Nearly 550 Acres Conserved Along Whites Creek For Future Generations

Friday, April 24, 2020

TennGreen Land Conservancy (previously Tennessee Parks & Greenways Foundation), the Open Space Institute (OSI), and Annie and Steve Scarborough announce the permanent protection of nearly 550 acres of habitat along Whites and Piney Creek to ensure the land’s scenic forest and streams remain clean and wild for future generations.

TennGreen Land Conservancy was able to purchase the property’s development and timbering rights with support from OSI at a deeply discounted rate thanks to the generosity of the landowners, Annie and Steve Scarborough. This easement forever protects the creeks and the hemlock-rich woods where the Scarboroughs have called home for decades.

"We have lived on Whites Creek for 30 years, raising our children here in one of the most amazing places we've ever been,” said Steve and Annie Scarborough. “The spectacular gorges, waterfalls, and diverse habitat of Whites Creek and its tributary streams call to anyone with any outdoors in their soul. We’re overjoyed to work with our friends at OSI and TennGreen to complete this large step in preserving this beautiful land and water for the future. We cannot express our gratitude strongly enough.”

This project is the second TennGreen conservation easement completed on lands owned by the Scarboroughs, as the philanthropic couple continues to demonstrate their commitment to protecting the rich habitat and clean waters along the river. This conservation easement allows the Scarboroughs to continue to enjoy their land recreationally, and sell or pass it down to their heirs, while permanently limiting certain uses such as development, timber harvest, and mineral extraction. It runs with the land in perpetuity, meaning that any future landowner must adhere to the easement’s restrictions. Each year, TennGreen staff will visit and monitor the property to ensure that the easement’s terms are being upheld.

This completed easement conserves approximately 7.5 miles of land along streams, including Blue Branch, Camp Branch, Otter Creek, Piney Creek, and Whites Creek. Both Whites Creek and Piney Creek have been identified as possessing Natural and Scenic Qualities of statewide significance (TN Rivers Assessment Project). Whites Creek hosts a variety of beautiful fish and wildlife, including the rare Tangerine Darter (Percina aurantiaca), which are found in clear headwater tributaries of the Tennessee River. Male Tangerine Darters have been described as one of the most colorful freshwater fish in the United States due to their bright orange and red colors during their breeding season.

In addition to immense habitat conservation benefits, protection of this land along Whites Creek helps ensure that the view along the creek remains natural. The portion of Whites Creek that flows along the property has been rated as a Class III Whitewater stream, and Whitewater paddlers have long enjoyed the scenic beauty and difficulty of running its waters.

This collaborative conservation success marks TennGreen’s 15th completed project in the area and adds to nearly 12,000 acres previously conserved by the organization in Cumberland, Rhea, and Roane counties. Previous successes include:

  • Karst Forest at Grassy Cove: Conservation of 956 acres of scenic, forested, and cave-riddled habitat along Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park (the Cumberland Trail)
  • Lone Star: Conservation of more than 6,000 acres to protect wildlife habitat and 20+ miles of streams and provide an important connection along the Cumberland Trail
  • Black Mountain: Conservation of 518 acres of high bluffs, wildflowers, and historical ruins along the Cumberland Trail
  • Brady Mountain: Conservation of a significant, 352-acre connection along the Cumberland Trail
  • Devilstep Hollow: Permanent protection of a cave property known for its extensive biological, cultural, and geological significance along the Cumberland Trail
  • Hinch Mountain: Conservation of 200 acres to protect essential habitat and expand recreational opportunities along the Cumberland Trail
  • Coal Creek Farm: Enhancement of conservation habitat on a 5,200-acre farm and forest property containing the headwaters of Whites Creek and abutting the Karst Forest at Grassy Cove
  • Elizabeth Camp Preserve: Acquisition of a key property located on the Obed River, two miles upstream from Catoosa Wildlife Refuge and the Obed Wild and Scenic River
  • CROET: Acquisition of land abutting high-quality wetlands associated with the floodplains of Bear Creek and East Fork Poplar Creek, which support a variety of plant and animal species, including the threatened or endangered yellow lily, goldenseal, pink lady slipper, beak rush, and ginseng
  • Catoosa–McLeod: State acquisition and expansion of 82 acres, made possible through support from a Heritage Conservation Trust Fund grant awarded to TennGreen
  • Charles R. Russell Obed Preserve: Permanent protection of private land that contains endangered species of fish and two waterfalls, located on the Obed River, six miles upstream from Catoosa WMA and Obed Wild and Scenic River
  • Heron Hill: Permanent protection of private land and habitat for rare and endangered species (including the listed prairie goldenrod) located along the shores of Watts Bar Lake
  • Possum Trot Waters: Permanent protection of private land that contains extensive frontage along Whites Creek, which flows past the Whites Creek Gorge conservation easement property
  • Whites Creek (2011 Conservation Easement): Permanent protection of private land on the eastern slope of the Cumberland Plateau that is home to rare and uncommon flora and fauna and includes a commanding view of the Whites Creek gorge and frontage of nearly a mile of Whites Creek, a tributary to Watts Bar Lake

“The completion of this Whites and Piney Creek Gorge Conservation Easement represents a huge conservation win for wildlife and Tennesseans,” said Steve Law, Executive Director of TennGreen Land Conservancy. “This spectacular and diverse property is located on the Cumberland Plateau—one of Tennessee’s crown jewels. Conservation of the waters, forests, and vistas on properties like this is why our mission is so important, and our work is so rewarding. I’m thankful to the Scarboroughs for their generous gift to future generations and to OSI for funding this exceptional project.”

“OSI is proud to have supported the protection of Whites and Piney Creek Gorge,” said Joel Houser, Southeast Field Coordinator of OSI. “In a landscape known for its unmatched biodiversity and natural resources, this property stands out as one of the best of the best. With the successful completion of this project, not only will forests on the property continue to filter clean water entering Whites and Piney creeks, but the land will also be critical habitat for plants and animals as the climate changes. OSI salutes the incredible generosity of the Scarboroughs and the hard work and dedication of TennGreen.”

TennGreen Land Conservancy’s Whites and Piney Creek Gorge project was supported by grants from the Open Space Institute (OSI) because of the tract’s importance in facilitating wildlife adaption to climate change. OSI assembled the funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Lyndhurst and Benwood Foundations, and Merck Family Fund. Additionally, this project was supported through a generous bargain sale from the Scarborough family, and funding from George Lindemann.

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