Representatives from each of the partner organizations, including OSI's Joel Houser (third from right), receive the award.
News

The Open Space Institute and Partners Win Federal Conservation Award

Photo Credit: TennGreen

WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Forest Service International Programs and Environment for the Americas honored the Open Space Institute (OSI), the Tennessee Parks & Greenways Foundation (TennGreen), the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), and the U.S. Forest Service Southeast Division (USFS) with a federal award for the partners’ collaborative efforts that successfully protected the Grassy Cove property in central Tennessee.

The Wings Across the Americas Habitat Conservation Partnership Award recognizes projects that conserve habitat for migratory wildlife in an urban environment. Completed in 2017, OSI’s Grassy Cove project protected 956 acres of karst forests — a rare habitat marked by soluble bedrock such as limestone — from unsustainable mineral extraction. 

The land is atop the Cumberland Plateau, one of the most biologically rich regions on Earth. Situated near Chattanooga, Nashville, Knoxville, and other major southern cities, the region was profiled by OSI in a 2018 Story Map, Saving the Southern Cumberlands.

Representatives from each of the partner organizations, including Joel Houser from the Open Space Institute (third from right), accept the award.
Representatives from each of the partner organizations, including Joel Houser from the Open Space Institute (third from right), accept the award.

“OSI is proud to be honored for its part in protecting the Grassy Cove property, and prouder still to continue to protect lands atop the Southern Cumberland Plateau that will be a critical stronghold for wildlife and humans in generations to come,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s Executive Vice President of Conservation Capital & Research Programs.

Today a part of the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park, natural features of Grassy Cove range from dramatic bluffs and boulder fields, to eight caves including the scenic Lost Waterfall, Spouting Dome, and Bear Den Mountain Caves.

Eighteen of Tennessee’s Species of Greatest Conservation Need are found there, including several species of bats that desperately need protected habitat due to population decline from the white-nose syndrome. The Cerulean Warbler, the fastest declining eastern songbird, is also found there, along with other priority species like the Wood Thrush, Kentucky Warbler, and Hooded Warbler.

In order to secure this important property, TennGreen launched a capital campaign that included various funding partners such as the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service.

The project was ultimately successful after OSI’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative and Southern Cumberland Protection Fund, which are made possible with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Lyndhurst Foundation, Benwood Foundation and Merck Family Fund, gave a $600,000 grant to secure the property. Climate-resilient landscapes are lands that will remain a haven for sensitive plants and animals, even as the climate changes.

Across the Southeast, the OSI’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative and Southern Cumberland Protection Fund have together protected a total of more than 42,000 acres of land.

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