Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on January 17, 2008
While possibly not as sexy as the Grand Canyon or Yosemite Valley, any biodiversity expert will tell you that northern Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau needs protection. The rolling hills and quiet “hollers” are home to so many different species it rivals even tropical rainforests.
The Nature Conservancy spearheaded the effort to set aside some 130,000 acres of land through conservation easement, closely-scrutinized forestry practice, and outright protection. Combined with other public lands, the area will create a nearly 300 square miles of connected green space that will be open to the public for a variety of outdoor activities.
This area is symbolic of the perfect storm surrounding open space in America. Timber industries that own huge tracts of land (thanks to the railroad grants of the 1800s) are realizing that there is more value in real estate than in logging. At the same time more and more people are trying to escape urban life either through building a second home in remote areas or moving to idyllic little (usually) mountain towns. These forces have combined to put environmentalists on edge as large tracts of land get cut up into individual-sized pieces that make effective protection nearly impossible. These city slickers usually drag “civilization” with them, degrading the natural environment by planting non-native species (mostly grass and ornamental trees), crisscrossing pristine areas with roads, and driving the strip-mall-American sprawl.
Tennessee should be commended for their forward-thinking on this project, as should the small forest products companies that joined forces with the Nature Conservancy.
Hopefully the big boys like Plum Creek, the nation’s largest private landowner, will learn a few things about real stewardship.