Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker said Thursday they have introduced legislation to designate as wilderness nearly 20,000 acres of the Cherokee National Forest in southeast Tennessee.
“I grew up hiking the mountains of East Tennessee, and I know that if we conserve these wildlife areas and preserve these landscapes, we’ll give the next generations the same opportunity,” Alexander said. “This bill takes an important step toward protecting the natural heritage that is so important to Tennesseans and the millions of tourists who visit each year looking to experience pristine nature for themselves.”
Tennessee Wild, a coalition of conservation organizations, said the measure could result in the first new wilderness for Tennessee in 25 years.
“We are thrilled with the senators’ continued commitment to see our special wild places protected,” said Jeff Hunter, Tennessee Wild’s campaign coordinator. “The Cherokee National Forest is popular with locals and tourists alike. It helps sustain local economies here in East Tennessee as well as provide clean drinking water and important wildlife habitat.”
The legislation would create the 9,038-acre Upper Bald River Wilderness. It also would add 348 acres to the Big Frog Wilderness, 966 acres to the Little Frog Wilderness, 2,922 acres to the Sampson Mountain Wilderness, 4,446 acres to the Big Laurel Branch Wilderness and 1,836 acres to the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness.