Congress for passed a measure that would designate as wilderness roughly 20,000 acres of public land in Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest. The measure, included in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), commonly called the farm bill, was originally introduced in April 2017 as the Tennessee Wilderness Act. It would protect important watersheds and wildlife habitats in one of the world’s most biologically diverse regions.
The Tennessee Wilderness Act (S.
973/H.R. 2218), sponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and Representative Phil Roe, all Tennessee Republicans, would create the Upper Bald River Wilderness Area and expand five existing wilderness areas. It also would preserve all but 200 acres of the headwaters of the Bald River, ensuring clean water for communities found in five downstream watersheds, and protect valuable habitat for numerous species, from bobcats to wild turkeys to the eastern hellbender, North America’s largest salamander.
John Gilroy, director of Pew’s U.S. public lands program, issued this statement:
“We applaud Congress for voting to protect these natural treasures for future generations to enjoy. Once President Trump signs the measure designating this land as wilderness—the strongest protection available for public lands—the law will help conserve critical wildlife habitat and corridors, support local cities and towns that rely on the outdoor recreation economy, and ensure that hunting, hiking, camping, and fishing will continue in the region.
“Pew has worked with the Tennessee congressional delegation, local partners, and communities for nearly a decade to safeguard these special places. Preserving public lands continues to be one of our country’s most democratic processes, involving input from concerned citizens, local elected officials and governments, and Congress and the executive branch. This Tennessee wilderness, the result of legislation sponsored by Tennessee lawmakers, reflects America’s common ground.
“Eight other significant conservation proposals are now advancing through Congress, including legislation to protect winding sandstone canyons in Utah, critical wildlife habitat in northern New Mexico, and fisheries in Oregon. These wild places merit protection as well, and we hope lawmakers will act on them before adjourning.”