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As world leaders this week negotiate global environmental policies at the Glasgow climate change conference in Scotland, the Tennessee Valley Authority adopted its own environmental policy to promote and sustain the biodiversity of the Tennessee Valley.

Nearly four decades after TVA was sued for threatening the endangered snail darter with its Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River 30 miles southwest of Knoxville, TVA directors adopted a new environmental policy "to proactively protect biodiversity through stewardship of public lands, management of the Tennessee River system, local and regional partnerships and integration of species and habitat conservation in project planning."

TVA manages more than 11,000 miles of shoreline across its seven-state region and, as America's biggest public power utility, provides electricity to more than 10 million people.

TVA was created as part of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal nearly a century ago to harness the power of the Tennessee River for hydroelectric generation, flood control, river navigation and recreation. TVA now touts the protection of the environment as one of its three core missions and continues to develop sustainability policies to embrace more than just managing the river, reducing air pollution and producing electricity.

"In 1933, when TVA was created, protecting the environment meant sustainable farming and reforestation," TVA Jeff Lyash said. "But today, we think biodiversity is vital for sustainability and climate change."

TVA's biodiversity efforts so far include planting 1 million trees, restoring streams and natural areas and improving habitat environments through better land and air protection programs. Rebecca Tolene, TVA's chief sustainability officer who is in Glasgow this week, said protecting biodiversity is key to economic development in the region.

"In an increasingly developed world where sustainability is an essential part of continued economic growth, incorporating biodiversity conservation into TVA's work is more important now than ever," she said. "Our food supply, our medicines and the quality of our air and water are all dependent upon healthy ecosystems with strong diversity."

Tolene said the Tennessee Valley is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the country and more than one-fourth of the species in the Tennessee Valley are found nowhere else in the world.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

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