The Land Trust for Tennessee is a nonprofit conservation organization formed in 1999 that has since been involved in conserving more than 350 special places across the state, totaling over 119,000 acres. The trust opened its Chattanooga office in 2007 and in the decade since has worked on over 85 projects, conserving approximately 49,000 acres in the Southeast Tennessee region.
In the organization’s early days, its primary focus was helping private landowners, especially farmers, protect their land using conservation easements. As time went by, the trust saw the need to expand its efforts to include protecting public lands of value for outdoor recreation and the health of the environment.
Much of the work of The Land Trust for Tennessee involves placing conservation easements on private lands, which allows the owners to continue to live on or use the property while limiting its development. In return, the landowner gets the assurance that their property will remain in a relatively natural state, and they might also receive tax breaks.
The trust works with local communities; government agencies such as the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and an assortment of partner organizations, including the Open Space Institute, The Conservation Fund, the Southeastern Climbers Coalition and others. In addition, the Lyndhurst and Benwood foundations are two Chattanooga-based organizations that provide financial assistance for projects.
Following are some of the conservation successes around the Southeast Tennessee region that The Land Trust for Tennessee has been involved in since opening its Chattanooga office a decade ago.
About 3,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau, containing portions of Lost and Champion coves, were added to the domain of the University of the South at Sewanee, connecting it to the 8,000-acre Franklin State Forest and two state natural areas.
The Fiery Gizzard
In 2010, 6,100 acres along the Fiery Gizzard were protected. More recently, the trust and other partners acquired an additional 1,058 acres of Fiery Gizzard land to add to South Cumberland State Park.
The Cumberland Trail
More than 1,000 acres and 10 miles of trail were added to the Cumberland Trail State Park in Bledsoe, Rhea and Hamilton counties.
The Land Trust protected 693 acres of the historic Mayfield Farm, where Mayfield milk and ice cream originated, with a conservation easement.
Over 30 acres that include Castle Rock, a popular climbing site in Marion County, were turned over to the Tennessee River Gorge Trust.
This 685-acre tract near Foster Falls officially opened in March as another climbing destination and a new addition to South Cumberland State Park.
Town of Signal Mountain
In 2014, 342 acres were conserved as public parkland in the town of Signal Mountain.
Approximately 2,600 acres within the Scott’s Gulf area of White and Van Buren counties were added to the Bridgestone–Firestone Centennial Wilderness wildlife management area, connecting over 45,000 acres of protected land.
Sherwood Forest and Tunnel Hill
The 4,061-acre Sherwood Forest tract in Franklin County was conserved, with more than 3,000 acres being added to Carter State Natural Area, a unit of South Cumberland State Park, and 968 acres added to Franklin State Forest. Nearby, 411 acres on Tunnel Hill were added to the 17,000-acre Bear Hollow Mountain WMA. The tract overlays part of the historical Cowan Tunnel and connects to the Hawkins Cove State Natural Area, as well as a 200-acre easement held by the Tennessee Parks & Greenways Foundation.
Window Cliffs State Natural Area
The 275-acre Window Cliffs State Natural Area near Cookeville officially opened in April as an addition to Burgess Falls State Park.
Sixty-eight acres of critical wildlife habitat were acquired near the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee rivers and added to the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge.
The Land Trust also acts as a steward of protected lands, ensuring that conservation easements are being respected.
As it enters its second decade, the staff of The Land Trust for Tennessee’s Chattanooga office will no doubt continue to carry out the organization’s goals for the preservation of historical lands, working farms, recreational and scenic landscapes, waterways, urban open space, and wildlife habitat throughout Southeast Tennessee.
Liz McLaurin, president and CEO of the Land Trust for Tennessee, said:
It is a privilege to partner with landowners who see the life of the land beyond their own lives and to work with conservation partners to protect so many unique landscapes in the Southeast region of Tennessee. As our active conservation impact grows in this area, we also remain focused on being the best stewards of the land we protect—giving landowners peace of mind that their land will forever benefit people in our state.
View a map showing the locations of the trust’s conservation projects in the region here.
Learn more about the work of The Land Trust for Tennessee, how you can protect your land and ways you can get involved here.
Bob Butters explores nature and the outdoors, primarily in and near the South Cumberland region, and publishes the blog www.Nickajack-Naturalist.com. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.