Tennessee boaters have until July 1 to renew their boat registration before the first fee increase in 12 years goes into effect, pending approval by the Government Operations Committee of the Tennessee General Assembly. Any boating vessel operated by a gas engine, electric motor or sail is required to be registered. The increase is in line with the rise of the consumer price index since the last fee increase was made.

The current fee for a boat up to 16 feet is $13 for one year, $24 for two and $35 for three; the new fees will be $15, $28 and $41 respectively. Vessels up to 26 feet will increase from $25 to $29 for a year. Those up to 40 feet increase from $38 to $44 and vessels more than 40 feet move from $51 to $59 for a year.

Boat owners have the option to have their vessels registered for one, two, or three years. The registration term may not exceed three years and 30 days. Boat owners will not see the increase until their current registration expires. Vessels that are powered only by paddle such as canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, and rafts are not required to be registered. Tennessee has about 264,000 vessels registered.

Boat registration can be done online at any time at GoOutdoorsTennessee.com, by mail or at Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency regional offices.

Forewarned is forearmed: Be advised that on the weekend of June 28-30 the TWRA will be participating in Operation Dry Water. Nationally, the weekend before the Fourth of July is used by law enforcement agencies to focus boaters’ attention on Boating Under the Influence (BUI) education and enforcement. The intention is to reduce alcohol and drug-related accidents and fatalities on the water.

TWRA boating officers will saturate high traffic areas on reservoirs across the state. Along with promoting life jackets and other safety practices, officers want boaters to be aware of the enhanced effects of alcohol use on the water. Sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion intensify the effects of alcohol, drugs and some medications.

Operating a boat with a Blood Alcohol Content of .08 percent or higher is illegal in Tennessee, the same as operating a motor vehicle. U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that 15 percent of boating-related fatalities are a result of alcohol use. Keep your pilot dry. Visit www.operationdrywater.org.

QUOTAS: It is time to file for your quota hunts. With the reorganization of the big game units, there are no longer non-quota antlerless deer hunts by county; but there are still big game quota hunts. See the layout of the new units L, A, B, C, and D (and Unit CWD) in the Hunting section at the TWRA website, www.tnwildlife.org.

The big game quota hunts on the wildlife management areas for deer — antlered and antlerless — and elk are still offered. Applications for the 2019 season are available beginning June 19 at license agencies and online. The filing period runs through July 24. The quota deer hunts and the 15 elk hunts for firearms, archery and one youth are all chosen in this computer drawing.

There are two ways to file your quota application. Fill out the form but do not mail it in. Take it to a license agency and they will collect the $12 permit fee for each application, plus a $1 agent’s fee; or, file online and pay a $12 permit fee plus a $2 Internet agent’s fee.

There are no permit fees charged — by either online or agent — to Sportsman or Lifetime licenses, or seniors with license Type 167. The TWRA does not get the agents’ fees, just the permit fees.

The priority system is in effect for previously unsuccessful applicants for deer and elk. Make sure that all instructions are followed carefully. The earlier you file, the more likely a filing mistake can be detected and corrected; so, don’t put it off.

BURN LOCAL: Do not travel with firewood! Forestry biologists are battling the spread of myriad tree diseases and infestations, but the fight is hopeless without the public’s help. No longer merely wind borne, these pests travel the highways at the speed limit. To help the most, burn local wood, either gathered there or purchased there. If you have moved firewood, burn it all up, especially the bark.

Tennessee has its share of infestations that can be spread by moving firewood, including the pine beetle, emerald ash borer (all ash trees), wooly adelgid (hemlocks), Asian longhorn beetle, and the Sirex woodwasp. Our black walnut trees are succumbing to the “thousand cankers disease” (called TCD). TCD is a fungus spread by the walnut twig beetle.

How far is too far to move firewood? What kinds are safe to move (None)? Get more information at www.dontmovefirewood.org; also, there is the USFS website at www.na.fs.fed.us. Be proactive. Inspect your own trees for diseases. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has a website and phone number to help you, www.protecttnforests.org and 800-628-2631.

Email wiest.tom@gmail.com to share your news with Tom Wiest.

Tom Wiest is a long time columnist on all matters outdoors. He welcomes news, questions and comments from readers.

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