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More than 4,000 acres of biologically rich, resilient forestland in southeast Tennessee protected forever

FRANKLIN & MARION COUNTIES, TN (Nov. 10, 2016) — The Conservation Fund, The Land Trust for Tennessee, the Open Space Institute (OSI) and other partners announced the protection of 4,061 acres of forestland in the South Cumberland region of Tennessee. With funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)—through both the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund—more than eight miles of streams in the Crow Creek Valley and vital habitat for more than one-third of all the federally threatened painted snake coiled forest snails known to exist have been conserved. 

Located an hour west of Chattanooga and adjacent to Franklin State Forest and Carter State Natural Area, the surface of the property will be managed by the State for public access and recreation, drinking water quality for the downstream community of Sherwood, wildlife habitat protection and sustainable forest management.

“OSI is proud to have supported the protection of Sherwood Forest, whose unique landscapes and unusual limestone bedrock give it the critical ability to provide habitat to wildlife even in an uncertain climate,” said Peter Howell, OSI's Executive Vice President of Conservation Capital & Research Programs. “Sherwood Forest is now part of a landscape of thousands of protected acres that will prove to be a natural stronghold for wildlife for generations to come."

Looking ahead, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry will manage a portion of the newly protected land as part of Franklin State Forest, expanding future hunting access. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation will manage the rest as part of Carter State Natural Area and South Cumberland State Park.

The Conservation Fund, with transactional support from The Land Trust for Tennessee, purchased 3,893 acres earlier this year from a private mining company, which retained the rights to mine limestone underneath the property for the next 50 years. This will allow the company to continue operations and maintain local mining jobs. In agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the company donated an additional 168 acres to mitigate for impacts to the painted snake coiled forest snail habitat.

This innovative conservation effort was made possible with funding from the LWCF—a bipartisan, federal program that uses a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties, not taxpayer dollars—which was provided through the merit-based Forest Legacy Program and was implemented in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. LWCF funding has leveraged significant public and private funding from the Tennessee State Lands Acquisition Fund, the Open Space Institute’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative and South Cumberland Landscape Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Recovery Land Acquisition Grants program, provided through Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act. LWCF is annually funded by the U.S. Congress, including Tennessee’s U.S. delegation representing Franklin and Marion Counties: U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, U.S. Senator Bob Corker and U.S. Representative Scott DesJarlais. 

The painted snake coiled forest snail is only found in Franklin County, Tennessee, with the entire known population inhabiting privately owned land prior to this conservation effort. In addition to the snail, this project protects habitat supporting the federally endangered Morefield’s leather flower as well as seven additional rare species of plants and animals. Identified as a “hot spot” for ecological resiliency, the land is also likely to support wildlife far into the future.

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