Expansion will enhance opportunities for recreation, restoration and education

Cumberland County – The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and The Conservation Fund announced the addition of roughly 1,740 acres to the Catoosa Wildlife Manage Area (WMA) on the Cumberland Plateau in eastern Tennessee.

The land secures critical wooded habitat for wildlife species and will enhance opportunities for WMA visitors including fishing, hiking, camping and hunting. Catoosa WMA is the State of Tennessee’s second largest WMA, spanning over 85,000 acres.

The new addition, located directly adjacent to the existing Catoosa WMA and north of Crossville, will be managed for its unique savanna oak, woodlands and grasslands, which benefit the land’s abundant upland game species such as turkey, deer, quail and ruffed grouse. The property contains several existing facilities including stables, a meeting area and cabins, which TWRA will utilize for public and training events.

“TWRA is grateful for our partnership with The Conservation Fund that supported this effort to improve wildlife connectivity and outdoor recreation for Tennesseans,” said Jason Maxedon, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency executive director. “This project is a critical investment in wildlife habitat that ensures the public will be able to enjoy our wildlife populations and beautiful natural resources for many generations to come.”

The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit that protects U.S. lands and waters to provide greater access to nature, strengthen local economies and enhance climate resiliency, purchased the 1,740 acres in January 2023 from the Oakley family, who wanted to see their land protected and open for the public to enjoy. The Conservation Fund recently transferred the land to TWRA with funding provided by the Agency and the Tennessee chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

“We are very gratified that this land can be preserved for the use of not only present Tennessee residents but for future generations,” said The Oakley family.

TWRA funding came, in part, from a grant from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program.

“This effort opens up a whole swath of forested and grassland areas that were not previously accessible to the public,” said Ralph Knoll, Tennessee state director at The Conservation Fund. “And as a result, it will support additional recreation opportunities, wildlife habitat connectivity and Tennessee’s outdoor tourism economy — one of the fastest growing and most important industries for the state.”

Gabby Lynch, director of protection for The Nature Conservancy said the project is a big win for everyone.

“This expansion of Catoosa Wildlife Management Area is a huge win for people and nature,” said Lynch. “The new property secured by The Conservation Fund and TWRA falls within a globally significant corridor of wildlife habitat that will also benefit our state’s outdoor recreationists of all ages.”

The Foothills Land Conservancy (FLC) owns a conservation easement on roughly 800 acres of the new addition to Catoosa WMA. The easement restricts certain development that could hinder the natural landscape of the property but will not impact TWRA’s future recreational programming plans.”

The property is permanently protected.

“Foothills Land Conservancy partnered with the Oakley’s in 2011 to permanently protect a portion of the property,” said FLC’s Natural Resources Director, Shelby Lyn Sanders. “The 800 acres under a conservation easement were surveyed by FLC biologists and found to have a rich diversity of plants and wildlife species, and features sections of No Business Creek and How Come You Creek, important tributaries within the Big South Fork watershed. The property’s proximity to the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area was also considered to be a significant conservation value at the time, so to have this tract become part of TWRA’s management activities falls right in line with Foothills’ mission of preserving, protecting, and enhancing lands across the southeast.”

Image by Freepik.

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