Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker have introduced the Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2010 to designate nearly 20,000 acres of wilderness on the Cherokee National Forest in east Tennessee. This measure would be the first Tennessee wilderness designation in nearly 25 years.
Once the bill is signed by the President, the land will be designated as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. This will protect these areas from development forever, so that they can remain open to the public for outdoor recreational opportunities such as backpacking ,hiking, fishing, limited hunting, camping, horseback riding, rock climbing, wildlife viewing, nature photography, and more.
Congress began protecting wilderness areas in the Cherokee National Forest in 1975, with additional wilderness areas being established by the Tennessee Wilderness Acts of 1984 and 1986.
The Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2010 specifically creates one new wilderness area and expands the boundaries of five separate existing wilderness areas already within the Cherokee National Forest. Since these areas are owned entirely by the U.S. Forest Service and are currently being managed as Wilderness Study Areas, this bill will have no effect on privately owned lands and will cause no change in access for the public.
Specifically, The Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2010:
- Creates the 9,038 acre Upper Bald River Wilderness (Monroe County)
- Adds 1,836 acres to the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness (Monroe County)
- Adds 348 acres to the Big Frog Wilderness (Polk County)
- Adds 966 acres to the Little Frog Wilderness (Polk County)
- Adds 2,922 acres to the Sampson Mountain Wilderness (Washington and Unicoi County)
- Adds 4,446 acres to the Big Laurel Branch Wilderness (Carter and Johnson County)
Designation as a wilderness area is the highest former of protection for federally-owned public lands. It protects forests from logging, mining and road-building. A wilderness designation also safeguards wildlife habitat, ensures clean water supplies and helps to control air pollution.
Wilderness does not erode private property rights, and in many cases increases property values. Wilderness designation occurs only on current federally-owned public land and does not involve the acquisition of additional land by the Federal government.
According to an independent Ayres, McHenry and Associates survey conducted in January, nearly 75% of east Tennessee voters support more wilderness on the Cherokee National Forest . Senator Alexander said another benefit is that it “encourages our youth in Tennessee to get away from the computer and TV screens and promotes family activities in the outdoors that provide invaluable social contact and physical exercise.”
Tennessee Wild Maps & Fact Sheets Fast Facts about America’s Wilderness