Letter to congressional leaders urges more protections for key wild places
Tellico Plains, Tenn. (November 12, 2018) – On November 11, over 200 former service members from across the country, including Tennessee, celebrated Veterans Day and their personal connections to America’s public lands by delivering a letter to Members of Congress urging them to pass legislation that would conserve important lands and waters. The letter comes as lawmakers return to Washington for the final weeks of the 115th Congress.
The letter states,
“As you know, many of us who have served, face a new set of challenges when we come home. Time spent in solitude or with family and friends in wilderness and on wild and scenic rivers is invaluable as we strive to leave the battlefield behind and train our eyes forward. These protected public lands and rivers offer a chance to heal from the stresses of service, reconnect with loved ones, and reintegrate into civilian life.”
The Tennessee Wilderness Act is one of the bills the veterans are advocating for. It would be the first new wilderness for Tennessee in over 30 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. 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.
“Our country enjoys some of the most outstanding natural treasures in the world, and our conservation ethic is an idea that is as extraordinary as it is American, said Carl Rountree a veteran from Roan Mountain. “Tennessee’s lands and waters — and the democratic process by which we preserve them — are truly unique, and certainly worth fighting for. I want to thank Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and Congressman Phil Roe for standing with veterans in working for over a decade to pass the Tennessee Wilderness Act. Future generations will thank you for it.”
In addition to a slice of the Cherokee National Forest, the nine bills would preserve the lush, green forests of Arkansas, Utah’s awe-inspiring slot canyons, California’s vast Mojave Desert, and more. In total, the measures would permanently protect 1.3 million acres of wilderness, 395 miles of Wild & Scenic River, and 713,000 acres with other conservation designations.
Protected public lands are critically important to returning service members and their families. Back home from deployments, many veterans look to Tennessee’s mountains, rivers, and forests in search of peace, strength, and resilience. They find camaraderie with fellow veterans and a quiet place to reconnect with family and friends on public lands. Opportunities for hiking, camping, rafting, hunting, and fishing prove America’s public lands are a priceless asset for our country’s veterans.
The veterans conclude with a request of lawmakers:
“In the final days of the 115th Congress, we ask that you join our efforts to protect our country’s wildest places and preserve opportunities for veterans and all Americans to find solitude, hunt, recreate, and bond with their families on our protected public lands and waters. Generations to come will thank you for wisdom, courage, and effort in this moment.”
To view the letter and signers, please visit: https://www.pewtrusts.org/research-and-analysis/articles/2018/11/12/veterans-urge-congress-to-pass-wilderness-bills-this-year