Tennessee Wilderness Act should be passed

Johnson City Press
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Scotty Bowman

JOHNSON CITY – I am writing this letter to show my support for Sen. Lamar Alexander’s Tennessee Wilderness Act 2013(S. 1294).

The Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2013 would create the state’s first new wilderness area in decades, expand five current wilderness areas and permanently protect some 20,000 acres of Cherokee National Forest, the Act will add acreage to the Sampson Mountain Wilderness in Washington and Unicoi Counties and to the Big Laurel Branch Wilderness in Washington and Carter Counties next to Watauga Lake. The proposed additions set forth in the Tennessee Wilderness Act are already being managed as Wilderness and are recommended for Wilderness designation by USFS since 2004 per the Cherokee National Forest Plan.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964, enacted by congress and signed by President Johnson in September of that year. These areas provide habitat for fish and wildlife and protect sources of clean drinking water for local communities. As our population grows, we need to act to ensure that the ecosystem services and recreational amenities that the Cherokee National Forest provides are sustained and protected. The Tennessee Wilderness Act is a great piece of legislation that will protect some of East Tennessee’s wildest places. Places available for hiking, hunting, fishing, paddling, horseback riding, and hiking.

I grew up surrounded by the mountains of Northeast Tennessee where as a young boy I spent many hours of my free time roaming and exploring the awesome beauty of our mountainous region. As a resident of Johnson City, I feel that it is important to protect these areas for future generations to provide them with the same opportunities I had growing up in Northeast Tennessee. So I say, let’s protect these areas and pass the Tennessee Wilderness Act 2013 (S. 1294).