The Tennessee Wildlife Federation is getting serious about its commitment to the Chattanooga area and East Tennessee. The state's largest and most influential private conservation group has hired an East Tennessee development officer.
With TWF based in Nashville, many in the conservation community have long felt that other metro areas have gotten less attention than they deserve. The hiring of Cameron Mitchell in Chattanooga is intended to change that.
Mitchell is well-known in the Chattanooga conservation community. He has been an active volunteer with Ducks Unlimited, serving as that group's area chairman for two years and recognized as area Chairman of the Year in 2006. Mitchell was honored with the DU Distinguished Service Award in 2007 and went on to serve as the Tennessee state recruitment chairman until 2010. He is an avid hunter and fisherman.
"The Tennessee Wildlife Federation is a perfect fit," Mitchell said. "I couldn't be more excited."
As a development officer, Mitchell's goals are twofold. He is tasked with raising money for TWF, funded solely by donations or grants. At the same time, he's expected to further TWF's causes and programs in East Tennessee. Those programs include the Great Outdoors University, the Tennessee Scholastic Clay Target Program and Hunters for the Hungry.
Great Outdoors University
Mitchell seems especially enthusiastic about the Great Outdoors University, a program intended to provide unique outdoor experiences for inner-city kids who might otherwise never see a wild animal or catch a fish.
"Just imagine taking a youngster out who has never held a fishing rod, having that kid catch a fish and then cook it over a campfire and then eat it," Mitchell said. "This continuing program exposes youngsters to the outdoors in ways that will stay with them for the rest of their lives."
GOU began six years ago. It now provides outdoors experiences for 12,000 kids in Memphis and Nashville. Mitchell has high hopes of adding greatly to that number in Chattanooga.
TWF was once known as the Tennessee Conservation League, an organization whose roots go back to 1946, when it was officially founded during a meeting at Chattanooga's Read House. Their goal was "to establish new leadership [over natural resources agencies] uninfluenced by corrupt political control." Since that day, its volunteers and leaders have been instrumental in guiding and lobbying state government on matters involving our natural resources.
However, TCL fell on hard times in the early 2000s, and there were even questions about its continued existence. Executive Director Mike Butler came on board and was the organization's sole employee at one time. Backed by a hard-working host and influential volunteer board members, Butler single-handedly kept TCL alive and conducted a massive makeover, which included changing the name to the Tennessee Wildlife Federation.
With the hiring of Mitchell, TWF now employs a staff of 13 full- and part-time employees.
Now, Butler and his staff have a right arm that lives in Chattanooga and will be working every day for the TWF cause. Mitchell is quick to say he can't do it alone. Many of his early days on the job have been spent with current or potential donors, searching for volunteers and "picking the brains" of those who are also dedicated to the cause.
"Cameron has shown that he can engage others with his passion for the outdoors and make a big impact," said TWF Chief Development Officer Kendall McCarter. "The Tennessee Wildlife Federation was founded in Chattanooga more than 65 years ago, and we have a long history in East Tennessee. We're looking forward to Cameron introducing even more sportsmen and women to our work across the state."
If you'd like to help, Mitchell can be contacted at 423-827-3691 or via email.