A Tennessee Bill That Creates The Ability To Keep Information On Those Who Use State Parks And Collect Fees For What Is Being Referred To As “High Impact” Activities, Has Raised Some Concerns Among Republican Lawmakers.Image Credit: tnstateparks.com
The Tennessee Conservative [By Kelly M. Jackson] –
Last week, a bill (characterized as administrative) that is making adjustments in authority in order to create the ability to keep new information on those who use the state parks, and then also collect fees for what is being referred to as “high impact” activities that cause damage, has raised some concerns among Republican lawmakers.
House Bill 1674 (HB1674) states, “Forests and Forest Products – As introduced, authorizes the commissioner of agriculture and the state forester to promulgate rules for purposes of managing state forests; authorizes the commissioner and state forester to request assistance from law enforcement agencies for enforcement of provisions related to state forests; creates the Tennessee State Forest Resources Fund; makes additional changes related to the management of state forests. – Amends TCA Title 11, Chapter 4, Part 3 and Section 11-4-409.”
The bill is being carried by Representative William Lamberth (R-D44-Portland) on the House side and by Senator Jack Johnson (R-D27-Franklin) in the state senate as Senate Bill 2069.
The bill was presented before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and presented by Representative Dave Wright (R-D19-Corryton).
The primary concerns about the bill surround several aspects of the bill, where some lawmakers took issue with the tone of the language, and the possible infringements of personal liberty.
The first issue has to do with the creation of the Tennessee State Forest Fund, which critics have asserted was created for the purpose to accept federal matching funds from programs such as the Forest Legacy Program.
Money earmarked for the federal Forest Legacy Program is specifically for conservation easements and land purchases.
A conservation land easement, is a legal agreement where private landowners sign a personalized, voluntary legal agreement, known as a conservation easement. A conservation easement permanently limits how the land can be used in order to protect its conservation values. As the holder of the easement, the role is to ensure that the agreement is upheld forever.
Sounds fine, so long as the rules that were provided to the landowner that they agreed to don’t change over time.
The concern is that the funds from the federal government could come from the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, which if that be the case, could have devastating consequences for the state of Tennessee.
According to a briefing provided by a grassroots organization called American Stewards of Liberty, The Biden Administration is seeking to permanently “protect” 30 percent of the United States’ land and oceans by 2030.
This is seeking to be accomplished through the 30×30 program initiated on January 27, 2021, by Presidential Executive Order #14008.
It is being implemented on private lands by encouraging landowners to enroll in conservation programs they already trust and utilize, through conservation easements in perpetuity, and through direct federal acquisition.
In August of 2022 the Inflation Reduction Act authorized an additional 20 billion dollars for conservation programs.
However, with these same programs potentially being funded under the IRA, the goals have shifted and moves the programs away from helping facilitate agriculture viability to increase human flourishing.
According to the brief, under the IRA, funding for the programs are now designed to attain a political goal of controlling agriculture production, driven by a belief that agriculture is causing a climate crisis.
This type of funding, being created by HB1674, is key in driving these progressive programs, regardless of whether lawmakers who assist in it are aware of it or not.
Another issue of concern is civil penalties for violations, which appear to have been borrowed by the federal Endangered Species Act of 1985. Anyone who intentionally removes or destroys an “endangered” species, can be fined up to $10,000 per day for each day which the act has been determined to occur.
There are no specific elements included in the bill that demonstrate due process should there be actions filed against a citizen.
Finally, the most concerning provision for those on the committee was the provision to enlist assistance from “law enforcement authorities”.
There are questions as to whom these agencies will be, and whether the state will be given the ability to pick and choose which law enforcement authority it wants to use carry out the provisions.
According to the state constitution, the County Sherriff is the highest law enforcement authority in the county. This provision, if not clarified, could diminish the local Sheriff’s authority and the equal protection it provides to the people.
Lending to the concern is the newly appointed State Forester, Heather Slayton.
While seemingly very qualified, there are concerns around her affiliation with organizations that have a very progressive focus on climate change.
Slayton is the current policy chair for the Society of American Foresters for the Tennessee and Kentucky chapter.
On their website, in their position statements on forest management they state:
“Successfully adapting our forests and forest management practices to climate change will require explicit and long-term investments in research, education and outreach to aid in management for these changes. This includes direct monetary support to private landowners and public agencies to explore and implement the technologies and practices that can be used to mitigate carbon emissions and adapt to changing climate conditions, and associated assistance programs for local communities to implement the necessary changes.”
The Tennessee Conservative reached out to the bill’s primary critic on the committee, Representative Bryan Richey (R-D20-Maryville) for comment.
He said, “This is a bad bill! This legislation sailed through subcommittee with no concerns and in full ag committee they shared ‘it still has to go through Gov Ops’. This should have never made it out of our subcommittee under its current form.”
At the request of several lawmakers on the committee, the bill was rolled for one week, and will be revisited on 2/14. For anyone that wishes to share their concerns with their legislator, you can find them and their contact information, here.
About the Author: Kelly Jackson is a recent escapee from corporate America, and a California refugee to Tennessee. Christ follower, Wife and Mom of three amazing teenagers. She has a BA in Comm from Point Loma Nazarene University, and has a background in law enforcement and human resources. Since the summer of 2020, she has spent any and all free time in the trenches with local grassroots orgs, including Mom’s for Liberty Williamson County and Tennessee Stands as a core member. Outspoken advocate for parents rights, medical freedom, and individual liberty. Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.