Praise for Bills to Protect Tennessee’s Natural Heritage
Chattanooga, TN (April 27th, 2017) – Today, Tennessee Wild applauded Senator Lamar Alexander, Senator Bob Corker, and Congressman Phil Roe for reintroducing legislation to designate new wilderness areas on the Cherokee National Forest. The legislation would safeguard clean water, preserve critical wildlife habitat, and enhance northeast Tennessee’s economy. It is supported by a diverse coalition of sportsmen, small business owners, faith leaders, veterans, and others who love to explore Tennessee’s great outdoors.
The Senate bill, introduced by Senators Alexander and Corker, includes two expansions found in the First Congressional District, and also seeks additions to the Big Frog, Little Frog, and Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock wilderness areas, while creating a new 9,000-acre Upper Bald River Wilderness Area.
“I grew up hiking the mountains of East Tennessee and conserving some of the most beautiful areas in our state gives future generations of Tennesseans the same sort of opportunity,” Alexander said. “Tennessee is full of history, and this legislation would help protect our state’s heritage while giving the millions of people who visit the state every year an additional reason to come and enjoy the great outdoors.”
The proposal areas are well known for stunning mountain views, tumbling waterfalls, beautiful stands of rhododendron and laurel, wildflowers in bloom nearly year-round, and crystal clear streams teeming with brook, brown and rainbow trout. The area provides habitat to a variety of native species including white-tail deer, bobcat and many migratory birds.
Congressman Roe’s bill would safeguard nearly 7,500 acres in his district as wilderness. The expansion of the Sampson Mountain Wilderness located in Washington and Unicoi Counties, and Big Laurel Branch Wilderness in Carter and Johnson Counties, comes with the support of hikers, hunters, paddlers, anglers, faith organizations, and small businesses.
Specifically, the proposed addition to Sampson Mountain Wilderness, when combined with other nearby protected lands, provides a large conservation area where black bears thrive in greater numbers than any other area north of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
“Wilderness recreation is a very important part of our tourism economy,” said Kayla Carter, Tourism Coordinator for Carter County. “Outdoor enthusiasts come from all over to hike, fish, hunt, and paddle in our beautiful mountains, which brings year-round revenue to our communities. This bill helps protect the reasons they come to Carter County.”
Outdoor recreation is a cornerstone of the economy in urban cities like Chattanooga and Knoxville and is vital to nearby forest towns and communities. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation in Tennessee generates $8.2 billion in consumer spending and $2.5 billion in wages and salaries.
“Since our industry relies on public lands, permanent protection for land like those included in this bill has been proven to generate ongoing economic impact,” said Mark McKnight, Co-founder, and Chief Marketing Officer at Chattanooga-based Roots Rated Media. “In addition, nature doesn’t respond to partisanship or economic whims, and so won’t be diminished in the next economic downturn. It will always be there for us, if we simply commit to protect it forever.
This is the fifth time Senators Alexander and Corker have introduced the Tennessee Wilderness Act.
“It’s a Republican bill at a time when Republicans hold both chambers of Congress and the White House. There’s no such thing as a sure bet, but enactment of this bill should be a no-brainer,” added McKnight.