Tennessee Wilderness Act reintroduced in the 113th Congress

Jul 16, 2013

Cherokee National Forest Bald River Falls

Flickr Commons - Natures Paparazzi

WASHINGTON (July 15, 2013)  – The Wilderness Society applauded Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker for reintroducing legislation to designate new wilderness areas on the Cherokee National Forest. This measure could result in the first new wilderness for Tennessee in 25 years.

“The Tennessee Wilderness Act is important to me because it will protect wild trout streams in the Cherokee National Forest,” said Ian and Charity Rutter at R&R Fly Fishing. “Our business is dependent upon anglers who come to Tennessee in search of wild trout in a pristine environment.” In fact, the area within the upper Bald River in the Cherokee National Forest is home to the native Southern Appalachian strain of brook trout, a fish rarely found outside of Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

Widespread support for additional wilderness in the Cherokee National Forest includes hikers, hunters, business owners, local lawmakers, members of the faith community, and others who endorse the bill.

“From a business perspective, wilderness areas in the country are a billion dollar industry,” said Vesna Plankanis from A Walk in the Woods, a guide service in Gatlinburg, Tenn. “And in a place with high unemployment and a period of low economic times, that is incredible.” In addition to the benefits wilderness provides economically, Vesna notes, “wilderness areas provide relaxation and healing, which is all the more important in this very stressful world.”

 The Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2013, introduced on July 15, will protect nearly 20,000 acres of public land, expanding five existing wilderness areas and creating the new Upper Bald River Wilderness Area. All of these areas were recommended for wilderness designation in the U.S. Forest Service’s 2004 management plan.

 “After seeing the Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2011 fail to move in Congress, we are thrilled to see the reintroduction of the bill and the senators’ continued commitment to see our special wild places protected,” said Jeff Hunter Tennessee Wild campaign coordinator. “The Cherokee National Forest is popular with locals and tourists alike. The reintroduction of this bill will add to the existing prospering economy here in east Tennessee as well as ensure clean water and important wildlife habitat for future generations.”

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation in Tennessee generates $8.2 billion in consumer spending and $2.5 billion in wages and salaries. Many local businesses rely upon the high volume of traffic from tourists to nearby restaurants, local hotels, and equipment rental stores.

The Tennessee Wilderness Act of the 113th Congress marks the third time this act has been introduced. “The passage of the Tennessee Wilderness Act will ensure that these areas will be permanently protected for future generations of Tennesseans and all Americans,” said Brent Martin, Southern Appalachian director.

Alan Rowsome