Securing Divided Mountain In The Tri-State Corner

Wednesday, March 13, 2019
The Conservation Fund, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, announced on Wednesday, the addition of 186 acres to the Cherokee National Forest, located at the tri-corner area of Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Located approximately 18 miles east of Abingdon, Va., and less than two miles from the Virginia Creeper National Recreational Trail, the high-elevation property connects with over 127,000 acres of contiguous public land. The newly protected land provides additional public access into the Cherokee National Forest and to the adjacent 2900-acre Pond Mountain Game Land, managed by North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission for hiking, hunting, fishing and other recreation.
The acquisition provides opportunities to extend these activities into the National Forest while conserving open space and enhancing the Rogers Ridge Scenic Area.

Known as Divided Mountain due to its location spanning the Tennessee Valley Divide, the new purchase protects headwaters of Whetstone Branch and Valley Creek of the South Holston River watershed, and Big Horse Creek of the North Fork New River basin.

“This purchase enhances a very important recreation landscape for the community, which includes not only the popular Creeper Trail but also Grayson Highlands State Park, Lewis Fork Wilderness and Mount Rogers National Recreation Area,” said JaSal Morris, Forest Supervisor of Cherokee National Forest. “It also protects the Forest’s Rogers Ridge Scenic Area, managed for its scenic beauty, recreation and brook trout waters. We thank our partners and the Hensley family for making the project possible.”

The Conservation Fund acquired this property from Lowell and Bernice Hensley, who supported the eventual transfer to public ownership. The property will now be managed by the U.S. Forest Service as part of Cherokee National Forest, which totals more than 655,000 acres and is home to camping, trout fishing, hiking, and other recreation opportunities.

“This conservation effort is a great win for outdoor enthusiasts who love to explore the Tennessee Valley Divide. Divided Mountain is a treasure, and we’re proud that we could help fulfill the Hensley family’s desire to protect it for generations,” said Ralph Knoll, The Conservation Fund’s Tennessee representative. “This effort would not have been possible without federal funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and we are grateful to U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn, and U.S. Representative Phil Roe for their leadership in supporting LWCF funding for the Cherokee National Forest.”

The purchase is unique because of its location both in Tennessee and Virginia. It was a natural extension of Cherokee National Forest even though a portion is just over the border in Virginia. The Forest Service created the Divided Mountain Purchase Unit in order for the Cherokee to acquire the land in Virginia.

This conservation effort was made possible with a generous gift from Fred and Alice Stanback from North Carolina and funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which was recently permanently reauthorized as part of the enacted John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act (S. 47). The LWCF is a bipartisan, federal program that uses a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties—not taxpayer dollars—to acquire critical lands and protect our country’s best natural resources and recreational access for more than 50 years.

Senators Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn, and U.S. Rep. Phil Roe helped enact into law permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. LWCF is annually funded by Congress, including these congressional champions that represent the Cherokee National Forest.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has played a large role in protecting Tennessee’s outdoors for over 50 years, and today’s announcement that funding from the LWCF, in partnership the U.S. Forest Service and private donors, will add 186 acres to the Cherokee National Forest will preserve even more of our state’s beautiful land, water resources and recreation areas,” said Senator Lamar Alexander. “I was proud to vote for a bill that Congress passed, and the president signed into law to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which will help ensure these areas are protected and preserved for future generations.”

“I am pleased to see Divided Mountain being added to the Cherokee National Forest, which is a very natural extension of its existing boundary,” said Rep. Phil Roe. “I thank The Conservation Fund for their efforts on this project. This forest is a national treasure, and I know these 186 acres will be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike for generations to come. Projects like Divided Mountain are why I was pleased to support permanent reauthorization of the LWCF, which passed the House in late February as part of S. 47.”

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