Efforts to protect the 10,000-acre Rocky Fork wilderness area in Unicoi and Greene counties have been fortified with a recent allocation of federal funds to purchase its last remaining acreage still in private hands. As Press Erwin Bureau Chief Brad Hicks reported last week, the U.S. Forest Service will allocate $5 million to buy 1,200 acres to complete the project.
Thanks to the hard work of officials from the Conservation Fund, conservationists like David Ramsey and elected leaders like U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, this scenic area — of which 60 percent is located in Unicoi County — will remain unspoiled and unthreatened by development. That means local residents will be able to continue enjoy fishing, hiking and mountain biking in Rocky Fork.
It’s not a stretch to describe the property as priceless in terms of its beauty and wildlife. It’s the largest single unprotected tract in the entire Southern Appalachian corridor and is home to Appalachian brook trout and habitat for six salamander species that aren’t found even in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Rocky Fork is a vital resource that fuels the region’s tourism economy. Preserving these scenic vistas is important, not just to spur tourism and protect wildlife, but to nourish and inspire the human soul.