Senators move to protect parts of Cherokee National Forest

Senators move to protect parts of Cherokee National Forest

June 2nd, 2011 by Staff Report in Local - Breaking News

Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press Caroline Byrne, Amanda Walsh, Casey Schoening and Dr. Joy O'Keefe, from left, walk down a road in the Cherokee National Forest in Monroe County Monday evening after placing nets to trap bats.

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both R-Tenn., have introduced the Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2011 to designate as wilderness nearly 20,000 acres in six areas of the Cherokee National Forest.

According to a news release, the bill would:

  • Add 348 acres to the Big Frog Wilderness and 966 acres to the Little Frog Wilderness, both in Polk County

  • Create the 9,038 acre Upper Bald River Wilderness and add 1,836 acres to the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, both in Monroe County

  • Add 2,922 acres to the Sampson Mountain Wilderness in Washington and Unicoi counties

  • Add 4,446 acres to the Big Laurel Branch Wilderness in Carter and Johnson counties.

All those areas have been managed for several years as wilderness study areas and are recommended for wilderness status by the U.S. Forest Service, according to the release.

"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 in the release.

Corker called the Cherokee a "prime example" of the "God-given amenities and ... unparalleled natural environment" of East Tennessee.

The bill will have no effect on privately owned lands and will cause no change in access for the public, as each of these areas is owned entirely by the U.S. Forest Service and managed as a wilderness study area, the release stated.