CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Conservationists have built an artificial bat cave deep in the Tennessee woods to see if it can be a blueprint for saving bats who are dying by the millions from a fungus spreading across North America.
The $300,000 project by The Nature Conservancy is believed to be the first manmade hibernating structure for bats in the wild. Unlike natural caves, it will be cleaned annually to keep the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome from reaching lethal levels.
“We talked with other people, waiting for one of them to call us crazy and no one did,” said Gina Hancock, director of the Tennessee chapter of the conservancy.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and the Nature Conservancy say they expect an $8.8 million purchase of undeveloped property in Johnson County to be a boost to tourism and create jobs.
The state and the conservation organization announced Thursday that they have acquired the 8,600-acre Doe Mountain, just southwest of Mountain City.
Doe Mountain, which contains miles of existing roads and trails, is one of the largest remaining blocks of forest in private ownership in the Southern Blue Ridge region. It will be open to the public.
“Doe Mountain offers a great opportunity for outdoor recreation and the benefits that come with opening up space for people to enjoy, such as healthier communities and new jobs from tourism,” Haslam said in a news release. “I’m pleased we as a state could contribute to this lasting legacy for all Tennesseans.”
Gina Hancock, director of the Tennessee chapter of the Nature Conservancy, told The Associated Press that the property is a failed development project that fell into bankruptcy about five years ago.
She said her organization has been working with the state for about a year to acquire the property, which she expects to help tourism regionally.
“The goal is to … work with North Carolina and Virginia on kind of having a triangle for visitation,” Hancock said.
Portions of Doe Mountain are expected to allow outdoor recreation such as mountain biking, horseback riding and scenic touring by all-terrain vehicles, officials said.
A remote Tennessee mountain where drug dealers have grown and hidden mounds of marijuana will soon become protected parkland, reports The Tennessean. Nearly 1,000 acres on Short Mountain in Cannon County will be kept free of development to instead remain wild and natural for hunters and hikers — an unusual outcome for forfeited drug property.
But this was no ordinary land. The gentle slopes and craggy ridges amazed federal drug investigators who were in on the raid and led scientists to discover species of crayfish, salamanders and beetles not found anywhere else. And the water that runs off the mountain — the tallest point in Middle Tennessee at 2,074 feet — flows down in every direction.
The deal to conserve the drug land, signed recently after years of negotiations, is one of just four such transfers in the nation in 15 years, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s also by far the largest. In Tennessee, such an arrangement has no precedent.
A huge win for conservationists, who worked for years to convince government and police agencies of its merit, the deal preserves some of the most beautiful land in the state. Those who put it together say that made more sense than selling it off to recoup all of the money poured into the drug investigation.
Financial and legislative pieces are coming together for the state of Tennessee and The Nature Conservancy to buy and develop Johnson County’s Doe Mountain into a multi-use tourist attraction for all-terrain vehicles, biking, horseback riding and hiking. Continuing a report by Hank Hayes::
“It’s looking good. … We should know something within a month or so where we are on this. … I’m trying to keep it low key … (but) I think everything will be fine,” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said of the venture.
Last December, Ramsey said the Doe Mountain venture could have a similar economic impact as Southwest Virginia’s 34-mile Virginia Creeper Trail, which is open to hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. He envisioned spin-off businesses like campgrounds, restaurants and bike shops.
The 8,600-acre Doe Mountain property was a planned residential development that fell through, according to Ramsey.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has set aside $8.5 million in the state’s current budget, plus $300,000 in a supplemental appropriation to pay for the property, according to administration spokesman Dave Smith.
Smith noted the Doe Mountain acquisition is on the State Building Commission Executive Subcommittee’s agenda on Monday.
The Nature Conservancy State Director Gina Hancock said the plan is for The Nature Conservancy to buy the property and “hold it until the state buys it from us.”
The Tennessee Senate, meanwhile, has passed amended legislation creating a Doe Mountain Recreation Authority to manage the property.