Bill would add 20,000 acres to wilderness

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Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker on Wednesday introduced legislation that would add almost 20,000 acres of wilderness to the Cherokee National Forest across six East Tennessee counties.

The Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2010 would expand the amount of federally designated wilderness in the national forest to about 86,000 acres. The forest currently contains about 66,000 acres of wilderness, designated by Congress a quarter-century ago.

Wilderness protection is reserved for federal lands that rank high in scenery, biological diversity and recreational opportunities. Once added to the National Wilderness Preservation System, the areas are protected in perpetuity from logging, mining and road building but remain open to traditional recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, hiking and horseback riding on existing trails and roads.