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Act would protect state wilderness permanently

Staff Report • Jul 18, 2013 at 8:44 AM

U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker have reintroduced important legislation to designate additional acreage in the Cherokee National Forest as wilderness areas.Specifically, the Tennessee Republicans want to extend 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 failed to get to the Senate floor for a vote last year, represents the first expansion of Tennessee’s wilderness land in 25 years.This acreage 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.“This is unfinished business that needs to get done,” said Jeff Hunter with Tennessee Wild, the coalition working to protect the Cherokee National Forest. “The people of Tennessee overwhelmingly support protecting the Cherokee and we are thankful to Sens. Alexander and Corker for their continued commitment to preserving our great natural wonders.” As we said in this space last year, passage of the Tennessee Wilderness Act is a “win-win” for both taxpayers and Tennesseans who love nature and want to see it preserved for future generations.

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