Over 200 people traveled to D.C. last week from across the country – including three people with Tennessee Wild – to celebrate Great Outdoors America Week or GO America Week from June 24-27.
In the heart of Great Outdoors Month, GO America Week brought together outdoor enthusiasts from all walks of life – high school students and adults, active members of the military and veterans, conservationists and business leaders, hunters and anglers, bikers and boaters –to celebrate America’s great outdoors, and ask their elected officials to protect our natural heritage.
Tennessee Wild has been advocating for reintroduction and passage of the Tennessee Wilderness Act, a bill to permanently safeguard nearly 20,000 acres of the Cherokee National Forest. The measure, first introduced in 2011, would add land to five existing wilderness areas and create the new Upper Bald River Wilderness, all of which were recommended.
“Protecting the forest is important for surrounding businesses and communities,” said Tennessee Wild’s Jeff Hunter. “Wilderness designations promote the growth of a wide variety of recreational activities including hiking, paddling, hunting, fishing and camping.”
Communities across the country, including Chattanooga, are sustained by their natural surroundings. In Tennessee, outdoor recreation alone generates $8.2 billion in consumer spending and supports 83,000 jobs. Nation-wide, outdoor recreation generates $646 billion in consumer spending and responsible for 6.1 million jobs.
The bill has for years garnered enthusiastic bipartisan supporters from all around the state, including scores of businesses, organizations and community leaders. The U.S. Forest Service, which manages Cherokee National Forest and must balance the various uses of the land within its boundaries, has endorsed it. Representatives from Tennessee Wild hand delivered more than 2,600 hand-written postcards in support of the Tennessee Wilderness Act to Capitol Hill last week. The cards weighed more than 24 pounds.
Great Outdoors America Week arrived at a time when a push to preserve America’s most treasured wild places is vitally important. Last Congress was the first Congress since World War II to not protect a single new acre of public land as a national park, monument or wilderness area. Advocates are hopeful that the tide is turning for conservation this Congress as more and more diverse communities join together to protect America’s great outdoors.