Bipartisan TN Wilderness Act Mired in Congress’ Partisanship

Conservationists are getting antsy that Congress for more than a year has failed to take up a bill that would cost nothing and protect 19,556 acres of Volunteer State wilderness, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
The Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2011, introduced in May 2011 by Sen. Lamar Alexander and co-sponsored by Sen. Bob Corker, would expand five existing wilderness areas in the Cherokee National Forest and create the first new one in 25 years.
The five expansions include two in Polk County and one in Monroe County. The new wilderness area also would be in Monroe County.
“There is no opposition to this,” said Jeff Hunter, director of the Tennessee Wilderness Campaign. “The Forest Service chief has testified strongly in favor of the bill; it doesn’t cost anything.”
Yet, while the bill passed out of committee on a bipartisan basis and takes no private land, closes no roads and snatches no taxes from local communities, it has languished without a full vote for nearly a year.
“It takes an act of Congress to create or expand wilderness areas,” said Jay Mills, who as a co-founder of Southwings, volunteers his small plane and piloting skills to help policymakers learn about them and other conservation issues.
But Mills and Hunter said the bill is stalled.
“It’s mired down in Congress because Congress is bogged down in partisan issues and they are not accomplishing much,” Hunter said.
The areas proposed for protection already are public lands as part of the Cherokee National Forest, but still they lack protection from off-roading, logging, mining and road building — all things that can
fragment forests and harm stream quality.
…The Tennessee Wilderness Act is one of 25 wilderness bills across the
country that are caught in the mire.
Hunter and Mills are hoping to rally citizens to lean on their congressional representatives to tell them they want action once big fiscal issues are dealt with in the upcoming lame duck Congress. The
Congress is scheduled to reconvene Nov. 13 after the 2012 elections.

Leave a Reply