TVA ... you've come a long way, baby.
I have never been shy about taking the Tennessee Valley Authority to task. Today, however, I extend an "atta boy."
The agency is encouraging people to get outdoors with a new interactive map of recreational opportunities on undeveloped TVA public lands. In a news release, the agency says, "More than 229,000 acres across TVA’s seven-state service area are available for informal recreation, including hunting, fishing, camping, biking and hiking."
The key word in that quote is "hunting."
Back in 2000, TVA published a booklet called "The Glovebox Guide to TVA Places for Family Fun." It was a super-slick, informative little booklet, and at that time, a TVA executive vice president claimed, "This book is a comprehensive guide to the varieties of fun that families can find at TVA reservoirs.”
There was only one problem: Throughout the 102-page publication, there was not a single, solitary mention of hunting. Zero, nada, zilcho, nothing ... hunting opportunities on TVA public properties were totally ignored.
Hunting was perfectly legal and appropriate on many TVA lands, just as it is now. But in their 2000 publication about recreation, the agency chose to pretend hunting didn't exist.
I asked a TVA spokesman why hunting was ignored. It took two days, but I finally got this emailed response:
"Hunting was not included in the book because it is primarily a land-based activity (except for duck hunting). Also, the book is geared toward water-focused activities and activities that a family can do together on a spontaneous day trip. Hunting did not fit in those categories, it was decided. The guide is not meant to be an in-depth, exhaustive inventory of all recreational activities available on TVA reservoirs and recreation lands."
It was a glaring yet failed effort at spin control.
That is why I am exceedingly happy to see that TVA managers now have had a change of heart and are making it clear that hunters have an important place in the valley's recreational world.
“We often get questions from the public about what TVA land is available for activities such as hunting,” said Bruce Schofield, TVA vice president for property and natural resources. “Our new online map lets people quickly find areas where hunting, primitive camping or other outdoor opportunities are located.”
The website includes locations and regulations for use of TVA lands that have very limited man-made facilities. Many of these areas are located along the Tennessee River and its major tributaries. There are also instructions for downloading a new mobile app for your phone.
If you frequent Nooga.com Outdoors regularly, you know I enjoy October hunting road trips to South Dakota. This year, I was pleasantly surprised by South Dakota's mobile app, which guides you to public hunting lands.
Now, thanks to TVA's new mobile app, I can do the same thing right here at home.
“We ask people using our undeveloped recreation land to do two things,” Schofield said. “We want them to act safely, both for themselves and others, and we want them to be good stewards of these natural areas by obeying posted signs and limiting their impact on the landscape.”
He said responsible users should leave public lands in the same or better state than they found them. I agree.
TVA is a partner in Leave No Trace, a national environmental education program to raise awareness about the impacts of outdoor activities. A link to Leave No Trace guidelines is provided on the recreation map page.
Additional information on public recreation opportunities is available through the TVA Environmental Information Center at 1-800-TVA-LAND and TVA’s recreation website.
This Tennessee Valley hunter extends TVA a hearty thank you.