Persistence pays off in acquisition of Southern Cumberlands tracts

NASHVILLE, TN (Jan. 4, 2017)—With support from the Open Space Institute (OSI), The Nature Conservancy and The Conservation Fund have co-purchased nearly 4,400 climate-resilient and biologically rich acres in south-central Tennessee and transferred them to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for hunting, hiking and wildlife viewing.

The acres, consisting of two properties called the “RLF Winchester” lands, will be managed as part of the Bear Hollow Mountain Wildlife Management Area in Franklin County. Funding for the project was provided by OSI’s Southeast Resilient Landscapes Fund and Southern Cumberland Land Protection Fund, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program, and the estate of Carolyn King.

“In a changing climate, we need to identify the places that are most to help retain or attract wildlife not only today but far into the future. The Winchester lands are such a place — a natural stronghold that will help wildlife as well as human communities adapt in the face of extreme weather,” said Peter Howell, OSI Executive Vice President. “We applaud the Nature Conservancy and the Conservation Fund for their collaboration, and the State of Tennessee’s Wildlife Resource Agency for its commitment to manage these lands for public enjoyment.”

“We are very pleased to be turning over this biologically rich landscape to the state of Tennessee for the public’s enjoyment,” said Gabby Lynch, director of protection for The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee. “Fragmentation of large forest blocks may result in plants and animals losing access to habitat corridors that they need for their life cycles.”

“Outdoor recreation is an important economic driver in the South Cumberland region, and these lands, formerly not open to public access, will provide new opportunities for hunters, hikers and those that enjoy spending time in nature,” said Ralph Knoll, Tennessee Representative with The Conservation Fund. “We’re thankful to Senators Alexander and Corker and Representative DesJarlais for their continued support of the Wildlife Restoration Program for conservation in Tennessee, and to all the partners who made this conservation success possible.”

Both The Nature Conservancy and The Conservation Fund have focused long-term efforts on protecting the still-unbroken swaths of forest in the Southern Cumberlands. These forests provide key habitat for numerous migratory bird species and contain the tributary headwaters of the ecologically significant Paint Rock River in Alabama.

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