Lower Piney Falls Joel

OSI Grant Nearly Doubles Central Tennessee’s Popular Piney Falls State Natural Area

Image Credit: Joel Houser

GRANDVIEW, TN (Feb. 13, 2019) – Thanks to grant support from the Open Space Institute (OSI), the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has nearly doubled the size of the popular Piney Falls State Natural Area. The acquisition protects critical habitat that will continue to be a haven for sensitive plants and animals, even as the climate changes.

The 400-acre Piney Falls addition offers stunning views, provides protection for the Upper Piney Falls and could lead to further trail development for the now 840-area Natural Area in central Tennessee’s Rhea County.

OSI provided funding for the project through its Resilient Landscapes Initiative, which has conserved 26,000 acres in the Southeast since 2012. The Fund conserves “climate-resilient” properties — lands that will continue to harbor sensitive plants and animals, even as the climate changes.

“The conservation of the Piney Falls addition is a phenomenal conservation ‘win’ that demonstrates the importance of protecting land for wildlife facing an uncertain future,” said Peter Howell, executive vice president at OSI. “We commend The Nature Conservancy for purchasing the property so it could be conserved for future generations.” 

Upper Piney Falls Joel
Piney Falls is pristine forestland featuring creeks, waterfalls and old growth forest.
Image Credit: Joel Houser

The acquisition transfers the land to the state from The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee (TNC). In addition to an OSI grant of over $240,000 towards the acquisition, the Tucker Foundation also provided grant assistance with the purchase.  

“Piney Falls State Natural Area is more than a gorgeous place to experience the outdoors; it is also considered a wildlife habitat priority in Tennessee’s State Wildlife Action Plan,” said Terry Cook, TNC’s Tennessee state director. “When TDEC asked for our help to save additional land there, we jumped at the chance. This project is an excellent example of how private funding sources can leverage state funding to achieve conservation results for people and nature.”    

Recognized by the United States Department of Interior as a National Natural Landmark, Piney Falls is pristine forestland featuring creeks, waterfalls and old growth forest. The land also consists of deep gorges carved from the Little Piney River and Soak Creek Designated State Scenic River.

As a key connecting parcel, Piney Falls is located amongst a larger assemblage of over 3,000 acres of protected conservation lands: Stinging Fork SNA (776 acres); Cumberland Trail State Park corridor (1,303 acres); and Soak Creek Wild & Scenic River (992 acres). 

Popular among hikers and nature lovers, the Piney Falls SNA contains a loop trail to the upper and lower falls, as well as a section of the Cumberland Trail.

“This significant acquisition bolsters Tennessee State Parks’ commitment to protecting some of our state’s most treasured natural assets,” said Brock Hill, TDEC deputy commissioner. “We are grateful to our nonprofit partners for their support in making even more of Tennessee’s incredible viewshed accessible to visitors and rural residents alike.”

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