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Piney Falls State Natural Area in Rhea County / Photo courtesy of Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

Updated at 7:44 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12, 2019.

The size of the state's Piney Falls State Natural Area in Rhea County has almost doubled through the addition of nearly 400 acres, courtesy of several nonprofit groups, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) officials announced Tuesday.

"This significant acquisition, which contains stunning views of the ridge and valley of the Cumberland Plateau, provides additional protection for Upper Piney Falls," said Roger McCoy, TDEC's director over the Division of Natural Areas in a news release.

"We are grateful to our nonprofit partners for their support in making even more of Tennessee's incredible views accessible to visitors and rural residents alike," he added.

Piney Falls already has a parking area and hiking trails. The acquisition adds acreage that could lead to future trail development, according to TDEC.

The acquisition transfers the land to the state from The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee. The Tucker Foundation assisted with the purchase through a grant to TNC. The nonprofit Open Space Institute provided money toward the acquisition. 

It's the latest partnership by the Open Space Institute and The Nature Conservancy, according to TDEC. Officials there praised "the generosity of non-government partners helping accomplish TDEC's mission."

Piney Falls is a pristine forest land featuring creeks, waterfalls and old growth forest, according to TDEC. It is also recognized by the U.S. Department of Interior as a National Natural Landmark. 

The area of Piney Falls includes deep gorges carved from the Little Piney River and Soak Creek Designated State Scenic River. 

Terry Cook, The Nature Conservancy's Tennessee director, said "Piney Falls State Natural Area is more than a gorgeous place to experience the outdoors; it is also considered a wildlife habitat priority in Tennessee's State Wildlife Action Plan."

Cook said that when TDEC "asked for our help to save additional land there, we jumped at the chance. This project is an excellent example of how private funding sources can leverage state funding to achieve conservation results for people and nature." 

Designated in 1973, Piney Falls is one of Tennessee's 85 State Natural Areas. For more information, visit https://www.tn.gov/environment/program-areas/na-natural-areas.html.

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