For years, our state’s two senators have worked on this Tennessee Wilderness Bill. It’s been a long, uphill hike, which Congressman Phil Roe has joined in recent years. Their bill is now part of a larger bill — the Federal Land Management Act of 2017.
The number of acres that would be protected by their bill is pretty modest — about 20,000 acres of a 650,000-acre national forest will be designated as wilderness — with two local wilderness areas. They are the Big Laurel Branch Wilderness, which has the Appalachian National Scenic Trail that follows the entire length of the crest of the wilderness, and the Sampson Mountain Wilderness. Both get additional acres with this bill.
Keeping some of East Tennessee’s forest land truly wild is a gift that keeps on giving. These are the places that will help to keep our water and air clean, wildlife populations healthy and our public lands open and accessible for recreation use by locals and tourists alike.
Far-sighted management by previous generations has allowed portions of our national forests to remain havens for wildlife and for the wild adventures that are part of our outdoor traditions in Northeast Tennessee
Let’s get this bill enacted into law. Current and future generations of hikers, hunters and fishermen will benefit from this kind of thoughtful stewardship of our natural world.
So please join me in thanking our two senators in Washington, D.C., and Roe, who have been champions of wilderness designation for some of East Tennessee’s truly special places.