The property is half of a 4,062-acre, highly “climate resilient” tract that spans both Franklin and Marion counties and that OSI helped to protect with a $800,000 grant in 2016. The remaining 1,096 acres are now part of Franklin State Forest, and join the state forest with the Carter State Natural Area, an hour west of Chattanooga. Together with the contiguous Sherwood Forest parcel, these wildlife areas create a corridor spanning 28,000 acres that includes rare plant species, prehistoric caves and sandstone cliffs.
Climate resilience refers to a place’s natural ability to recover from disturbances such as hurricanes, floods and drought, which are expected to increase as the climate changes. Resilient landscapes give a wide range of species area to move in response to shifts in temperature and moisture under climate change. Moreover, forests and other natural features on resilient properties retain excess rainwater, reducing damage from flooding and drought on local businesses and residents.
“It is truly inspiring to look out over so much conservation,” said Liz McLaurin, president and CEO of The Land Trust for Tennessee. “With the addition of Sherwood Forest to our state’s protected areas, we celebrate over 25,000 acres of contiguous forestland protected through State ownership, University ownership and/or conservation easements. That’s a legacy that we could not have imagined just ten years ago – something that happened thanks to so many funders and partners.”
The area contains nine rare plant species, including American ginseng and Morefield’s Leatherflower, which is on the federal endangered species list. The Forest also boasts caves with prehistoric pictographs dating from AD 966 as well as 100 foot sandstone cliffs and a natural bridge.
The Conservation Fund, with transactional support from The Land Trust for Tennessee, purchased 3,894 acres in 2016 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. The property was formally acquired by the state last year for $4.7 million.
Sherwood Forest is a day-use area open to the public that will be managed by South Cumberland State Park and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry. A large portion of the property is available for deer and turkey hunting, with safety zone exceptions. Visitors will soon be able to enjoy a three mile hiking loop, of which a half mile is currently open. The park is seeking volunteers to assist with constructing the remainder of the loop.