The Nature Conservancy Preserves Nearly 400 Square Miles of Appalachian Forest

  A 253,000-acre swath in the Central Appalachian Mountains will be protected, thanks to a land acquisition by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) announced earlier this month. Two parcels, one along the Kentucky-Tennessee state line, and the other in Southwest Virginia, will fill in large gaps between existing public lands and provide a wilderness corridor for animals seeking refuge from climate change, experts say.

The acquisition, known as the Cumberland Forest Project and announced July 22, 2019, is among the largest land purchases TNC has made in the Eastern United States. The organization is celebrating the deal for the way it will connect wild lands along the Appalachian Mountains.

“You see a lot of green spaces on the map when you look at the Appalachians,” says Brad Kreps, director of TNC’s Clinch Valley Program. “But there are a lot of gaps within that conserved network, and those are the places we need to work to serve the entire Appalachian corridor. The Cumberland Forest Project is a strategic acquisition that helps stitch together other protected lands and helps us maintain connected wildlife habitat.”

The first of the two parcels, the Ataya property, is a 100,000-acre tract running along the Kentucky and Tennessee border near Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. The Highlands property, the second of the two plots, consists of 153,000 acres of forest in Southwest Virginia, sandwiched between Jefferson National Forest and Breaks Interstate Park. Both parcels were previously owned by timber companies and managed primarily for resource extraction, from logging to coal mining.

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