Senator Lamar Alexander on Friday co-sponsored Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Senator Richard Burr’s (R-N.C.) legislation to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Over the past 50 years, the LWCF has provided Tennessee approximately $73 million for the state grant program and $110 million for federal land acquisition within the state, he said.
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has played a large role in protecting Tennessee’s outdoors for over 50 years. In 2015, funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund helped complete efforts to conserve a nearly 10,000 acre tract of land, known as Rocky Fork, in the Cherokee National Forest in East Tennessee,” Senator Alexander said. “In total, the LWCF has provided $189 million to conservation and outdoor recreation efforts in Tennessee, and I cosponsored this legislation because it will help preserve our state’s beautiful land, water resources and recreation areas so future generations have the same opportunities to enjoy them as we have.”
In the 114th Congress, Senator Alexander co-sponsored Senator Burr’s legislation to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. In 2015, Senator Alexander voted for the Senate’s bipartisan energy bill, which would have also permanently reauthorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Senator Alexander also signed letters to Senate leadership requesting the Senate make permanently reauthorizing and fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund a priority.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund was created to help preserve, develop and maintain access to outdoor recreation across the United States. The LWCF receives nearly all of its revenue from offshore oil and gas drilling and other activities that deplete natural resources. This revenue is then used to provide grants to states and funds conservation efforts by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service.
Over the past five decades, the LWCF has provided a total of $189 million for Tennessee conservation and outdoor recreation, including the following state and federal land acquisition projects:
- Appalachian Trail and Rocky Fork: In its first 50 years, the LWCF helped protect nearly 200,000 acres within the Appalachian National Scenic Trail corridor which spans from Georgia to Maine. Rocky Fork, a nearly 10,000 acre tract that serves as Upper East Tennessee’s gateway to the Appalachian Trail, was protected in part due to funding from the LWCF. Today, 2,000 acres of the 10,000 acre tract has been acquired by the state to create Rocky Fork State Park.
- Cumberland Mountains and Walls of Jericho: The Forest Legacy Program, which receives its funding from the LWCF, provided a majority of the funding necessary to conserve a nearly 9,000 acre tract in Tennessee known as the Walls of Jericho. The Walls of Jericho – which is also known as the Grand Canyon of the South – includes a geological feature that forms a large bowl shaped amphitheater. The nearly 9,000 acre tract is now managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency as the Bear Hollow Mountain Wildlife Management Area and the 750 acres surrounding the gorge and amphitheater are managed by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation as the Walls of Jericho State Natural Area.
- John Tully State Forest: Acquisition of over 2,000 acres – to create the John Tully State Forest – from Anderson-Tully, a Memphis-based timber company, was funded in part by the Forest Legacy Program. John Tully State Forest was only the second state forest established in the last half-century and provides some of the state’s best hunting and fishing lands.