In a Win for Recreation and Wildlife, OSI and Partners Conserve Climate-Resilient Land in Tennessee

Image Credit: Access Fund

JASPER, TN (Aug. 3, 2016)—A wild and undeveloped piece of the Fiery Gizzard area, home to beloved rock-climbing routes and some of the nation’s top hiking trails, is now conserved in eastern Tennessee, thanks to the Open Space Institute (OSI), The Land Trust for Tennessee, The Conservation Fund, and other partners. Additionally, the project preserves critical climate-resilient lands needed for wildlife adaptation in Tennessee’s vital Southern Cumberlands region.

The 685-acre parcel, called Denny Cove, conserves scenic views, water quality and critical plant and wildlife habitat. The steep mountain valley is part of an area identified in the Tennessee State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) and the 2011 Cumberland Voices Conservation Vision document, which includes at least 20 rare plant and animal species marked as a “high priority” for protection.

The land’s “climate resiliency” means it is able to provide diverse wildlife habitat and give plants and animals room to move even in the face of an uncertain climate.

“The successful conservation of Denny Cove is a resounding win for climbers and wildlife alike,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s Executive Vice President. “This is an enduring place that truly merits permanent protection, given its remarkable role as a haven for wildlife under a changing climate. OSI congratulates Access Fund and Southeastern Climbers Coalition on this impressive achievement.”

“This project is a great opportunity to stitch together important, conserved land in the South Cumberland region,” says Joel Houser, LTTN. “This land was private property and was at risk of development or logging. Now, it is protected and will eventually be open to the public. This is a win for land conservation and outdoor recreation in our state.”

“This extraordinary conservation effort complements the extensive work we have already done in the Fiery Gizzard area, assisting with the protection of more than 6,200 acres in one of the most intact, biologically diverse natural landscapes remaining in the eastern United States,” said Ralph Knoll, Tennessee representative for The Conservation Fund.

Denny Cove is located 30 minutes outside of Chattanooga, just north of the small town of Jasper, between the popular climbing at Foster Falls and Castle Rock. It offers approximately 150 climbing routes, with potential for many more on nearly three miles of cliff line. The unique multi-colored sandstone offers routes of all grades and ability levels and boasts a wide variety of terrain—from long overhanging walls to massive roofs, slabs, cracks, and corners.

In addition to rock climbing, the property will eventually offer hiking trails to scenic overlooks, a three-mile trail to a 70-foot waterfall, and primitive campsites. Denny Cove is a recreational landmark in the Thrive 2055 regional planning initiative and part of the new Chattanooga Climbing Conservation Initiative, a 3-year climbing stewardship and sustainability project headed up by Access Fund, with support from Lyndhurst Foundation.

Denny Cove is located in a rural area near many counties that are classified by Tennessee as economically at-risk or distressed. A recent Hamilton County economic impact study on rock climbing by University of Tennessee Chattanooga found rock climbers are having a $7 million dollar impact per year. Most climbing visitors to Hamilton County also visit climbing sites in nearby counties, like Marion, Morgan, and Rhea counties.

The coalition of climbers and conservationists secured initial funding for the $1.2 million purchase from a variety of public and private sources, including Access Fund, The Conservation Fund, Friends of South Cumberland, LTTN, Riverview Foundation, Lyndhurst Foundation, and SCC. When the property is transferred to Tennessee’s state parks, The Open Space Institute will provide nearly a quarter of the funding needed through their Southern Cumberland Fund and Resilient Landscapes Initiative, which was made possible with funding from Doris Duke Foundation, Lyndhurst Foundation, Benwood Foundation, and Merck Family Fund. Tennessee’s State Land Acquisition Fund and Heritage Conservation Trust Fund will also provide additional critical funding. To bridge the gap between available and pending funds, The Conservation Fund’s Land Conservation Loans program and the Access Fund’s Climbing Conservation Loan Program provided critical short-term funding to secure the property. Fundraising for the purchase is ongoing.

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