WASHINGTON, D.C. (OSBORNE) -- An unusual coalition of conservationists, business leaders and Congressional delegates are one signature away from seeing a huge area of East Tennessee designated federal wilderness.
The Tennessee Wilderness Act will provide additional protections for almost 20,000 acres already part of the Cherokee National Forest. The Act passed the House in early December as part of the much larger federal Farm Bill.
Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker introduced the wilderness legislation eight years ago. Alexander spoke about the bill on the Senate floor soon after the Act was first filed in 2010.
“We need more opportunities for young Americans to get away from the computer screens and into the American outdoors. East Tennessee provides a beautiful place to do that and this Act will provide more opportunities for that as well.”
An unusual alliance of business and environmental groups support the legislation. Business backing may seem odd until you learn that outdoor recreation is a $21 billion a year enterprise statewide. The Outdoor Industry Association says outdoor rec also supports 188,000 Tennessee jobs.
Of course, environmental groups are pleased with the bill’s passage. Here’s Laura Hodge with the Tennessee Wild Coalition.
"Wilderness is Tennessee's natural capital. Knowing that these areas are preserved in perpetuity just ensures people that want to live, work and play near our public lands that they'll know that these areas are there forever."
The farm bill containing the wilderness act now goes to President Donald Trump’s desk for his consideration.
Trump isn’t completely happy with the Farm Bill, but has dropped hints that he plans to sign the measure into law anyway. Expect to see that happen before Christmas.