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Tennesseans Go Wild in Wilderness Areas

November 19, 2009

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - In fall of 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed the Tennessee Wilderness Act, preserving just over 32,000 acres of the Cherokee National Forest to be kept "as is." A quarter of a century later, a group of Tennesseans is thinking it's time to add to the inventory.

Will Skelton, a member of Tennessee Wild, says the value of that forest land has become apparent over the years.

"If those bills had not been passed, those very areas today, which are very scenic, very good for so many things other than timbering, would have been logged. They would have had roads built in them, maybe even some mining somewhere. They wouldn't be the pristine, beautiful areas they are today, where people can hunt, fish, hike, birdwatch - all those things people do in wilderness areas."

Tennessee Wild recently requested that another 17,000 acres of wilderness be designated, which would bring just over 10 percent of the Cherokee National Forest under federal protection.

Skelton says wilderness has value, with natural areas credited as natural air- and water-cleaning filters, and critical habitat for critters.

"There are lots of reasons to support wilderness in our national forest and those include, of course, habitat for all the kinds of wildlife species that need wilderness."

More information is available at www.tnwild.org.

Randy O'Brien/Deb Courson, Public News Service - TN