Land preservation effort melds ecology, economy

The dramatic gorges, waterfalls and forests of the Southern Cumberland Plateau 80 miles southeast of Nashville have drawn Middle Tennessee residents for more than a century to enjoy cool mountain air and clean water. But with thousands of acres of privately owned timberland poised to be sold, the natural playground for sightseers, rock climbers, hikers and hunters is standing at a precipice.

The Land Trust for Tennessee has put together a vision with the help of dozens of community and government agencies that outlines strategies for protecting the area’s landscape and cultural resources while also growing the local economies.

They hope to persuade South Cumberland residents to work with them on a conservation agenda that leans on sustainable forestry and tourism for long-term economic stability.

The report, called “Cumberland Voices: A Conservation Vision for the South Cumberland Region,” covers 4 million acres, much in Tennessee, with parts stretching into Alabama and Georgia. The raised land runs like a slash through Middle and East Tennessee — north to southwest — from Interstate 40 near Cookeville to U.S. 431 in Alabama.

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