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Last piece of Rocky Fork State Park falls in place, officials praise NET wilderness gem

September 2nd, 2015 6:58 pm by staff reports

Last piece of Rocky Fork State Park falls in place, officials praise NET wilderness gem

ERWIN—Today U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, U.S. Representative Phil Roe, U.S. Forest Service Regional Forester Tony Tooke, and Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill joined other federal, state, local officials, community members and private partners to celebrate the completion of an extraordinary effort to conserve the largest stretch of unfragmented forestland in the southern Appalachian Mountains.

Thanks in large part to funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund , the final 100 acres of the 9,814-acre Rocky Fork property is now protected, ensuring important wildlife habitat, water quality, recreational access and economic opportunities for neighboring communities.

The LWCF is the only bipartisan, federal program dedicated to the continued conservation and protection of America’s irreplaceable natural, historic, cultural and outdoor landmarks. Funded through a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties—not taxpayer dollars—this successful and critical national program will expire in less than 30 days under the current authorization.

“Rocky Fork, Upper East Tennessee’s ‘Gateway to the Appalachian Trail,’ is one more way our beautiful mountains will attract anyone who enjoys the Great American Outdoors,” said U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander.
For nearly five decades, the Forest Service has partnered with The Conservation Fund and others to protect millions of acres of land

“The Rocky Fork property exemplifies what we can accomplish through partnerships to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of our national forests,” said U.S. Forest Service Regional Forester Tony Tooke.

Rocky Fork State Park’s 2,000 acres offer a wide variety of high mountain outdoor adventures to the local community and visitors to Tennessee. Rocky Fork will become the only state park in Tennessee which contains segments of the Appalachian Trail.

The Conservation Fund, a national non-profit organization, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) purchased the large, mountain haven located along the Tennessee-North Carolina border starting in 2008 and completed in 2015.

Over the last seven years, over $30 million in funding from the LWCF was secured with tremendous support from Senator Alexander, as well as U.S. Senator Bob Corker and Representative Roe, to preserve 7,778 acres as part of Cherokee National Forest.

An additional $6 million was provided by Tennessee’s Heritage Conservation Trust Fund and was used to acquire 2,036 acres of Rocky Fork for the establishment of the state’s 55th park by TDEC.

“Millions of people visit Tennessee each year to experience our incredible God-given outdoor amenities, and Rocky Fork’s completion ensures that this land will be available for future generations,” said Senator Bob Corker.

 Representative Phil Roe also voiced his approval.

“I am glad that Rocky Fork is officially part of the Cherokee National Forest after years of hard work,” Roe said.

Named after the trout stream that run down its center, Rocky Fork lies within the Appalachian National Scenic Trail corridor and is surrounded by more than 22,000 acres of protected wilderness.

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