Tennessee Leaders Highlight Opportunities Presented by America’s Great Outdoors Initiative

Aug 25, 2010

Conservation initiative should connect, protect and restore our treasured lands

(Nashville – August 25, 2010) The Obama administration’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative comes to Tennessee Friday August 27 in an effort to develop a conservation agenda for the 21st century. Conservation, recreation and business leaders across Tennessee are calling on citizens to speak-up and help shape the initiative aimed at getting kids outside and safeguarding our natural heritage.

The “listening session” will be held in Nashville on August 27, 10:00am at the Downtown Library. The public is encouraged to attend the sessions and to provide feedback at http://www.doi.gov/americasgreatoutdoors/.

“Our parks, forests, and public lands are what make Tennessee great,” said Kathleen Williams, President of the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation. “This initiative is a tremendous opportunity to address critical issues facing our natural treasures and take meaningful steps to restore and protect them.”

“Connecting people, especially children, to Tennessee’s great outdoors has long been a core goal of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, said Mike Butler, CEO of Tennessee Wildlife Federation. “ As an example, over the past four years the Federation’s Great Outdoors University program has reached over 7,000 economically disadvantaged children by outdoor experiences in Tennessee. We believe that exposing people to the wonders of Tennessee’s natural beauty can and does change lives for the better by improving body, mind and spirit.”

Earlier this month, Tennessee Senators Corker and Alexander introduced the Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2010, which could protect nearly 20,000 acres of wilderness in the Cherokee National Forest. The bipartisan, historic legislation was crafted by collaborative civilian and federal partnerships aiming to provide everlasting protection for eastern Tennessee’s land and wildlife.

“The Tennessee Wilderness Act is a model of local partnerships and bipartisan support that embodies all that America’s Great Outdoors has the potential to do,” said William H. Meadows, a native Tennessean and President of The Wilderness Society. “Protecting, connecting and restoring our lands and waters in Tennessee will enable people to enjoy their favorite outdoor activities.”

Full annual funding of at least $900 million for the Land & Water Conservation Fund is essential to preserve critical land and waters, natural, cultural, and historic resources in Tennessee.

“The knitting together of publicly and privately-protected lands is what makes Tennessee’s landscape so unique,” stated Jeanie Nelson, President and Executive Director of The Land Trust for Tennessee. “Adequate funding of tools available to private landowners- such as tax incentives for donated conservation easements and the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program are essential in building a strong network of privately protected lands. The ongoing protection of all types of land- from public recreation lands to our working farms- is critical to the future of our state.”

“Our membership unanimously endorses the full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, as well as adequate protections for our lands and waters.” Stated Sandra K. Goss, Executive Director of Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning. “Tennessee’s natural beauty is largely responsible for tourism, which is one of the biggest industries in the state. The natural treasures of our state must be looked after and treated well so they can sustain us for years to come.”

“Radnor Lake State Natural Area is an example of the needed and successful partnership among state, federal and local entities that come together to create such valued public lands in the midst of urban areas, said Emmie Thomas, director of Friends Of Radnor State Park. “Vision and funding from the LWCF helped to create what is today a 1200 acre haven for over 1,000,000 visitors a year in addition to the 240 species of birds- including the American Bald Eagles seen recently on the lake, and 400 varieties of wildflowers and plants.”

River protection and restoration is a focus in Tennessee and nationwide, because rivers provide fishing, paddling and other recreation for all ages. They connect our communities to parks and other natural treasures, and they give us clean water – the number one environmental concern among Americans.

“The new Harpeth River Blueway is great example of Tennessee’s leadership in the river trail, or blueway effort that is a terrific economic, cultural, and quality of life benefit to communities,” said Dorene Bolze, Executive Director of the Harpeth River Watershed Association. “The Obama administration can create a National Blueway Initiative to help everyone discover and steward our nation’s rivers and wetlands.”

"Protecting Tennessee's beautiful rivers and streams also protects our treasured landscapes by increasing awareness of impacts to our local streams,” added Renée Victoria Hoyos, Executive Director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network. “Our most favorite rivers are those that flow through our towns."

Conservation leaders in Tennessee are urging the administration to take this opportunity to strengthen the capacity for federal, regional, state, and local agencies and private landowners to work collaboratively in order to protect national parks, and also the wildlife, plants, and rivers beyond park borders.

"Tennessee is home to 14 national park sites, including three national and historic trails, the Natchez Trace Parkway, and the Tennessee Civil War Heritage Area.” said Emily Jones, Senior Program Manager at the National Parks Conservation Association.

"Community-centered partnerships like our Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area are proven ways of reconnecting Americans to our compelling national landscapes,” added Carroll Van West, Director of the MTSU Center for Historic Preservation and the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area.