How TN conservation strategy will preserve the great outdoors for future generations
Published 11:46 am Friday, September 15, 2023
BY DAVID SALYERS
Tennessee is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty and resources, from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Mississippi River.
As Governor Lee noted during his 2023 State of the State address, while “Tennessee has maintained responsible stewardship of our natural resources, it’s time to develop a conservation strategy” for the future.
To ensure that Tennesseans and visitors continue to enjoy our state’s rich outdoor heritage, the Lee administration has made strategic investments – totaling more than $500 million – to preserve our state’s lands for generations to come.
Expanding Tennessee’s parks & trails
Tennessee is home to 57 state parks, dozens of natural areas, and nearly 1,000 greenways and trails, attracting millions of visitors and generating billions in revenue each year. Our conservation strategy will fund improvements in every corner of the state, providing Tennesseans and visitors with even more opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors.
Four new state parks will soon open across each Grand Division near Jackson, Chattanooga, the Cumberland Plateau and in Lewis County, while the state’s most popular natural areas with scenic waterfalls, overlooks and prized rare plant species will be improved, inviting individuals and families to hike, bike and kayak.
Funds will also complete major Tennessee trails from Mountain City to Memphis, including the Wolf River Greenway in Shelby County, the Mountain Goat Trail in Franklin and Grundy counties, the Tweetsie Trail between Johnson City and Elizabethton and the beloved Cumberland Trail.
Strengthening our rural communities
As we welcome Tennesseans and visitors to enjoy our state’s natural beauty, it’s equally important that we revitalize our state’s former industrial sites, called brownfields, where toxic waste has created the potential for environmental hazard.
The $5.3 million Rural Brownfield Redevelopment Investment Act will make our communities safer for future Tennesseans and spur economic growth across Tennessee by preparing each of our state’s 175 former industrial sites for development. This investment matters to all of Tennessee, but especially for rural Tennessee.
As we celebrate the fewest number of distressed counties in Tennessee history, a significant milestone in the Lee administration’s mission to accelerate the transformation of rural Tennessee, our brownfields investment will bring more economic development and new jobs across our rural communities.
Creating a brighter future for every Tennessean
Finally, to ensure a brighter future for Tennessee, we must prioritize the advancement of safe, reliable, clean nuclear energy.
No other state matches Tennessee’s potential to lead America’s energy independence, and we’ve made smart investments this year to ensure there is no better state for nuclear energy companies to locate and do business, including a $50 million Nuclear Fund and the Tennessee Nuclear Energy Advisory Council.
From increased time outdoors to economic development and energy security, our bold conservation strategy means greater opportunity for every Tennessean.
I thank Governor Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly for recognizing the importance of Tennessee’s conservation, and I look forward to working with them in the years to come to build upon this success.
(David W. Salyers, P.E., is the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.)