Proposed Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge
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Overview: The Proposed Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to protect forests and streams in the Paint Rock River watershed, one of the nation’s most important habitats for imperiled freshwater mussels and fish, through the creation of the Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge.

This follows over a decade of conservation efforts in these areas on the part of the Service, other conservation organizations, and individual citizens. The proposed refuge would eventually include up to 25,120 acres across southern Franklin County, Tennessee.

The proposed Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge has the following goals:

  • Increase connectivity between existing conservation lands in the watershed
  • Protect and restore habitat for at least 15 Federally listed species and three candidate species
  • Protect and maintain habitat for a diversity of fish, wildlife and plant species, including over 40 state listed species
  • Protect some of the last remaining large tracts of eastern deciduous forests
  • Provide habitat for migratory birds, including neotropical migrants and other species of conservation concern
  • Provide opportunities for a variety of wildlife-dependent recreation, including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and environmental education and interpretation

The Paint Rock River is one of the last free-flowing rivers in the Southeastern United States. A tributary of the Tennessee River, it lies in the Cumberlands Plateau region of Alabama and Tennessee. Important habitats in the watershed include, streams, riparian forests, bottomland hardwoods, canebrake, upland hardwoods, and cave/karst systems.

The watershed supports a high diversity of mussels and fish. Over 48 species of mussels have been documented, and numerous fish species are known to inhabit area streams. At least seven mussels and two fish species found in the watershed are Federally listed as threatened or endangered. The area also provides roosting caves for two Federally protected bats, and three Federally listed plants are known to occur in the area. Furthermore, large, intact stands of upland hardwoods provide habitat for several forest-interior migratory birds. Game species include deer, turkey, and small game.

Current conservation efforts in the watershed include State wildlife management areas, and other protected lands set aside for the protection of habitats, wildlife, and to provide opportunities for outdoor recreation to the public. In addition, the Service and partners have been working with landowners in the watershed to help improve water quality and aquatic habitats. Projects include streambank stabilization, riparian reforestation, removal of fish barriers, and cattle exclusion. However, the majority of the watershed is owned by private individuals, some of whom have already expressed an interest in protection efforts.

The Service will work with communities and willing landowners to determine which sites would be part of the refuge. Including these lands in the National Wildlife Refuge system would help ensure their protection, both as a place where rare animals could thrive, but also as a place where the public could enjoy the wildlife of central Tennessee, including hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching.

 

 

Waterfall at wall of Jericho

Waterfall at the Walls of Jericho in Tennessee. Photo: The Tennessee Chapter of the Nature Conservancy.

 

Last updated: January 16, 2013