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Bill Dance Signature Lakes Announced at Commission’s Final 2021 Session

GATLINGBURG, Tenn. --- The Bill Dance Signature Lakes project was unveiled at the final Commission meeting of 2021. TWRA and the State of Tennessee will invest $15 million in improvements both above and below the water at 18 lakes which bear fishing legend Dance’s stamp of approval. Tennesseans will benefit from increased stocking, habitat and fisheries management, as well as improved access for fishing and boating. The collaborative effort between Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee State Parks and Tennessee Department of Tourist Development seeks to solidify Tennessee as the heart of fishing in the southeast and drive economic activity across the state.

The Commission amended the proclamation establishing hunting seasons on Wildlife Management Areas to allow waterfowl hunting on Sundays at Meeman-Shelby State Forest and Natural Area.  The change accommodates waterfowl hunting for the Veterans and Active Military Personnel waterfowl hunting days on Sunday, Feb. 6 and 13. An update on public land waterfowl hunting was also given including the new tier 2 opportunities which were 100 percent complete for the 42 locations for this year’s season.

A report on the deer and elk harvest, and update on chronic wasting disease (CWD) were among other items discussed at the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting which concluded Friday. Staff provided current deer harvest numbers for through mid-December. Harvest is down slightly from 2020’s COVID-related highs. The 2021 gun season ends on Jan. 2, 2022. More than 44,000 deer have been harvested thus far with 22,769 coming from Unit L and 5,325 harvested in Unit CWD.

A tentative timeline of the Bridgestone/Firestone WMA forest conversion was given. Bridgestone-Firestone consists of approximately 20,000 acres in White County on the Cumberland County line.

The Boating and Law Enforcement Division provided its plans for 2022 to identify non-motorized vessel outfitters and assist them with coming into compliance with the rule. Outfitters will be contacted with explanation of the rule, a copy of the rule, and a copy of the required reporting form. Wildlife officers will conduct in person follow up visits to answer questions and assist with their compliance of the rule.

The TWRA and TFWC presented a resolution honoring Jeff Aiken, retiring president of the Tennessee Farm Bureau. A farmer from the Washington County community of Telford, he served in the position for five years.

Members of the Hiwassee Chapter of Trout Unlimited made a $10,000 donation to TWRA. The funds will be used in brook trout restoration efforts, primarily at Tellico Hatchery.