Victory for Wilderness in Tennessee!

Congress passes the Tennessee Wilderness Act; bill heads to president’s desk

Chattanooga, TN (December 12,2018) – Today’s passage of the Tennessee Wilderness Act (S. 973/H.R. 2218), decades in the making, is hailed by a longstanding, diverse coalition of hunters, anglers, business owners, faith leaders, outdoor recreationists, local lawmakers, and conservationists. The Act’s sponsors – Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and Representative Phil Roe – have been outspoken advocates for protecting Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest. The legislation will designate the first new wilderness for Tennessee in 30 years, preserving some of the world’s most biologically diverse temperate forest and extensive stands of old-growth hardwood.

The legislation would safeguard nearly 20,000 acres of public land in the 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. All these places were recommended for wilderness designation in the U.S. Forest Service’s 2004 management plan.

Being a Christian means that we take care of all of God’s creations, and that includes our public lands and all that call it home,” said Jeff Wadley, a pastor in Kingsport. “And for me, nature is a place to feel closer to God and the miracle of life. Having this valuable resource forever protected is a Christmas gift that we should all celebrate.”

People come from near and far to hike, camp, climb, horseback ride, hunt, fish, and paddle in the Cherokee National Forest. In fact, 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. It would also preserve clean water prized by anglers and paddlers. The legislation will safeguard the headwaters of the Bald River, which ultimately reaches the Tennessee River and provides clean drinking water to many communities downstream.

“Tennessee is blessed to have such spectacular public lands, and local businesses such as ours depend on people who enjoy getting out and hiking, climbing, paddling, and fishing in our great outdoors,” said Ed McAlister, owner, Riversports Outfitters. “I see the direct benefit wilderness provides to the local economy and the positive impact it has on our way of life. It is important that our elected officials understand the economic importance of conservation, and I am thankful that our Congress does. I appreciate our Senators Alexander and Corker and Congressman Roe for preserving these special places.”

The areas within the Tennessee Wilderness Act are home to brook trout, white tailed deer, black bear, bobcat, turkey, and hundreds of additional species of animals and native plants. The legislation will also preserve a critical wildlife corridor for Black Bear, birds, and other species between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and areas within the proposal.

“As a child, my parents would drive us up to Bald River Falls and we would play in the clean, clear waters,” said David Barto, Collegedale Tomorrow Foundation Director. “Fast forward thirty years, and my family goes there every chance we get. And when we go, we leave an economic impact on Monroe County and Tellico Plains because we buy gas, food, and shop for crafts. Thank you to the Senators and Congressmen who voted for this great achievement, and I am glad it will be there for future generations to enjoy.”

After years of enthusiastic, bipartisan support from around the state, the bill now heads to the President’s desk.

Jerry Greer, an Army Veteran from Johnson City said, “As a veteran, there is no place I would rather be than in the Cherokee National Forest. America’s great outdoors are one reason why we fight for our country, and protecting our public lands is one of the most democratic things we can do. I want to thank the United States Congress for following the lead of Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and Congressman Phil Roe and passing this important legislation.”

B-Roll of the areas can be used here: