Tennessee Wildlife Action Plan

By the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) used the opportunity of developing the state’s wildlife action plan to undertake the most comprehensive analysis of the state’s conservation needs to date. The plan was produced primarily with assistance from The Nature Conservancy and from other partners such as the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, Tennessee Ornithological Society, World Wildlife Fund, and other state and federal agencies.

Tennessee’s Wildlife Action Plan utilizes species occurrences coupled with information about rarity, viability, mobility, and habitat preference to evaluate units of habitat across the state. By utilizing GIS technology, species and habitat information is available for analysis at multiple geographic scales.  

Wildlife Highlights

Over 300 species of birds utilize habitats within Tennessee. Tennessee is home to 77 amphibians (frogs, toads and salamanders); the Appalachian Mountains are considered the world’s epicenter of lungless salamander diversity. Furthermore, 55 reptiles (snakes lizards and turtles) and 77 mammals, including 12 species of bats, inhabit Tennessee. The diversity of aquatic habitats supports an unparalleled array of aquatic species. Seventy-six species of crayfish, 99 species of aquatic snails, 130 species of freshwater mussels and over 325 species of fish all call Tennessee home.

Primary Challenges to Conserving Wildlife in Tennessee

A total of 37 potential sources of stress were identified as affecting Greatest Conservation Need (GCN) species and habitats. Incompatible land use and development were consistently identified as major sources of stress to GCN species. Additionally, the lack of distributional data for many of the GCN species is a substantial impediment to fully utilizing the tools developed within the Wildlife Action Plan.

Incompatible land use practices often result in erosion and loss of land, water quality degradation, and loss of terrestrial and aquatic habitat. In many instances the landowner is unaware of solutions, or unable to implement best management practices. Technical advice and assistance must be provided to meet the needs of private landowners.  

Tennessee’s human population is projected to grow by 1.5 million people by the year 2025. This projected growth will require communities to plan for and meet the needs of its citizens while conserving and managing the land, water and wildlife resources that enhance the quality of life within and near those same communities.

Tennessee’s Wildlife Action Plan provides a GIS model that evaluates priorities for wildlife and habitats. It is essential for species distributional data and land cover information to be maintained and updated in order to fully utilize the model’s ability to evaluate habitat.

Working Together for Tennessee’s Wildlife

In developing its plan, TWRA actively solicited input from a broad array of federal and state agencies, interest groups, and the public.  A Steering Committee was established with representatives from agencies and non-governmental organizations that were considered to be important stakeholders for wildlife conservation in Tennessee. The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund, both internationally known for their roles in wildlife and habitat conservation, were represented on the Steering Committee, as were the Tennessee Ornithological Society and the Tennessee Wildlife Federation. The Steering Committee held four meetings during the course of the planning effort to provide guidance and oversight to development of the Wildlife Action Plan.

Four additional partner meetings were held across the state. Attending these meetings were representatives of five federal agencies, two additional state departments, two state universities, and ten nongovernmental organizations. Nongovernmental representatives attending ranged from the League of Women Voters to Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning to individuals involved in wildlife rehabilitation.

TWRA also established an informational web site and questionnaire about the planning process. To promote the website, 8,500 informational cards were mailed to hunting and fishing license agents asking that the cards be provided to the public. Numerous public presentations, and magazine and newspaper articles were produced that reached circulations across the state. TWRA also produced two segments on its television show, “Tennessee Wildside.” Finally, four mid-week, evening public meetings were held across the state which included a Wildlife Action Plan presentation and a question and answer session.


The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies represents all of North America’s fish and wildlife agencies, promotes sound management and conservation, and speaks with a unified voice on important fish and wildlife issues.

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