AG CRIME UNIT STEPS UP CITATIONS FOR OFF-ROAD USERS IN AREAS OF STATE FORESTS

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s (TDA) Agricultural Crime Unit (ACU) is teaming up with the Division of Forestry (TDF) to elevate enforcement of state forest regulations.

The increased law enforcement activity centers around misuse by off-highway vehicle (OHV) and all-terrain vehicle (ATV) users in the state forests. A particular area of concern is land in and around Prentice Cooper State Forest in Chattanooga where destruction of roads and trails has been discovered by visitors, foresters, and ACU agents.

“When people harm our state forests, it affects visitors and nearby residents, the landscape, drinking water, and the overall health of the forest,” State Forester David Arnold said. “The damage we have seen takes years to reverse so our goal is to prevent it. Ag crime special agents are working with our foresters to protect state forests and to protect citizens’ right to enjoy Tennessee’s great outdoors.”

People using OHVs and ATVs for recreation in the state forests should look for the jeep symbol that indicates the road is open to motorized vehicles. A road use map for Prentice Cooper State Forest can be found here:  www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/agriculture/documents/forestry/stateforests/PrenticeCooperSF-road-map.pdf. Roads are open to all forest visitors including bicyclists and horseback riders. In the recent cases, people using recreational vehicles have damaged hiking trails so that the paths are unusable for other visitors.

“The type of damage we find in Prentice Cooper is preventable,” Captain Greg Whitehead said. “We urge people to be aware of what roads and trails are meant for OHV or ATV use. Ag crime agents are committed to working with visitors who treat the forest with care. But we also want people to know if we find visitors who are violating state forest rules, we will issue a citation which could result in fines and jail time.”

Information about regulations in Prentice Cooper State Forest can be found here:  www.tn.gov/agriculture/forests/state-forests/prentice-cooper.html.

Persons found using off-road vehicles in unauthorized areas of state forests may be charged with criminal trespass and/or vandalism. The offenses carry penalties as high as one year in jail and a $2,500 fine or the value of damages caused, whichever is greater.

The Agricultural Crime Unit is the law enforcement arm of TDA and is the chief agency responsible for investigation of suspected wildland arson. ACU also investigates and enforces state laws and regulations related to agriculture, forestry, animal health, and agribusinesses.

The Division of Forestry protects Tennessee’s forests by fighting wildfires, coordinating hazard emergency response, providing prescribed fire guidance and contract services, as well as wildland fire training. Additionally, the Division promotes the responsible use of forest resources by assisting landowners, providing quality seedlings, monitoring insects and diseases, improving urban forests, managing state forests, protecting water quality, and collecting forest inventory data. The Division also works to promote primary and secondary forest industries to stimulate the state’s economy.

About Brad Jones

Brad is the Owner/Operator of BBB TV 12, and has been with the company since August of 1996. Brad is a 1987 graduate of Coalfield High School and a 1995 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Communications. He won the 1995 broadcast production student of the year award. Brad worked at Shop at Home, Inc. a home shopping network that was located in Knoxville, TN from 1993 - 1995 and then at Via TV (RSTV, Inc.) from 1995 - 1996. After some freelance work in Nashville, Brad joined the BBB Communications staff in August of 1996. A short stint at WVLT TV as a news photographer was in 2001, but he continued to work at BBB TV as well. Brad is married to Nicole Jenkins Jones, a 1990 graduate of Oak Ridge High School, who works at Oak Ridge Gastroenterology and Associates in Oak Ridge. They have 3 kids, Trevor Bogard, 27, Chandler 22, and Naomi 13. On December 12, 2013 they welcomed their first grandchild, Carter Ryan Bogard. Brad is also the assistant boys basketball coach at Coalfield High School for the past 11 years. In 2013-14 the Yellow Jackets won their first district title since 1991 and just the 4th in school history.

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