The Land Trust for Tennessee and the university complete regional conservation plan

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The Land Trust for Tennessee and the University of the South have announced the completion of a comprehensive plan for conserving the natural and cultural resources of the South Cumberland region. The plan caps a two-year effort that involved more than 30 organizations, culminating in “Cumberland Voices: A Conservation Vision for the South Cumberland Region.” The plan covers more than 4 million acres and includes portions of Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia.

The goals of the planning effort were to outline specific strategies for the conservation community to address with local stakeholders; to facilitate communication and resource sharing among governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders in the region; and to produce a document that describes the extraordinary natural and cultural resources of the region in order to attract more local, regional, and national funding for conservation. The Lyndhurst Foundation provided a lead gift to help initiate the planning effort.

“This plan represents a great opportunity for Sewanee to demonstrate its dedication to living beyond the classroom what we have learned in the classroom, and to show our commitment to environmental stewardship in the region,” said Vice-Chancellor John McCardell. “’Cumberland Voices’ has far-reaching implications for the University and the citizens of the Cumberland Plateau.”

View the full plan on the Sewanee Environmental Institute (SEI) website.

The South Cumberland region contains some of the largest privately owned forest lands remaining in the eastern US. The forested landscapes of the region provide habitat for numerous rare species, offer breathtaking views, and include recreational hotspots like Fall Creek Falls State Park, the Cumberland Trail, and Walls of Jericho. Jackson County, Ala., contains the Paint Rock River, one of the most biologically important rivers in North America.

The forests are also critical to maintaining water quality, as well as an economic base for the local forest industry.

The US Department of Interior recently announced two projects in Tennessee—a potential new national wildlife refuge in the Paint Rock River watershed in Franklin County and the Tennessee Riverwalk in Chattanooga—as part of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. Both of these initiatives are also priorities outlined by South Cumberland plan.

“The great landscapes of our nation have roadmaps for conserving their natural and cultural resources,” said Jeanie Nelson, executive director of The Land Trust for Tennessee. “The protection of the extraordinary resources of the South Cumberlands has a direct impact on the long term economic viability of the region, and enhanced quality of life for its citizens. We are grateful to the many partners who participated in the planning process.”

“The collaboration between The Land Trust for Tennessee and the University of the South represents an exciting new type of partnership for achieving landscape-level conservation objectives in our region,” said Jon Evans, director of SEI. “Through the work of our Landscape Analysis Laboratory, Sewanee has made a long-term commitment to provide the computer mapping and scientific analyses necessary to guide future conservation decision-making on the Cumberland Plateau.”

“Over the next several months The Land Trust, SEI, and partner organizations will be meeting with community leaders from across the region to present the plan,” said Chris Roberts, South Cumberland project manager for The Land Trust. “This will be a great way to find out more about ways we can work together towards developing mutual goals for conserving open space.”

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