Passage of Wilderness Act is Key to our Area

JOHNSON CITY PRESS
Johnson City, Tennessee

February 26th, 2015

Legislation to designate additional acreage in the Cherokee National Forest as wilderness areas is still making its way through Congress. And as Press staff writer Tony Casey reported earlier this week, local conservationists are urging area residents to let U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, and others in Washington know how important passage of this measure is to our region.

Tennessee’s own U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker are sponsoring the Tennessee Wilderness Act, which will expand the protected acreage of the Sampson Mountain Wilderness Area in Washington and Unicoi Counties by 2,922 acres, as well as the Big Laurel Branch preserve in Carter and Johnson counties by 4,446 acres. Passage of the bill, which has previously failed to get to the Senate floor for a vote, represents the first expansion of Tennessee’s wilderness land in 25 years.

“I grew up hiking the mountains of East Tennessee, and conserving these areas gives future generations of Tennesseans the same sort of opportunity,” Alexander said recently. “This legislation takes important steps toward protecting our natural heritage, and gives the millions of people who visit Tennessee each year an additional reason to come and enjoy our outdoors.”

When the Wilderness Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Sept. 3, 1964, it was praised for the way it defined wilderness lands in the United States. Specifically, the act states: “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

The acreage identified in the Tennessee Wilderness Act is already part of the Cherokee National Forest, which means there is no need for federal funds to purchase these lands. But Congress must take action to make this wilderness designation permanent.

Passage of the Tennessee Wilderness Act is a “win-win” for every Tennessean who loves nature and wants to see it preserved for future generations to enjoy. Contact Roe’s office today an let him know how ket the Tennessee Wilderness Act is to our area. He can be reached in Washington at (202) 225-6356, or by email by going to his website, roe.house.gov.

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