Tennessee Department of Natural Resources

In Tennessee, the Department of Environment and Conservation (“Department”) is the chief environmental and natural resource regulatory agency in Tennessee.  It protects and improves the quality of Tennessee’s land, air, water, and recreation resources.  It is also a diverse and dynamic department serving the state by:

  • Safeguarding the health and safety of Tennessee citizens from environmental hazards;
  • Protecting and improving the quality of Tennessee’s land, air, and water;
  • Managing the Tennessee State Parks system.


The Department has more than 3,000 employees working across Tennessee.  A wide spectrum of Department work supports greater sustainability through core activities that ensure compliance with environmental laws, rules, regulations, and mandates.  The Department also promotes corporate and personal actions beyond baseline requirements and regulations, including outreach, innovations, and best management practices.

The Department manages 53 state parks and 80 state natural areas encompassing more than 175,000 acres across Tennessee, ranging from rustic natural and historic sites to resort parks.  It also provides support and assistance to local governments for local parks and recreation programs.  It is also responsible for conserving and promoting the historical, natural, and archaeological heritage of Tennessee.

The Department establishes a Conservation Commission (“Commission”) consisting of 15 members[i].  The conservation Commission makes studies and recommendations concerning the conservation program and policies as it may deem appropriate to a sound conservation program.  However, the Commission functions in an advisory capacity only[ii].

The Department is under the charge and general supervision of the Commissioner of environment and conservation (“commissioner”), who has the same official status as other commissioners.  The commissioner is authorized to establish divisions, bureaus, or other organizational units necessary to carry out the duties imposed upon the commissioner and the Department.  Additionally, the commissioner is authorized to appoint such deputy and assistant commissioners as may be necessary to discharge the powers and duties of the Department[iii].  The commissioner is also authorized to delegate any of the powers, duties, responsibilities, or authority vested in the commissioner by the laws of the state of Tennessee.  The commissioner may adopt, promulgate, and enforce such rules and regulations necessary to carry out such commissioner’s duties and responsibilities.  The commissioner is also authorized to adopt, promulgate, and enforce rules and regulations establishing fees and charges for departmental services including, but not limited to, licenses, permits, or authorizations rendered pursuant to or required by any statute administered by the Department[iv].

The Department of Environment and Conservation

[i] Tenn. Code Ann. § 11-2-101.

[ii] Tenn. Code Ann. § 11-2-106.

[iii] Tenn. Code Ann. § 11-1-101.

[iv] Id.

Inside Tennessee Department of Natural Resources