Nashville – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) today announced the acquisition of an additional 838 acres of land for Fall Creek Falls State Park from a purchase arranged by multiple partners, expanding the extensive conservation footprint in the region.
The acquisition is the result of collaboration between TennGreen Land Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee and The Conservation Fund and purchased with the support of the Open Space Institute and the Lyndhurst Foundation. The park in Van Buren County is one of the largest and most visited state parks in Tennessee, already encompassing more than 29,800 acres on the Cumberland Plateau.
The property has shared nearly a mile of its border with the park and contains steep bluffs, rock houses and caves that provide significant habitats for species threatened by climate change. The land lies within the Cradle of Southern Appalachia Initiative, a conservation blueprint adopted by the Thrive Regional Partnership’s Natural Treasures Alliance (of which TennGreen Land Conservancy is a partner). Although the tri-state region around Chattanooga is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, only 15 percent of the area is currently protected. Acquisition of this property is the most recent step among decades of collaborative efforts to expand conservation work in the region.
“This is a magnificent addition to this popular state park,” said TDEC Deputy Commissioner Greer Tidwell. “We are grateful to the partners who put this acquisition together. They serve Tennesseans in outstanding ways, and we look forward to park visitors enjoying this expanded boundary of the park.”
“Like many places in Tennessee, and in large part the result of its scenic beauty, the Southeast region’s population is booming – putting its natural assets at risk,” said Alice Hudson Pell, interim executive director of TennGreen Land Conservancy. “The Natural Treasures Alliance’s goal is to double the amount of conserved land within this region by 2055, improving water quality, protecting at-risk species, fostering conservation awareness and education and expanding open space for the health of our communities.
TennGreen Land Conservancy is proud to play a role in advancing these efforts through this expansion of Fall Creek Falls State Park. We’re especially grateful to our project partners from the Open Space Institute, The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee, The Conservation Fund and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.”
“Fall Creek Falls State Park, and public land in general, is a huge driver of Tennessee’s recreation economy,” said Ralph Knoll, Tennessee state director at The Conservation Fund. “This addition of state park land is a perfect example of how environmental protections and economic sustainability can go hand in hand, and how partnerships can make it happen.”
”The Open Space Institute is proud of its role in expanding Fall Creek Falls State Park, and its efforts to secure the fragile forests that are so important to all of us in the state of Tennessee,” said Joel Houser, Southeast field coordinator for Open Space Institute. “We thank TennGreen Land Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee, The Conservation Fund and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for their outstanding efforts to protect this property, forever.”
Located within the Dry Fork watershed, the property contains nearly five miles of streams, including Dry Fork, Benton Branch and Mount Pleasant Branch. Waters from these streams flow within the park to Cane Creek. In addition to pristine waters, the property is within the headwaters of numerous nearby caves. The land also serves as a buffer area that protects several known Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) and other rare species. During a visit to a cave on the property, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency scientists documented the threatened tricolor bat (Perimyotis subflavus).
The acquisition was funded through the Open Space Institute’s Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund, and the Lyndhurst Foundation. The Open Space Institute’s fund supports land protection along the Appalachian Mountain range. This area is home to the world’s largest broadleaf forest, stores most of the nation’s forest carbon and provides essential refuge for plants and animals at risk of habitat loss from climate change.
The fund is made possible thanks to major support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and additional funding from the Lyndhurst Foundation, Riverview Foundation, Footprint Foundation, and the McKee family from Collegedale, TN.
More about the project can be found at tenngreen.org.