Legislation to designate additional acreage in the Cherokee National Forest as wilderness areas has passed a crucial first test in Congress. As Erwin Bureau Chief Brad Hicks has reported, the TennesseeWilderness Act was approved by the U.S. Senate’s Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee on April 15.
U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker are sponsoring the bill, which will expand the protected acreage of the Sampson Mountain Wilderness Area in Washington and Unicoi Counties by 2,922 acres, as well as the Big Laurel Branch preserve in Carter and Johnson counties by 4,446 acres. Passage of the Tennessee Wilderness Act, which has previously failed to get to the Senate floor for a vote, represents the first expansion of Tennessee’s wilderness land in 25 years.
“Tennesseans take great pride in the fact that millions of people visit our state every year to experience our incredible God-given outdoors, and this legislation would ensure the Cherokee National Forest is preserved for future generations,” Corker said earlier this month.
The acreage identified in the Tennessee Wilderness Act is already part of the Cherokee National Forest, which means there is no need for federal funds to purchase these lands. But Congress must take action to make this wilderness designation permanent.
As we said in this space before, passage of the Tennessee Wilderness Act is a “win-win” for every Tennessean who loves nature and wants to see it preserved for future generations to enjoy.