Crossville– The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency attended a public meeting set by Cumberland County Commissioner Mark Baldwin on March 8 at the Cumberland County Community Complex.

    TWRA was asked to share knowledge pertaining to wildlife habitat management practices on Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, which consists of 82,000 acres spanning three counties.

    TWRA is tasked with the management of all wildlife and therefore needs to provide a variety of habitat types on the less than10 percent of Tennessee land it manages. Wildlife Management Areas are lands managed specifically for the care of wildlife, and they benefit not only wildlife but all Tennesseans who utilize these areas for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation activities.

    Habitat management on the area includes prescribed fire, which has been used on the plateau and beyond by native peoples, settlers and later. Planted areas include (around 170) fields which are planted in warm and cool season forage crops or planted in native grass or left fallow for wildlife cover value. Furthermore, two restored savannas and timber harvesting were created after pine beetles devastated the area around the turn of the century, and more recently tornado damage took down approximately 600 acres in 2012 and 1500 acres in 2020. Savannas and woodlands were the main habitat type across much of the plateau and most of this ecosystem has been lost due to a lack of management.

    Forest management is a long-term planning process that includes placing the managed portions of the WMA on an average of a 100-year rotation. This means that post regeneration harvest, the selected area will be free to grow for 100 years. This schedule of harvesting allows for the varying age classes of trees.

    Catoosa forestry plans are set far in advance. Catoosa is over 90 percent forested. Tree stands of varying ages are critical and provide for a diversity of wildlife, which is the goal (see attachment provided by Dr. Craig Harper of UT) of the agency. A diversity of habitats support deer, turkey, and other lesser known but equally important wildlife such as songbirds, reptiles, amphibians and small mammals.

    “We appreciate those who trust us to manage the state’s wildlife and we take our mission very seriously,” stated Brandon Wear, the Region 3 Wildlife Program Manager. Wear continued, “The staff on this area and all others in the state have top-notch professionals that have dedicated years to their education and careers for the betterment of wildlife, and I thank them for this challenging work.”

    TWRA wishes to express their sincere thanks to Commissioner Baldwin for his willingness to provide education to Cumberland County residents on this topic. The agency is committed to not only its mission but also Cumberland County, which is home to the Region 3 office. Residents interested in learning more about Catoosa should watch for Catoosa Field Days, which will include educational sessions on the Wildlife Management Area. Sessions will take place this spring and will include in-depth education on the great work for wildlife accomplished.