We are grateful for our blessings. For water-rich and green Tennessee. For the beauty and bounty we’ve had growing up here. We’re grateful to Governor Haslam’s administration for the 24,000 acres that have been conserved during this administration at Pogue Creek Canyon, Cummins Falls, Virgin Falls, and Rocky Fork and so many others.
But more conservation is needed. We’re asking Governor Haslam and the 2017 legislature to make this project their greatest legacy.
Forever Green Tennessee! Conserve 4% more of Tennessee’s 27 million acres by 2050 in forested corridors to protect water; Conserve farmland and our history. For our children, wildlife, and economy.
We are not proposing a tax increase. But in your 2017 budget, we ask that the legislature re-direct from the General Fund $35 million per year needed to Forever Green Tennessee. A $25 million per year Water Fund, A $5 million Farmland Fund, and A $5 million Historic Preservation Fund would complement existing conservation programs (28 million/$13 million for land), and conserve the very best TN has to offer. This is only 1/10th of 1% of our State’s $34 billion budget. And is one of the most important investments you could make for future generations.
Here’s what is at stake, the challenge facing our economy and environment and the benefits of this proposal.
First what is at stake:
Our jobs depend on our natural resources now and in the future. We need abundant water for health care, tourism, food industries, energy production, agriculture, hotels, automobile manufacturing and drinking water.
Our children’s future depends on wild species and conserved land for food, water, and air.
Our Tennessee Garden is at risk. With mile high mountains in the East, the grand Mississippi River in the West and 60,000 miles of rivers in between. It’s these flowing waters that make Tennessee the “greenest state in the land of the free.”
Our garden is rich with seven of the top eight most biologically diverse rivers in North America. National Geographic said the Duck River has more fish species per mile than any other river in North America. We have more kinds of trees than throughout all of Europe. More caves than any other state. Our birds, flowers, and animals are rich and varied. We are stewards of this Garden and it’s at risk.
Our native villages, our frontier settlements, our Civil War battlefields, our idyllic towns have all clustered along the banks of our rivers. Tennessee’s rich history is at risk.
The Challenge is Tennessee’s population is booming.
It’s doubled in my lifetime. Our population was 3.7 million in 1970. It’s 6.6 million today  and is projected to be 9.3 million by 2050. More people demand more water and more cleared land.
The Challenge is that fewer forested corridors will worsen non-point source pollution which is the greatest threat to TN waters. Pathogens, nutrients, and silt will increase and further pollute streams. These pollutants are not regulated by TDEC and already 50% of the 27,000 miles of rivers tested do not fully support recreational use or fish and aquatic life.
Tourism will suffer with the loss of green Tennessee scenery and natural treasures will be lost that could be the State Parks and WMA’s of the future. Plus, existing parks are at risk due to unprotected headwaters, water pollution, and boundary problems.
Rural economies and jobs will suffer. Vulnerable small streams in rural areas provide drinking water and water for industry and these will be impacted first.
Wildlife will disappear. Half of all species on the Earth face extinction by the end of this century, and freshwater life is the most vulnerable. 75% of Tennessee’s endangered species are in our waters, risking our wildlife and our economy that benefits from hunting and fishing.
More regulations will hinder development as more endangered species are listed.
Tennessee’s agricultural economy will suffer as working farms disappear and get more expensive. Between 2007 and 2014 a half million acres of farm land was lost in Tennessee. The drought of 2015, and the average age of cattlemen at 59 years old exacerbate the problem.
We will lose our historic sites. We have 44,000 national register sites and 38 nationally significant civil war battlefield sites threatened by new development. Historic sites attract and keep more visitors to an area than any other attraction. And preserving history is important for our children, giving context and meaning to their lives.
Time is short — we must act now while large tracts, our farmland, and our historic sites are still available.
But there is a solution.., A Forever Green Tennessee. By linking together existing conserved land and protecting only 4 percent more of TN’s 27 million acres, we can Forever Green Tennessee, giving our descendants everything they need for a successful future. Already, TNSN have conserved 11% of TN with 2.1 million acres, mainly in Federal lands. The good news is we are 2/3 of the way there and we know the most important sites to conserve.
Scientists at Forestry, TDEC, and TWRA have mapped 1.2 million acres in 75 project areas to protect our most important rivers and streams for water supply and quality, habitat for priority species, corridor connectivity for wildlife and waters and for the parks and wildlife area’s of the future.
A Water Conservation Fund would conserve these 1.2 million acres and conserve our source headwater forests and buffers along streams. Scientists at TDEC report that protecting forests is THE most important thing we could do to protect water.
A Farmland Fund would purchase development rights from willing sellers and would conserve our agricultural economy and food supply.
A Historic Preservation Fund would protect the most significant and threatened historic sites that tell the story of our shared human history.
The Benefits of the investment makes this a bargain… A Forever Green TN for our economy and our children’s future.
With natural forest filters, we avoid more expensive water filtration and have cleaner water. Because Trees store water like a sponge, we conserve greater water quantity for our use. Forest Corridors reduce flooding.
TN’s Rural economies will be ensured abundant water supply for drinking and for jobs. 80 water dependent commercial food industry corporations employ 51,436 people in TN. Nine automobile manufacturers are water dependent and employ 106,000 people.
New businesses will continue to invest in Tennessee, creating new jobs, when they are assured a good quality of life.
Forested river corridors save wildlife, protect the park sites of the future and our tourist-based economy. Parks are THE most visited attractions in Tennessee. Cummins Falls State Park received 267,192 visitors in 2015, fueling the economy of rural Jackson County. Hunting and fishing, boating and wildlife watching contribute $6 billion per year to our economy.
Clean water and air and nearby parks will make TNSNs healthier and help improve our ranking as the 45th worst in the nation in overall health and 47th in obesity.
Forests are our lungs on the land and will protect and filter the air we breathe.
Forest and Water conservation will aid agriculture. Farmers need more water than any other industry and they need wild species to enrich soils and pollinate plants. Purchase of development rights will keep Farmland affordable, Tennessee beautiful, and agriculture as a strong segment of our economy. Agriculture contributes $44 billion to our economy and 43% of our land is in farms.
As population and real estate transfers grow, so would investments for a good quality of life, jobs, healthy food, water, and air for our descendants.
Our coalition represents thousands of Tennesseans who will work for you and this vision. Eight in 10 Tennesseans support this.
This Legislature has the power with a small investment to make this a reality. Our legacy can Forever Green Tennessee and this could change the whole world.
 Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. Public Opinion Strategies, Project #15007. January 5-8, 2015.