Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of Tennessee that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
Potential establishment of a new wildlife refuge in the Paint Rock River watershed and extending the Riverwalk in Chattanooga are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Bill Haslam and the state of Tennessee, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Each of these projects help support a high quality of life for Tennesseans,” Gov. Bill Haslam said. “They provide opportunities for healthy activities, they conserve or rehabilitate important lands and foster tourism and job growth. I'm pleased to see they will be included in the America's Great Outdoors report.”
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Tennessee and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in Tennessee highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Paint Rock River Watershed
The Paint Rock River Watershed in Tennessee and Alabama, one of the most biologically diverse freshwater systems in the world, is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's top priority for a new national wildlife refuge in Tennessee.
Some strategic landholdings in the headwaters region have been conserved, but considerable work remains to connect these properties in a cohesive network of public lands protecting the natural and cultural resources of the area. Numerous nongovernmental organizations and state-government agencies are partnering in support of a new wildlife refuge for the watershed.
This project aligns with several AGO goals, including large landscape conservation, enhanced river access, and support for creative public-private partnerships.
Tennessee Riverpark's Chattanooga Riverwalk
Hamilton County and the city of Chattanooga have worked over the past 20 years to develop a 20-mile-long greenway along both banks of the Tennessee River. More than 13 miles of the Tennessee Riverpark are built and partners are working to finish the next section of the award-winning Riverwalk.
This greenway has helped Chattanoogans build a closer relationship with the Tennessee River and its natural, cultural, and recreational resources. The Riverwalk's focus on protection of and education about wildlife and riparian ecosystems has been a catalyst in the community's environmental awakening and has helped make Chattanooga an environmental and outdoor recreation showplace in the Southeast.
The Riverwalk extension will stretch from downtown at Ross's Landing to the base of Lookout Mountain, crossing a number of industrial and blighted properties, and helping reclaim brownfields that currently greet visitors to the community.
This new greenway extension will connect many economically-disadvantaged neighborhoods and diverse users to the greenway and help address issues with diabetes and obesity in adults and children in West Chattanooga.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Tennessee, for example, the Department could work with state, local, and nonprofit partners to establish a new national wildlife refuge in the Paint Rock River Watershed.
The Department could also provide planning and technical assistance through the National Park Service River and Trails Conservation Assistance program to help extend the greenway in Chattanooga.
The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus – including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.