. But environmental activists say the nearby Duck River, which is biologically diverse, may not be the best option.  
  • Bald eagles fly with the Tennessee angels who helped save them from extinction. We must keep them on the wing.

    Cooper Eagle 1BAmerican Eagle Foundation founder Al Cecere releases a rehabilitated bald eagle at Ijams Nature Center on Aug. 12, 2016. The foundation named her Summit in honor of UT Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summit. Photo by Chuck Cooper.

    Is the bald eagle’s remarkable comeback fading down the stretch?

    (Part one in a series)

    It was a damp morning in early spring 2005 when Paul James and I met Linda Claussen at Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge along the French Broad River in east Knox County. Heavy rains had fallen through the night, but the clouds were beginning to break. As we walked down Kelly Lane toward the river the vocalized yearnings of thousands of chorus frogs could be heard singing from the soppy floodplain along the river. Spring was definitely here.

    The refuge itself was the brainchild of Linda’s late husband, Pete. In the late 1990s, he formed the Seven Islands Foundation, a privately owned land conservancy, and began setting aside property to be protected and restored to a variety of natural habitats. Most of the acreage had recently been fescue pasture maintained for grazing livestock and hay production.