Tennessee's wilderness takes critical step toward protection
April 8, 2014
Press release from Tennessee Wild:
Local community cheers Senators and urges for House introduction
Chattanooga, TN (April 8, 2014) –Senate Committee passage of the Tennessee Wilderness Act (S. 1294) was applauded today by a diverse coalition of hunters, anglers, business owners, faith leaders, outdoor recreationists, and conservationists. Members of the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee approved the bill and sent it to the Senate floor. The Act’s sponsor, Sen. Lamar Alexander, testified in favor of the legislation. It is co-sponsored by Sen. Bob Corker, and was first introduced in 2010 during the 111th Congress. The measure could result in the first new wilderness for Tennessee in 25 years.
“We applaud the Senators for their continued commitment to safeguard Tennessee’s wilderness,” said Sandra Goss, a member of the Tennessee Wild Coalition. “People from both sides of the political aisle and all walks of life support preserving East Tennessee’s wilderness for future generations to enjoy. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and we urge Congress to protect our wild areas in Cherokee National Forest.”
The Tennessee Wilderness Act will safeguard nearly 20,000 acres of public land, expanding five existing wilderness areas and creating the new Upper Bald River Wilderness Area. All of these areas were recommended for wilderness designation in the U.S. Forest Service’s 2004 management plan. Widespread support for the conservation bill includes endorsements from hikers, hunters, business owners, local lawmakers, members of the faith community, and others.
“My business depends on the people who enjoy getting out and hiking, climbing, paddling, and fishing and hunting in our great outdoors,” said Dawson Wheeler, owner of Rock/Creek Outfitters in Chattanooga and Ocoee. “I see the direct benefit wilderness provides to the local economy and the positive impact it has on our way of life. It is important that our elected officials understand the economic importance of conservation, and I am thankful that our Senators do.”
The Tennessee Wilderness Act would safeguard clean drinking water for surrounding communities. It would also preserve important wildlife habitat for brook trout, black bear, bobcat, white-tailed deer, and many other species. Hiking is very popular in the proposed areas, and the bill includes parts of the historic Appalachian and Benton MacKaye trails.
“The Tennessee Wilderness Act is a win-win for Tennessee,” said local entrepreneurand outdoorsman David Barto. “My family business is thriving because people recognize that Eastern Tennessee is a beautiful place to live. When not working, I like to go and enjoy the peace and quiet of the Cherokee National Forest. I want to thank Senators Alexander and Corker for their leadership, and urge our Tennessee delegation to support this legislation.”
Outdoor recreation is a booming industry in Tennessee. It generates $8.2 billion in consumer spending annually and supports 83,000 jobs, and the Cherokee National Forest is a vital part of that economic engine. Preserving 19,556 acres of the forest as wilderness will enhance the state's reputation as a premier outdoor recreation destination.
The Tennessee Wilderness Act now awaits a floor vote in the full U.S. Senate and introduction in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Tennessee Wild is dedicated to protecting wilderness on the Cherokee National Forest for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations. We aim to educate the public about the benefits of wilderness and promote volunteerism and the sound stewardship of Tennessee's wild place.http://tnwild.org/