Letters: Senator Alexander gets wild

Johnson City Press • Dec 21, 2018 at 6:00 AM

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Sen. Alexander gets wild

I am writing in response to Sen. Lamar Alexander’s guest commentary (Dec. 15). I want to thank Sens. Alexander and Corker and Congressman Roe for working together to pass the Tennessee Wilderness Act.

The National Parks Conservation Association, the nation’s leading voice in safeguarding our national parks, has long-advocated for the passage of the Tennessee Wilderness Act for the many benefits it provides to hikers, campers, and outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes.

Over my 15-year career in conservation, I have led over 100 outings to many of the areas protected by this important legislation, including the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, which is within sight and a couple hours walk of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From day hikes through the Upper Bald River Wilderness Study Area, to backpacking trips to see the full moon rise over the Smokies from The Hangover, bird watching trips to spot forest denizens like Wood Thrush and Scarlet Tanagers, to snorkeling in the Tellico River and more. Through this work, which also includes volunteer and citizen science projects on the Appalachian Trail above Watauga Lake, I have learned how much Tennesseans love our shared natural heritage.

The Tennessee Wilderness Act adds 4,446 acres to the existing Big Laurel Branch Wilderness within Dr. Roe’s district in Northeast Tennessee, while also permanently protecting 4.5 miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The bill also expands the existing Sampson Mountain Wilderness by some 2,922 acres. These protections remove the threat of logging and development, which would impact the vistas and the visitor experience along the Appalachian Trail.

After years of advocacy, we celebrate action taken by members of our congressional delegation to pass the Tennessee Wilderness Act. Thanks to these additional protections, future generations will benefit from and experience these lands years from now, as we do today.

Asheville, N.C.

Thank you, Senator Alexander

I would like to take a moment to both highlight and celebrate the recent accomplishments of Sen. Lamar Alexander as he bids farewell to the U.S. Senate. Senator Alexander recently succeeded in passing the Tennessee Wilderness Act in Congress, which is a tremendous benefit to all of us living in East Tennessee as it designates 20,000 acres of Federal Land as Wilderness.

For those unfamiliar with the term, wilderness has the highest level of federal protection of any wild land. This is a boon to us who use these areas to hike, fish, hunt, camp and backpack, but also to those who do not get out into the wild as often as they might like. All of us will benefit from the cleaner air, clear protected water and the tourist dollars of all those who come to see the wildness of our mountains. I applaud this bill and would like to see our local leaders doing more to protect our greatest assets; our forests, our rivers and our mountains.

I would like to think that Senator Alexander developed his devotion to these mountains as he made his now famous journey on foot from Mountain City to Memphis in 1978 as he prepared for his gubernatorial bid. He traversed 1,022 miles from tip to tip to learn more about the state and its people. As we all know, it worked, and he became our governor the following January.

Thank you Senator Alexander for protecting this natural endowment for future generations. What a momentous farewell gift as you finish your final term in the U.S. Senate. While I may not have agreed with you on every issue, your commitment to Tennessee, as exemplified in this legislation, is of the the finest caliber and I wish you only the very best in your future endeavors.

Johnson City

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