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Eastern Tennessee’s Rocky Fork Tract receives protections

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Greetings and welcome to the Southern Appalachian Creature Feature.

The future I-26 out of Asheville and over to Erwin, Tennessee is about as scenic of a drive as you can get on a four-lane interstate. Crossing the state line and dropping into Tennessee, I’ve always been fascinated by the seemingly endless forest one sees off to the west giving the appearance of a wild frontier, waiting to be hiked. Part of that view has a name – the Rocky Fork Tract.

I’ve spoken about the Rocky Fork Tract before – 10,000 acres that conservation groups have deemed the largest unprotected tract of land in the Southern Appalachians. That superlative has changed. In December, the USDA Forest Service and The Conservation Fund together purchased the land for $40 million, with the Forest Service taking 2,200 acres which will protect one and a half miles of the Appalachian Trail. The Conservation Fund’s portion, 7,400 acres, will be turned over to the state of Tennessee. At the local level, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Southern Appalachians Highlands Conservancy helped bring the deal to fruition.

The land has long been used by hunters, but recent efforts by the previous owner to market it for ridge top-development lead conservation groups to make a hard, last effort to protect it. Now hunters, anglers, hikers, bird-watchers, and others will be able to enjoy it for decades to come.

For WNCW and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this is Gary Peeples.

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The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit fws.gov. Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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