To learn more about this project or voluntary conservation, contact the trust's Chattanooga office at 423-305-1783 or its Nashville office at 615-244-5263, or visit the trust's website at www.landtrusttn.org.
The Land Trust for Tennessee and the TWRA are hoping to raise money to complete the purchase of a 68-acre tract of land near the old Blythe Ferry site to add to the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge.
The land, once part of the failed 600-acre Rarity Rivers development, is being offered for $425,000 by the bank that foreclosed on it. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the trust still need to raise about $148,000.
"We have limited time to protect this property and the future of the refuge," said Tricia King, Southeast region project manager for the Land Trust of Tennessee. "If this property goes back on the market ... incompatible development adjacent to the refuge could pose challenges."
The trust has an Oct. 31 deadline to complete its purchase option on the property -- a peaceful stretch of tall grasses along Blythe Ferry Road near the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee rivers that had been slated for a high-density residential development with a wastewater treatment facility.
"We had fears that what had become a National Geographic-like sanctuary in the Southeast might be gone," said Dan Hicks, spokesman for the TWRA. Last year an estimated 48,000 migrating cranes, geese, ducks and other waterfowl descended on the refuge to winter there.
In addition to the annual Sandhill Crane Festival, Blythe Ferry itself was a major departure point for the Trail of Tears and a site for Cherokee camps.
"Incompatible development would ruin the historic context for visitors to experience the old wagon road leading to the ferry, and to the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park that adjoins these 68 acres," King said.
Through a federal wildlife habitat grant, TWRA committed $250,000 toward the project.
The Land Trust already has received generous community support from individuals and foundations, and is working to raise the remainder.
If the effort is successful, the 68 acres will become part of the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge that is owned by the state and run by TWRA, according to Hicks.
The Land Trust for Tennessee is a private, nonprofit organization that works with landowners, the state and others to protect more than 75,000 acres in 53 counties across the state.
Contact staff writer Pam Sohn at 423-757-6346 or firstname.lastname@example.org.