$5.25 Million Fund is Key Step Towards More Conservation in Greater Chattanooga Region

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An environmental group has raised over five million dollars to accelerate land conservation in the tri-state area to battle climate change.

The Open Space Institute is taking a key step towards conserving wildlife and forests around the Greater Chattanooga Region with the Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund.

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“The fund seeks to protect land across the Appalachians that will protect species as the climate changes and also sequester carbon….we’ll partner with land trusts and communities to support their acquisition efforts, so it will be distributed,” says Joel Houser with Open Space Institute.

Areas being considered for the project are Lookout and Pigeon mountains, Cumberland Plateau, Southern Blue Ridge Mountains, the Appalachians Connector, Paint Rock Watershed, Walden Ridge, and Hiwassee River Corridor.

Chattanooga-based, Thrive Regional Partnership plans to double protected lands in the tri-states to 30% within the next twenty years.

In addition, to having drinkable, swimmable waters that not only enhances wildlife and communities, but also stimulates recreation and tourism.

Rhett Bentley with Thrive Regional Partnership says, “Much of this region is not protected leaving future generations at risk to things like increased flooding and temperatures and poor air and water quality, but if we follow this conservation blueprint, that would bump that 12.5% number to 30%, and the Appalachian Protection Fund is a huge critical investment to helping this region get there… Much of the land in this region is considered to be climate resilient which means it has characteristics that make for good habitat for biodiversity and people as the climate changes.”

Thrive says they are continuing to fund-raise for this effort and hope the five million is just a start. The southern Appalachians are one of the fastest growing regions in terms of human population. The Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund will work to preserve the land to fight climate change.

UTC Professor of the Dept. of Biology, Geology, and Environmental Sciences, Dr. David Aborn says,”What’s happening is we’re putting excess amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and so, we need to have a way of removing that carbon and keeping it from going back into the atmosphere. And, so trees and other vegetation is one of doing it… The Chattanooga area is regarded as one of the top destinations for outdoor recreation whether it be hiking, mountain biking. The more pristine areas that we can protect, the more attractive the area is going to be.”