Tennessee Wilderness Act reintroduced in Congress

Local community applauds reintroduction and urges House companion legislation

Chattanooga, TN (Month 17, 2014) – A diverse coalition of hunters, anglers, business owners, faith leaders, outdoor recreationists, local lawmakers, and conservationists commended the reintroduction today of the Tennessee Wilderness Act. The bill’s sponsors, Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, have introduced legislation to safeguard roughly 20,000 acres of the Cherokee National Forest as wilderness four times since 2010.

The legislation would result in the first new wilderness for Tennessee in over 25 years, preserving critical wildlife habitat, outstanding land and water recreational opportunities, and clean drinking water essential to nearby communities. The Cherokee National Forest has long been popular with hikers, campers, hunters, anglers, horseback riders, paddlers, swimmers, and rafters. All of these activities will continue upon the passage of the Tennessee Wilderness Act.

“I have been coming to the Cherokee National Forest to hunt and fish with my grandfather since I was a kid,” said John Champion, a life-long Tennessee sportsman. “Passing the Tennessee Wilderness Act will preserve hunters’ and anglers’ time-tested traditions for generations to come. I want to thank Senators Alexander and Corker for doing what’s best for Tennessee’s heritage.”

The act would permanently protect premier hiking spots like 4.5 miles of the Appalachian Trail and nearly 15 miles of the Benton MacKaye Trail. Outdoor recreation is big business in Tennessee. It generates $8.2 billion in consumer spending each year and supports 83,000 direct jobs across the state.

Dawson Wheeler, co-owner of Rock/Creek Outfitters said, “Senators Alexander and Corker and have shown that they want to invest in local businesses by introducing the Tennessee Wilderness Act. The Cherokee National Forest is our natural capital, and protecting Tennessee’s big back yard makes economic sense. I urge the House of Representatives to take up and pass this legislation today.”

The Tennessee Wilderness Act will safeguard nearly 20,000 acres of public land—home to brook trout, black bear, bobcat, and white-tail deer, in addition to many migratory birds. It expands the Joyce Kilmer Slickrock, Big Frog, Little Frog, Big Laurel Branch, and Sampson Mountain wilderness areas, and creates the new 9,000-acre Upper Bald River Wilderness Area. All of these places were recommended for wilderness designation in the U.S. Forest Service’s 2004 management plan.
“If we love the creator, we must be good stewards of the creation,” said Jeff Wadley, a pastor in Maryville. “God has given us a public trust, and now we must take care of it. Passing the Tennessee Wilderness Act is a way to ensure that we are leaving a natural legacy to future generations.”

After years of enthusiastic, bipartisan support from around the state, the Tennessee Wild Coalition is hopeful that U.S. House of Representatives will introduce companion legislation soon.

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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/