Letter: Wilderness Act would honor Baker

Knoxville News Sentinel
July 30, 2014
Letter to the Editor by Jimmy Groton

The death of former Tennessee Sen. Howard Baker Jr. has been felt across the nation and here at home. Baker was nationally recognized for his bipartisanship — something rare in Washington these days — and he worked on issues ranging from foreign relations to conservation.

Here at home, one of Baker’s great accomplishments was his work to create our beloved Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. This 125,000-acre area was protected by people from many different walks of life coming together to preserve one of America’s great outdoor treasures.

There is a similar proposal now in Congress to provide long-term protection to several areas of the Cherokee National Forest as wilderness. The Tennessee Wilderness Act, introduced by U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee, is created in the same spirit of the Big South Fork. It has the unequivocal support of Republicans and Democrats, hunters and anglers, faith leaders, conservationists, local businesses and leaders from the surrounding communities.

The act would protect a wildlife and recreation haven in Eastern Tennessee. People come from near and far to hunt, fish, hike, paddle, swim, camp, climb and ride horses in the Cherokee National Forest. The area also provides clean drinking water to surrounding communities.

In September we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and what better way to honor that great law and the memory of Baker than enacting the Tennessee Wilderness Act? I urge Congress to pass the bipartisan Tennessee Wilderness Act this year.

Jimmy Groton, Oak Ridge