The Nature Conservancy announced today 100,000 acres of working forestland on the Tennessee/Kentucky state line will now be preserved, thanks to an acquisition made by the two states’ Nature Conservancy chapters.
Located in the Central Appalachian Mountains in northeast Tennessee and southeast Kentucky, the new property, known at Ataya, is one of the largest land-conservation projects TNC has targeted in the region. The property will link the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area with the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park and Kentucky Ridge State Forest. The resulting core habitat along the Cumberland-Pine Mountain corridor “will be one of the most important migratory corridors in the face of a changing climate,” according to a TNC press release.
TNC will manage the parcel as a working forest, to protect wildlife habitat, secure clean water and undertake sustainable forestry practices.
They also plan to invest in local economies around the acreage. The release states forests and streams on the property affect water quality and public water supplies for portions of Claiborne and Campbell counties in Tennessee, and Bell, Knox and Leslie counties in Kentucky.
TNC said this is one of the largest land deals in the history of the two states’ chapters. It was partially supported by an investment loan from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, described by the foundation as the “largest single investment” in its history.
TNC cited the area’s importance as a climate-resilient, major migratory corridor, encompassing 200 miles of headwaters streams, most of which flow into the Kentucky and Cumberland rivers.
The area is home to more than 100 species designated as being of Greatest Conservation Need – including the little brown bat, black sandshell mussel, cerulean warbler, eastern meadowlark, black mountain salamander and the federally endangered Kentucky arrow darter, among others.
TNC’s Tennessee state director Terry Cook said the project will help demonstrate how important the area is to its surrounding communities. “Kentucky and Tennessee forests have a tremendous economic impact, generating billions of dollars of economic activity and tens of thousands of jobs,” Cook said, adding the lands support a growing number of outdoor recreational opportunities. “In Kentucky and Tennessee, the annual economic impact of outdoor recreation exceeds $13 billion and $20 billion, respectively.”