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Farm Bill Secures Wilderness Act Victory for TN

According to the Tennessee Department of Tourism, outdoor recreation is the state's second-largest industry. (Tennessee Wild Coalition)
According to the Tennessee Department of Tourism, outdoor recreation is the state's second-largest industry. (Tennessee Wild Coalition)
December 13, 2018

MADISONVILLE, Tenn. – A diverse coalition of small business owners, veterans, clergy, conservationists and sports enthusiasts is celebrating the passage of the Tennessee Wilderness Act after Wednesday's House approval as part of the 2018 Farm Bill.

The act proposed by Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, and Rep. Phil Roe, all Tennessee Republicans, includes legislation that will safeguard nearly 20,000 acres of public land in the Cherokee National Forest.

Jeff Wadley, a clergyman and camp director, calls it a gift to the next generation.

"The Tennessee Wilderness Act has been a long time coming,” he states. “We are very appreciative of the support of our local and state officials. Their support will assure that it's a victory in the sense that this land is now set aside as wilderness."

For five Congresses, volunteers such as Wadley have worked with the Tennessee Wild Coalition to champion these protections.

The act could boost jobs in tourism and outdoor recreation.

An industry group says outdoor recreation generates more than $21 billion annually in consumer spending while supporting an estimated 188,000 jobs.

"Wilderness is Tennessee's natural capital,” says Laura Hodge, campaign coordinator for the Tennessee Wild Coalition. “Knowing that these areas are preserved in perpetuity just ensures people that want to live, work and play near our public lands that they'll know that these areas are there forever."

The 2018 Farm Bill is heading to the White House for final approval.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Antionette Kerr, Public News Service - TN