The Land Trust for Tennessee and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency have successfully partnered to purchase 68 acres of wildlife habitat located along Blythe Ferry Road near the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee Rivers. This acreage is now part of the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Meigs County thanks to the support of individuals, foundations and the community.
This peaceful stretch of tall grasses was slated for a high density residential development with a wastewater treatment facility. That project fell through, and the Land Trust for Tennessee spent the last two years in negotiations to protect this property from other incompatible development proposals. This acreage increases the physical size of the Refuge, enhances public enjoyment of historical and scenic land that is rich in wildlife population, and adds value for our state’s tourism and recreation, officials said.
This piece of land and other properties along the Hiwassee River corridor, one of the Land Trust’s high priority conservation areas, are a part of the Sandhill Crane’s natural migration pattern. Over 14,000 of the birds descend on the Refuge for two to three months each winter. In addition to the annual Sandhill Crane Festival held every year at the Refuge, Blythe Ferry itself was a site for Cherokee camps and a major departure point for the Trail of Tears. Proposed development would have threatened the home to wildlife special to this region, and would have ruined the historic context for visitors to experience the Old Wagon Road leading to the ferry and to the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park that adjoins these 68 acres, officials said.
Through a federal wildlife habitat grant, TWRA committed $250,000 toward the project, and the Land Trust for Tennessee raised the remaining private funds necessary to purchase this land for public use. Generous support poured in from foundations and wildlife enthusiasts across Tennessee and beyond, including a large gift made by an anonymous donor through the International Crane Foundation. “Thanks to this anonymous donor's dedication to Sandhill Cranes and their habitats, we are thrilled to be able to help secure land that provides critical buffers for Sandhills and many other species along the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Tennessee," International Crane Foundation’s President and CEO Rich Beilfuss said.
After reading an article about the Blythe Ferry Project in Tennessee Wildlife magazine earlier this fall, Bill and Judy Tindall led the pack with a leadership gift. "Having lived on flyways in NY and MN we both grew up with an interest in migratory waterfowl,” Mr. Tindall explained. “For many years we raised and released wood ducks, as well as maintained wood duck nesting boxes in northeast Tennessee. At one time we maintained a flock of various North American waterfowl on our pond. We are pleased to be able to contribute to the Refuge for the benefit of migratory birds.”
The Land Trust is appreciative of the many donors who made this addition to the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge possible including the visionary support of the Farrow Family Foundation, Lyndhurst Foundation, Riverview Foundation, SunTrust Foundation, Bill and Judy Tindall, Carlene and Greg Vital, and Libby and Frank Duff.
The Land Trust for Tennessee and TWRA will celebrate and dedicate the 68-acre addition during the upcoming Sandhill Crane Festival on Saturday, Jan. 19, at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge.
The Land Trust is a private, nonprofit organization that has worked with willing landowners, the State of Tennessee, communities and various like-minded partners to protect more than 84,000 acres in 53 counties across the state since its founding 12 years ago. To learn more about this project or the benefits of voluntary conservation, contact one of these local offices at 615.244-5263 (Nashville) or 305-1783 (Chattanooga) or visit the website at www.landtrusttn.org.