Hayes reflects on service on wildlife commission
Posted: Monday, March 7, 2011 9:02 pm
Reelfoot Lake businessman Mike Hayes recently completed a six-year term on the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission. His service on the TWRC board was highlighted by his strong dedication to Tennessee’s wildlife.
During his term on the commission, Hayes was instrumental in streamlining the agency and implementing a number of significant initiatives and programs.
His service on the TWRC had a positive impact on wildlife management across the state and, more specifically, at Reelfoot Lake.
Hayes helped establish Tennessee’s one-day out-of-state fishing license, and he was instrumental in starting the out-of-state youth license for big game hunting, which lowered the cost of youth licenses from $175 and $250 to $25 and $39 for the fishing and hunting licenses, respectively.
One of the most significant of Hayes’ contributions was his involvement in building the TWRC’s fund reserves from $25 million to $28 million.
“This will help ensure the wildlife management of Tennessee for years to come,” he said.
Hayes was appointed to the TWRC by former Gov. Phil Bredesen and he represented an eight-county district that included Obion, Lake, Weakley, Dyer, Chester, Crockett, Gibson and Madison counties. The TWRC meets monthly to consider issues concerning Tennessee’s hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation regulations.
Hayes served as chairman of the TWRC’s Wildlife Management Committee and was a member of the Fisheries Management Committee and the Rec-reation and Recruitment Committee.
“In my time on the commission, I have always tried to be objective on issues that affect our state; however, since this is my last meeting, I will be bringing up an issue that will only affect Reelfoot Lake,” he said prior to the TWRC’s Feb. 24 meeting in Nashville.
It was at that meeting that Hayes successfully restored the income from a Reelfoot preservation permit fee to Reelfoot Lake. The proceeds from the permit fees were being channeled into the TWRA’s general fund rather than going to Reelfoot Lake, but Hayes got that changed.
“This permit, which the agency never asked for, was originally intended for the preservation of Reelfoot Lake,” he said. “The permit came into being when a group of people, of which I was one, were worried about the condition of Reelfoot Lake and went to the Legislature and asked for this permit to help preserve the lake.
“We had a hard time convincing people that this was in their best interest, but when it was explained that this permit would only be used at Reelfoot, they felt, like me, that this was in everyone’s best interest. During that time it was decided that buying wetlands around the lake would be the best way to start using the permit, and (former Congressman) John Tanner worked with former governor Lamar Alexander to secure a non-interest loan.”
Hayes said that since the permit fee was enacted, more than $5 million has been collected by the state.
It was at the TWRC’s February meeting that Hayes explained how in 1985 a $3.2 million loan was taken out to purchase land around the lake to ensure that the shoreline and access to the lake would be managed “for the benefit of all Tennesseans.” It was then that the Reelfoot preservation permit fee was established as a way to help fund the land acquisition, offset lake maintenance costs and fund other Reelfoot Lake projects.
He told The Messenger that, as of June 30, the $3.2 million debt for land acquisition at Reelfoot Lake will be paid off. The income from the permit fees will continue to generate an estimated $100,000 to $200,000 in annual revenue for Reelfoot Lake projects, according to Hayes.
In reference to the payoff of the $3.2 million in debt for the lake’s land acquisition, Hayes said the TWRC is now “prioritizing new initiatives for Reelfoot Lake that will further our original goal of managing this very unusual area.”
He said among the projects being considered is work on the Black Bayou Refuge, eradication or control of water willow at Reelfoot Lake, and the restoration of the native cut grass at the lake. Also being considered are plans to enhance existing lake access points or create new access points at Reelfoot Lake.
In an outgoing message at the TWRC’s February meeting, Hayes outlined what he believes were his major contributions to the commission.
He began with a project actually started by his father — the new spillway at Reelfoot Lake.
“My father started working on getting a new spillway for the lake back in the ’70s and it has taken this long to get this project started,” Hayes said. “I am proud to have worked with John Tanner, who was the driving force behind this project, to secure the money necessary to get this project done. I believe that getting the new spillway will help ensure that Reelfoot will be a prime fishing and hunting destination for years to come.”
Hayes was quick to praise the TWRA’s management of hunting across Tennessee, but said when he began his term on the commission the fisheries across the state where neglected.
“Being an avid fisherman, that is something I believed needed drastic improvement,” Hayes said. “So, along with my fellow commissioners Mike Chase and Johnny Fred Coleman, we set out to make Tennessee fish hatcheries some of the bast in the country and during that time we have appropriated over $5 million for fisheries.”
At the commission’s February meeting, TWRA fisheries division chief Bobby Wilson reported that early production of warm-water fingerlings has increased by about two million as a result of improvements made since 2005.
“I believe that we have made a lasting impact that will make Tennessee a premier fishing destination for years to come,” Hayes said.
Also on Hayes’ list of achievements as a member of the TWRC, he cited the state’s acquisition of the Hamilton property on the south shore of Reelfoot Lake. That property has been turned over to the TWRA, which is working with the University of Tennessee at Martin to establish a wildlife biological learning center.
“During my six years on the commission, I have worked with some great people across the state, from fellow commissioners to the TWRA agents out in the field, and the one thing that has impressed me the most is their passion for the wildlife in our state,” Hayes said.
“It has been one of the proudest moments in my life to serve this area on the commission, and I leave there knowing that I did everything I could to enhance the fishing and hunting at Reelfoot Lake and also across this great state.”
At the TWRC’s Feb. 24 meeting, Hayes was honored as one of three outgoing commissioners.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 3.7.11