U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Passes Tennessee Wilderness Act

Coalition calls on Congress to pass legislation this year

Little falls above the famous Bald River Falls-Bill and Laura Hodge

Chattanooga, TN (November 9, 2017) – The Tennessee Wild Coalition today applauded the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry for passing the Tennessee Wilderness Act (S. 973). The legislation, originally introduced by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Bob Corker (R-TN), and was incorporated into Senator Pat Roberts’s (R-KS) Federal Land Management Act of 2017 (S. 2099). A similar version was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN).

The Tennessee Wilderness Act is supported by a diverse coalition of hunters, anglers, business owners, faith leaders, outdoor recreationists, and conservationists. For decades, Tennesseans have been working with Senators Alexander and Corker to preserve a small portion of the Cherokee National Forest. The bill now awaits a vote on the Senate floor.

“Being a good steward of Cherokee National Forest means taking care of God’s creation for future generations,” said Mason Boring, who is involved with Young Life, an adolescent faith group. “For many in Tennessee and elsewhere, wilderness is a place where people draw close to God. I hope Congress follows Senators Alexander, Corker, and Roberts’ leads and passes the Tennessee Wilderness Act this year.”

The legislation would safeguard nearly 20,000 acres of public land in the 650,000-acre Cherokee National Forest. It would expand the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock, Big Frog, Little Frog Mountain, Big Laurel Branch, and Sampson Mountain wilderness areas, and create the new 9,000-acre Upper Bald River Wilderness Area.

The proposed areas are home to brook trout, white tailed deer, black bear, bobcat, turkey, and hundreds of additional species of animals and native plants.

Wilbert Griffith, a lifetime sportsman and trout fisherman said, “Hunting and fishing is part of who we are here in the Volunteer State, and it is important to preserve that heritage. Passing the Tennessee Wilderness Act would conserve critical wildlife habitat and migration areas. I want to thank Senators Alexander, Corker and Roberts for protecting our way of life. Now it is time for Congress to act.”

The proposal would protect an outdoor recreation haven boasting 4.5 miles of the Appalachian Trail, nearly 15 miles of the Benton MacKaye Trail, cold-water streams, and incredible wildlife. With the passage of the Tennessee Wilderness Act, access to the lands would not change, and land would remain open to hunting, fishing, horseback riding, hiking, camping, paddling, and other forms of recreation already allowed in the proposal areas.

Outdoor recreation is a critical part of Tennessee’s economy. The passage of the bill would only enhance the outdoor recreation economy, as it would show businesses that preservation is a sound investment. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the outdoor recreation industry generates $21.6 billion in consumer spending in Tennessee annually and creates 188,000 direct jobs in the state.

“We attribute much our success to the vibrancy of the outdoor experience. Knowing our elected officials appreciate the value of protected public lands, such as wilderness areas, brings us great peace in the future of our business. I thank Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker for their steadfast leadership on the Tennessee Wilderness Act and Senator Pat Roberts for helping this move to the Senate floor. Over his tenure, Senator Corker’s involvement for public lands continually benefits our business. Thank you all for your investment our future,” said Jonathan Scott, Rock/Creek Outfitters co-owner.