New executive director of TWRA -
With the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency facing some daunting challenges, Lebanon’s Dennis Gardner, a member of the governing Wildlife Commission, says it “chose the right man for the job.”
Gardner’s reference is to Bobby Wilson, who was a unanimous choice to succeed Ed Carter as Executive Director of the TWRA following Carter’s retirement in May.
Wilson last week held his first meeting with Gardner and other members of the Tennessee Fish & Wildlife Commission, which oversees the TWRA.
“Bobby has some big shoes to fill, because Ed did such a great job for so many years,” Gardner says.
“He carved a path and brought the TWRA to a national stage. But Bobby is up to the task. He got 100 percent of the vote as our new Director, which tells you how much he is admired and respected.”
Carter spent almost a half-century with the Agency, the last 12 as Director.
Under his leadership – and before him, a 30-year stint by Gary Myers – the TWRA became a national model for wildlife management.
The state’s once-scarce deer and wild turkeys were restored, and an ambitious elk-restoration program has established a sustainable herd.
“For Tennessee’s hunters and fishermen, the ‘good old days’ are now,” Wilson says. “We’ve got more and better opportunities than at any time in our history.”
Wilson brings 40 years’ TWRA experience to the job, including the past dozen as Assistant Executive Director under Carter.
“Ed has been a good friend and mentor for a lot of years,” Wilson says. “I hope to continue the great legacy he built.”
But, as Gardner notes, the challenges are huge, starting with the ongoing pandemic that has shut down many TWRA services, including the main office in Nashville.
“That can cause a strain on the budget,” Gardner says. “Hopefully things will quickly pick back up once the virus is over, but meanwhile it has created uncertainty for the Agency, just as it has throughout society.”
Long before the virus hit, the TWRA was already confronting two potential ecological disasters: invasive Asian carp and Chronic Wasting Disease among deer. The carp threaten the state’s billion-dollar sport-fishing industry, just as CWD jeopardizes deer hunting across the state.
There are currently no permanent solutions.
The carp are commercially netted by the tons in such waters as Kentucky Lake, but they quickly reproduce and continue to spread, competing with native species on the food chain.
As for CWD, there is no cure -- all the Agency can do is try to contain it to the few West Tennessee counties in which it has been diagnosed.
No cases have been found in Middle Tennessee, but wildlife officials fear it’s just a matter of time.
There is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans or other animals. But it is fatal to deer, and the chance that one could be infected with the neurological disease makes many hunters reluctant to harvest them.
One TWRA biologist termed CWD “the greatest threat to wildlife management in the state’s history.”
“Bobby has long been monitoring the Asian carp and CWD situations,” Gardner says. “He’s aware of the challenges. We’ve got a good leader.”