Hunters, anglers, and others who cherish the outdoors have long known that the rugged mountains of Appalachia hold some of most alluring terrain in the eastern U.S.—forested hills, rocky peaks, rolling rivers, and meandering streams that are home to a variety of wildlife.
On June 28, two of those landscapes—in Tennessee and Virginia—moved closer toward protection as wilderness with the U.S. Senate’s passage of the Farm Bill. That legislation includes two other bills, the Tennessee Wilderness Act and the Virginia Wilderness Additions Act, which together would designate as wilderness roughly 25,500 acres of national forest lands. These bills will permanently preserve wild areas in a quickly developing region of the United States that are important places for recreation, hunting, and fishing, and as habitat for a variety of wildlife.
In each of the past five Congresses, Republican Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker have introduced legislation to protect nearly 20,000 acres of the Cherokee National Forest in eastern Tennessee as wilderness. In 2017, Representative Phil Roe (R-TN) introduced similar legislation in the House (H.R. 2218), and the bill has broad support from small business owners, sportsmen, veterans, faith leaders, and other community members.
Here are six stunning areas this bill would protect:
In 2017, Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Democrats, introduced legislation to designate roughly 5,500 acres of the George Washington National Forest as wilderness. The measure would safeguard wildlife habitat, numerous mountain streams that are sources of clean drinking water, and outdoor recreation opportunities some 200 miles from the nation’s capital.
Here’s a snapshot of what this bill would preserve:
Pew welcomes the Senate passage of these important wilderness bills and urges Congress to ensure that these measures remain in the final version of the Farm Bill.
John Gilroy is a director and Anders Reynolds is an officer with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ U.S. public lands program.