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Open Space Institute Supports Expansion of Tennessee’s Fall Creek Falls State Park for Carbon Storage

Image Credit: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

VAN BUREN COUNTY, TN (Oct. 20, 2022)—With support from the Open Space Institute (OSI), more than 800 acres in central Tennessee have been protected and added to a celebrated state park. The successful conservation effort, completed by TennGreen Land Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee, and The Conservation Fund, secures a critical area resource for climate change and forest carbon storage, as well as prime habitat for sensitive plants and animals.

The newly protected property shares nearly a mile of its border with Fall Creek Falls State Park — a popular 29,800-acre recreation area on the Cumberland Plateau. Home to steep bluffs, caves, and rock houses, the land also provides habitat to federally endangered Indiana bats and tricolor bats.

The property is located within the headwaters of numerous nearby caves.
The property is located within the headwaters of numerous nearby caves.
Image Credit: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

Support for the project included funding from OSI’s Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund (ALPF) and the Lyndhurst Foundation. The ALPF 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 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.

”The Open Space Institute is proud to complete this critical climate deal through our Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund, and even more proud of our ongoing efforts to secure the fragile forests that are so important to all of us in the state of Tennessee,” said Joel Houser, OSI’s Southeast Field Coordinator. ”Congratulations to the TennGreen Land Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee, The Conservation Fund, and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for their outstanding efforts to protect this property, forever."

Located within the Dry Fork watershed, this property contains nearly five miles of streams, including Dry Fork, Benton Branch, and Mount Pleasant Branch, whose waters flow from the park to Cane Creek. The property is also located within the headwaters of numerous nearby caves.

'Saving the Southern Cumberlands' Story Map

Home to the longest hardwood forested plateau in the world, the Cumberland Plateau stretches across four states and has endured a long history of aggressive deforestation. While only 10 percent of the Southern Cumberland Plateau is permanently protected, OSI is leading the charge to protect it, before it's too late.

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The property lies within the Cradle of Southern Appalachia Initiative, a conservation blueprint adopted by the Thrive Regional Partnership's Natural Treasures Alliance. Although the tri-state area around Chattanooga is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, only 15 percent of the region is currently protected. Acquisition of this property is the most recent step amid decades’ worth of collaborative efforts to expand conservation work within the region.

The Open Space Institute protects scenic, natural, and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat and working lands, and sustain communities. Founded in 1974 to protect significant landscapes in New York State, OSI has been a partner in the protection of more than 2.3 million acres in North America, including 20,000 acres in Tennessee. Visit OSI online at openspaceinstitute.org.

TennGreen Land Conservancy (formerly the Tennessee Parks & Greenways Foundation) is a 501(c)(3) environmental nonprofit and the oldest accredited statewide land conservancy in Tennessee. Through sound science and partnerships, TennGreen identifies and conserves land across Tennessee for wildlife corridors, critical habitat, and public benefit. TennGreen protects, cares for, and connects people with Tennessee's natural world by providing meaningful outdoor experiences, establishing conservation easements, supporting restoration efforts, and acquiring (or assisting in the acquisition of) privately-held land. Learn more at tenngreen.org.

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