RHEA COUNTY, Tenn. (Jan. 20, 2023)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) and The Land Trust for Tennessee today announced the transfer of nearly 130 acres in eastern Tennessee to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). The project secures an important addition to the celebrated Cumberland Trail and will protect prime forests for carbon storage.
The property, located approximately 35 miles northeast of Chattanooga and 40 miles southwest of Knoxville, is situated within the scenic viewshed of the adjacent Laurel-Snow State Natural Area. Home to undisturbed sandstone glades and pristine forests, the land is an important resource for storing carbon in the face of a changing climate.
Protection of the property was funded in part through the OSI’s Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund. The Fund supports land protection along the Appalachian Mountain range, an area that is home to the world’s largest broadleaf forest, stores most of the nation’s forest carbon, and provides essential refuge for plants and animals at risk of habitat loss from climate change.
“The protection of this property is an exciting achievement in the long-term efforts to safeguard the fragile forests of Tennessee against a changing climate,” said Joel Houser, OSI’s Southeast Field Coordinator. “We thank the Land Trust for Tennessee for its outstanding efforts to protect this land, forever.”
The 2,259-acre Laurel-Snow State Natural Area is located on the Walden Ridge of the Cumberland Plateau. Stretching across four states — Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama — the Plateau is one of the longest hardwood forested plateaus in the world and a biodiversity hotspot. However, the landscape also has a long history of aggressive deforestation and resource extraction.
The Cumberland Trail follows a line of pristine high ridges and deep gorges lying along Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau, linking State Park lands, State Natural Areas, Wildlife Management Areas, and National Parks. Upon completion, the Cumberland Trail will be an extensive footpath stretching more than 200 miles, beginning at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in Kentucky and traveling south to the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park in Signal Mountain, Tennessee.
OSI’s Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund is made possible thanks to major support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and additional funding from the Lyndhurst Foundation, Riverview Foundation, Footprint Foundation, and the McKee family from Collegedale, Tennessee.