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After 30 years, now is the time for Tennessee’s Great Outdoors

The last time the state of Tennessee went through a process to determine the challenges and opportunities facing our state’s natural resources, I was a junior in high school and Ronald Reagan was President.

In 1985, President Reagan asked then Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander to chair the President’s Commission on “Americans Outdoors” and challenged the Commission to assess the status of our natural resources and the availability of outdoor recreational pursuits for the next generation of Americans and make recommendations to ensure the continued availability of such pursuits.

The undertaking of this national effort meant that Tennessee also developed its own state assessment of our natural resources via a process called “Tennesseans Outdoors.” Although many of the recommendations from this effort were implemented, much has changed in Tennessee since the release of the November 1986 report and these changes have had a profound effect on our natural resources and outdoor recreation needs.

In Tennessee, the Great Outdoors is big business and a long-standing part of our heritage. Tennessee’s mountains, rivers, plains, and wildlife have shaped who we are as a people and a culture, and have supported our rural and industrial economies for generations. For example, forestry, hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, state parks visitation, and boating alone contribute over $30 billion in annual economic output to Tennessee’s economy. They also produce nearly 200,000 thousand jobs and generate well over $750 hundred million annually in local, state, and federal tax revenue.

In addition to direct economic benefits, these activities also provide critical and significant health and quality of life benefits. However, it is our bountiful renewable natural resources that are the foundation of all of this sustainable economic engine. It therefore follows that we must ensure that we have a well-managed and healthy natural resource base to sustain and grow these sectors of our economy.

Today there are significant pressures placed upon our state’s land, streams, rivers, wildlife, forests, fields, air, and lakes by multiple, and often competing uses. These uses, if not planned, executed, and managed wisely, can and do negatively impact to our natural resources and, in turn, the outdoor recreation economic sector. Further, unexpected threats to our natural resources and a greater demand for quality outdoor experiences by our citizens are rapidly and steadily increasing.

For Tennessee to maintain and expand the benefits that our out-of-doors provide, we suggest the creation of a Forum on Tennessee’s Great Outdoors. This Forum will assess the current status of our state’s natural resources, identify critical challenges facing their management and conservation, and develop strategic solutions to ensure their persistence well into the future. By bringing together Tennessee’s citizen leaders and professionals who have a passion for the Great Outdoors, the Forum can work together to develop results-driven solutions to the challenges we face.

In a day when our politicians and elected officials are quick to quote to Ronald Reagan, they need to remember the vision he had for our great nation and a Tennessee Governor who shared that vision. Tennessee’s forests, lands, waters, and wildlife are great treasures that deserve a discussion that looks to a vision for our state’s natural resources and their needs.

TWF has worked with house and senate members to introduce HB1871/SB1832 which will establish a Forum on Tennessee’s Outdoors. Stay tuned for updates.

2 replies
  1. Eugene M Regen, Jr. M.D.
    Eugene M Regen, Jr. M.D. says:

    Over a period of perhaps five decades, it has been a genuine joy, honor and privilege to have been involved with groups at the federal, state and private sector levels in a variety of enthusiasms that directly or indirectly have had an impact on our natural resources heritage. These have included, indirectly, the BOR (Bureau of Outdoor Recreation) in the establishment of the Big South Fork wild and scenic river protection; directly with TVA, TWRA, the State Equip and State Tulip programs in Stream Bank Stabilization on the Duck River; re-establishing NWSG (native warm season grasses) and planting for Wildlife habitat, with help and advice from TWRA; saving ( quite literally “saving”) Cummins Falls from private development through the leadership of TennGreen (formerly Tennessee Parks and Recreation Foundation), and enjoying and appreciating the associations that have derived from these activities. So it is without reservation that I heartily support the establishment of the Forum on Tennessee’s Great Outdoors. Respectfully submitted.


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