Unauthorized hunting at landfill?

Jeremy Nash News-Herald.net
The Loudon County Solid Waste Disposal Commission will look to resolve an issue at the January meeting after members recently became aware of unauthorized hunting on private property, a move that was granted by Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw.
The property is adjacent to Matlock Bend Landfill and is one of three parcels in a 100-acre tract that the solid waste board purchased about five years ago, board member Robert Harrison said.
Bradshaw said he made the decision to allow a Loudon resident to hunt on the property in an effort to reduce deer and vehicle collisions along Highway 72 from the interstate exit heading toward Matlock Bend Landfill, which he said has been a “big-time” issue in the past.
“That’s a dangerous stretch when you start right there from the interstate all the way down really into Paint Rock, in that area, really,” Bradshaw said. “There’s a lot of deer right in there. That particular stretch is a straightaway, so people will tend to open it up a little bit right there and makes it a little bit more dangerous.”
In a follow-up interview, Bradshaw said he did not know the hunter on a personal level.
“I’ve known him for years,” Bradshaw said. “He’s an acquaintance. I know who he is. As far as being a close friend, not necessarily. He’s accused of being a cronie. ... That’s just not true.”
According to Tennessee Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Lt. Bill Miller, 6,235 deer and vehicle collisions have occurred this year in the state. Of that number, 117 collisions took place in Loudon County, he said.
“So I think this is a good opportunity to, like I said, maybe reduce a few numbers right in that area because there is just a — I mean they’re all over the place down there,” Bradshaw said.
The landfill property is not owned by the county and is the responsibility of the Solid Waste Disposal Commission through an agreement to maintain the “assets associated with the landfill, and county officials invariably get confused over this,” Harrison said.
“So, I mean the issue is it’s not within the mayor’s purview to grant that permission or privilege to an individual to hunt on property that the Loudon County Solid Waste Disposal Commission owns and is responsible for,” Harrison said. “And there’s several of us that are concerned about liability issues arising from having hunting on the property. And there’s several of us that believe that the county has overreached by granting permission to hunt on that property that the county doesn’t even own or is responsible for managing.”
Solid Waste Disposal Commission Chairman Steve Field said Bradshaw made Field aware of the issue about two weeks ago. Further discussion was tabled for the January meeting because “we have a lot of new board members” and hunting season would be over by then, he said.
Matthew Cameron, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency Region 4 information and education coordinator, said hunting season runs Sept. 26-Jan. 10.
Harrison said his feelings on Bradshaw’s decision “shouldn’t be construed as a personal thing.”
“The commission may decide to give Buddy Bradshaw the power to manage the property,” Harrison said. “The commission may decide to continue our policy against any hunting on the property. But right now everybody on the commission knows that the hunting is going on, and I think it’s a wink and a nod to the mayor.”
Only owners can grant permission to hunt on a specific property, Cameron said.
Field said the solid waste board will “probably end up working with TWRA going forward to enforce whatever it is the board comes up with. And I’m assuming — and this is an assumption on my part — is that the board is probably going to reiterate their position they had last time we discussed the issue was to not allow hunting.”
This isn’t the first time the solid waste board has had to deal with a private property dispute. According to the solid waste board minutes from Dec. 11, 2012, the board agreed to allow officials with consulting firm Brown and Caldwell to walk the property and propose a signage plan to prevent people from getting to the land.
Field said all-terrain vehicle traffic and hunting traffic has been an issue in the past, of which the board was made aware by former board member Ted Sitzlar. He said the board considered leasing out the property, but members were hesitant about such a move because of liability concerns.
“So basically the board took the position that we didn’t want to encourage any hunting and went to the effort of trying to block some of the four-wheel trails going in and also making sure we have a bunch of ‘No Trespassing’ signs put up,” Field said.
Bradshaw said he planned to be present at the solid waste board meeting in January.
“If they ask me to — as a group — ask me to rescind that, I don’t have a bit of problem with it,” Bradshaw said. “I don’t think the gentleman that’s doing the hunting will either. To me it’s no harm or no foul. It was just an opportunity that presented itself, and I took advantage of it.”
The Loudon man has a track record of “playing by the rules,” Bradshaw said in the follow-up interview.
“When you give somebody permission, that keeps the poachers out, that keeps somebody from sneaking in,” Bradshaw said.
Regardless of the solid waste board’s decision, Field said he plans to remind board members that deer and vehicle collisions remain a problem on Highway 72.
“That is clearly an issue that I think the board needs to consider when they’re making the decision to not allow hunting is the fact that when you do that and you create kind of a safe haven for the deer, then you end up having a lot more vehicle-deer encounters,” Field said. “I guarantee you that will happen. That’s one of the points I want to make sure the board considers as they’re making whatever decision it is that they’re making.
“... I think part of what we need to do is whatever decision the board makes, we need to make sure it becomes more of an official policy, and that policy gets distributed amongst folks,” he said.