WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., have introduced the Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2013, which would designate as wilderness nearly 20,000 acres in six areas of the Cherokee National Forest.
The legislation would create one new wilderness area, and expand the boundaries of five existing wilderness areas, within the Cherokee National Forest, according to a news release from Alexander's office.
The new wilderness area would be the Upper Bald River Wilderness, which is more than 9,000 acres in Monroe County.
"I grew up hiking the mountains of East Tennessee, and conserving these areas gives future generations of Tennesseans the same sort of opportunity," Alexander said.
"This legislation takes important steps toward protecting our natural heritage, and gives the millions of people who visit Tennessee each year an additional reason to come and enjoy our outdoors," Alexander continued.
Corker noted the value of the mountains as a draw for tourists.
"I think Tennesseans take great pride in the fact that millions of people visit our state every year to experience our incredible God-given amenities," Corker said. "I thank Senator Alexander for his lifelong commitment to protecting wilderness areas and am proud to join him in this effort to preserve Cherokee National Forest for future generations of Tennesseans and Americans to enjoy."
Creating and expanding these wilderness areas would have no effect on privately owned land, according to the release.
The legislation would preserve access to federally-owned land that has already been made part of existing Wilderness Study Areas by the U.S. Forest Service.
The Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2013:
* creates the 9,038-acre Upper Bald River Wilderness in Monroe County;
* adds 348 acres to the Big Frog Wilderness in Polk County;
* adds 966 acres to the Little Frog Wilderness in Polk County;
* adds 2,922 acres to the Sampson Mountain Wilderness in Washington and Unicoi counties;
* adds 4,446 acres to the Big Laurel Branch Wilderness in Carter and Johnson counties; and,
* adds 1,836 acres to the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness in Monroe County.