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Daily Newscasts

Keeping TN Wild

July 26, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Today the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act, which could have a huge impact on 85,000 acres of Tennessee natural areas by opening those public lands to development. Opponents of the bill, which is also in the U.S. Senate, say the measure could have a huge impact on Tennessee's vanishing wilderness by opening it up to such uses as mining, logging, and oil and gas leasing.

Johnson City photographer and nature-lover Jerry Greer says the land being eyed for development in Tennessee is pristine.

"In Tennessee, just a little bit of research that I've done, 85,000 acres in Tennessee, 394,000 acres in Virginia."

Greer says a lot of people like himself depend on the wild areas for their livelihoods and relaxation. He says eco-tourism is growing in Tennessee, and he's concerned that the kinds of development this measure would allow would kill recreation and tourism jobs. Supporters say extractive development would create other types of jobs and economic growth.

Greer says the 85,000 acres of the Appalachian region being targeted for development in Tennessee is very special.

"One of them is the Flint Ridge and it's just an incredible location."

The bill would eliminate protections on more than 60 million acres of public lands across the nation, and roll back protections for more than 58 million acres of roadless national forests. Opponents say developers already have access to 76 percent of national forests and BLM lands, leaving just 24 percent with some level of wilderness protection.

The legislation is HR 1581 and S 1087.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - TN