Congress Again Considers Tennessee Wilderness Act
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Supporters are hoping the third time is the charm for the Tennessee Wilderness Act, which has once again been introduced in Congress. The legislation, sponsored by Tennessee's two U.S. senators, would expand five current wilderness areas and permanently protect 20,000 acres of the Cherokee National Forest.
It would also create the first new wilderness area in the state in nearly 30 years, according to Jeff Hunter, director of the Tennessee Wilderness Campaign with Wild South.
"That's the Upper Bald River Wilderness, about 20 miles east of Tellico Plains, Tennessee, right up on the North Carolina border," he said. "This is an area that is an intact watershed, teeming with amazing biological diversity, from salamander to black bear to all sorts of migratory birds, great hiking trails, an equestrian trail. Just an amazing area."
Hunter called passage of the act unfinished business that needs to be taken care of now to protect these wilderness areas for future generations of Tennesseans and all Americans.
Protection of these lands is important for the ecosystems and wildlife, but also for their impact on tourism and the economy because of what they can offer for sportsmen across the region, such as Jim Pfitzer of Chattanooga.
"There are so many things you can do there, like horseback riding or fly-fishing, hunting, that kind of thing, and all of those things bring tourist dollars," Pfitzer observed. "And of course, if you've got great hunting areas, great fishing areas, you're also going to have businesses cropping up to support that."
The Tennessee Wilderness Act was reintroduced Monday by Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.
More information with a map is at 1.usa.gov/17gujVy.