out natcornThe folks in the mountains of Western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee share more than a common boundary, they share a deep appreciation for the wild, sometimes rugged, but always beautiful landscape they call home. 


It’s a special place, a place where one can walk in the footsteps of their ancestors, stepping over the same rocks or climbing the same precipice. They can follow trails made thousands of years ago by the Cherokee and wade the cold streams cut into the granite by receding sheets of ice.

The Appalachians are the oldest mountains on the planet. They hold secrets in time found nowhere else. As wilderness disappears, these secrets disappear.

There is and has been for years a bill in Congress that would help ensure more of these secrets remain secrets that could whisper to our grandchildren’s grandchildren. It started out as the Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2010, introduced by Tennessee senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker. There it languished, was resurrected in 2011 only to die again, and was resurrected again only to die once more. Today, groups like Tennessee Wild say they are optimistic that the Tennessee Wilderness Act 2013 will once again see the light of day.

A different fate requires more action. Our neighbors in Tennessee have been working hard to facilitate the passage of the Tennessee Wilderness Act. 

I believe, as good neighbors, we in Western North Carolina need to get busy. We have more than one Plott hound in this hunt.

Wilderness designation simply adds another layer of protection to wild places. It basically protects them from road building and/or resource extraction. They remain open for hiking, horseback riding, camping, fishing, birding, paddling, hunting and other activities. And there are provisions for emergency situations like wildfire. So adding wilderness in eastern Tennessee would help protect these mountains we all cherish. And, in particular, the Tennessee Wilderness Act would add another 1,836 acres to the Joyce Kilmer/Slickrock Wilderness area, which many in Western North Carolina lay claim to anyway.

Other areas that would receive wilderness designation include Big Frog Wilderness – 348 acres in Polk County; Little Frog Wilderness – 966 acres in Polk County; Big Laurel Branch Wilderness – 4,446 acres in Carter and Johnson counties; and Sampson Mountain Wilderness – 2,922 acres in Washington and Unicoi counties. The Tennessee Wilderness Act would not cost a penny. The USDA Forest Service has recommended them for wilderness designation, and they are managed as wilderness anyway. Why not make it official?

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could “volunteer” our senators to be co-sponsors of the Tennessee Wilderness Act? Sen. Burr, in fact, sits on the Senate Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources and Infrastructure. He can be contacted in Asheville at Federal Building

151 Patton Avenue, Suite 204 Asheville, N.C., 28801. Phone: 828.350.2437. Fax: 828.350.2439 or in Washington at 217 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C., 20510. Phone: 202.224.3154. Fax 202.228.2981 and online at http://www.burr.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.ContactForm.

Senator Kay Hagan can be reached in Asheville at 82 Patton Avenue, Suite 635, Asheville, N.C., 28801. Phone: 828.257.6510. Fax: 828.257.6514 or in Washington at 521 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C., 20510. Phone: 202.224.6342. Fax: 202.228.2563 and online at www.hagan.senate.gov/?p=contact.

Be a good neighbor.

(Don Hendershot is a writer and naturalist. He can be reached a This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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