NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 9, 2022) – The Open Space Institute (OSI), TennGreen Land Conservancy, and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) today announced a priority acquisition in central Tennessee to connect sections of the celebrated Cumberland Trail. The forested property, which has been identified as highly effective at storing carbon and providing biodiverse habitat in the face of climate change, also marks the first conservation victory in the Southeast of OSI’s groundbreaking Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund (ALPF).
OSI’s $18 million ALPF supports land protection along the Appalachian Mountain range, home of the world’s largest broadleaf forest. This region stores most of the nation’s forest carbon while providing essential climate refuge for plants and animals.
"The successful conservation of Piney River Bluffs is a resounding victory in the long-term effort to protect the fragile forests of the Southeast's Appalachian Mountain region in the face of a changing climate," said Joel Houser, OSI's Southeast field coordinator. "This great conservation project came together thanks to a strong public-private partnership, and we thank the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and TennGreen Land Conservancy for their efforts in securing this resounding win on behalf of the people of Tennessee."
OSI’s ALPF is made possible thanks to major support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and additional funding from Lyndhurst, Riverview, and Tucker foundations, and the McKee family from Collegedale, TN.
The 358-acre “Piney River Bluffs” property, protected by TennGreen with support from OSI’s ALPF, is less than two miles from Spring City, Tennessee and is a high-priority acquisition for the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail linear state park. The acquisition completes the protection of an 11-mile trail section through Piney River gorge — among the most remote experiences on the Cumberland Trail, which extends nearly 300 miles through 11 counties.
“This is an outstanding addition to a unique state park,” said TDEC Commissioner David Salyers. “This is a major step in conservation and preservation of natural beauty for the trail. We are grateful to TennGreen Land Conservancy and the Open Space Institute for their partnership on this project.”
The Cumberland Trail State Park manages the Cumberland Trail, which 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.
The Cumberland Plateau is home to the longest hardwood forested plateau in the world, which stretches across four states — Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama — and has endured a long history of aggressive deforestation.
The Piney River Bluffs property also lies within the Cradle of Southern Appalachia, a tri-state, collaborative landscape conservation blueprint spearheaded by the Thrive Regional Partnership.
Since its first project in Tennessee in 2016, OSI has completed 16 grants and loans to help conserve a total of 20,219 acres.
'Saving the Southern Cumberlands' Story Map
With only 10 percent of the Southern Cumberland Plateau is permanently protected, the Open Space Institute and other committed conservation organizations are leading the charge to protect it, before it's too late.