Winding trails. Rolling farms. Breathtaking vistas. Tennessee is home to incredible natural resources that we love, enjoy and rely on — especially during times of crisis and uncertainty.
That's why for 21 years, The Land Trust for Tennessee, a statewide conservation group, has been hard at work protecting farms, forests, parks, historic landscapes and open spaces.
"During these months of quarantine, social distancing, cancelled sports seasons and time spent at home, so many of us have turned to the outdoors as a refuge," says Liz McLaurin, president and CEO of The Land Trust for Tennessee. "Friends have raved about new hikes, a fishing spot, a picnic at an overlook, a paddle down a river or a drive into the countryside to enjoy the rolling farmland out their window. This time has reminded us that we are a part of nature, not apart from nature.
"No matter how you experience Tennessee's beautiful landscapes, they are a help to all of us. And our team is here to help protect them forever."
One Special Place at a Time
The Land Trust for Tennessee is a donor-funded nonprofit founded in 1999 by a group of visionary citizens who wanted to conserve the natural and historic open spaces and sites for future generations. What began with protecting family farms in Leiper's Fork near Nashville two decades ago has expanded to more than 400 conservation successes and 130,000+ acres protected — with its largest number of acres conserved in the Southeast Tennessee region.
The Land Trust's involvement spans 50,000 acres of a variety of private and public open space near Chattanooga and along the Cumberland Plateau, including 3,000 acres of Lost Cove that is now part of Sewanee: The University of the South's domain; 342 acres of parkland on Signal Mountain including the beloved Rainbow Lake trail; and multiple areas along the Fiery Gizzard near Monteagle.
"This is a big state with so many incredible resources, and so it takes strategy, focus, diligence and patience," McLaurin says. "We must press on or we risk losing the very landscapes that make Tennessee feel like the state we all love to call home, and one that draws visitors from around the globe."
Where to Experience This Impact
There are now dozens of places throughout the state you can visit in part because of the work of The Land Trust for Tennessee and its partners.
The organization has partnered with the State of Tennessee to conserve nearly 19,000 acres of land open to the public. These include the 685-acre climbing destination Denny Cove; the 4,000-acre Sherwood Forest addition to South Cumberland State Park; and the 275-acre Window Cliffs State Natural Area in Putnam County.
Another focal point for The Land Trust in the region has been playing an active role in the connectivity and conservation along the Cumberland Trail state park, having protected 5,000+ acres of trail and planned trail corridor through conservation easements and land transactions.
As The Land Trust's Southeast Director, Chad Wykle says the group uses many tools to help protect land. But in his view, none are more important than community support and key partnerships.
"So much of what we do is based on trust and pairing our land conservation experience with landowners and other conservation groups and partners to make things happen," says Wykle. "The work simply can't happen any other way.
"We can't do it alone. We urge anyone who cares about our beautiful state to contact us and get plugged in," Wykle adds. "With financial support, with time, with passion — we can continue to protect places we can't afford to lose."
To get involved or make a gift to support this work, visit LandTrustTN.org or call 615-244-5263.