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ACTION ALERTS–ACTION URGENTLY NEEDED
Action call #1 Proposed Changes to Wilderness Act to allow mountain biking
For nearly 55 years, the Wilderness Act has protected Wilderness areas designated by Congress from machines of all types. This has meant, as Congress intended, that Wilderness areas have been kept free from cars, trucks, ATVs, snowmobiles, bicycles, and all other types of motorized and mechanized transport.
Unfortunately, a loud contingent of mountain bikers and an off-shoot mountain biking organization, the Sustainable Trails Coalition (STC), have convinced a notoriously anti-Wilderness member of the U.S. Senate—Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah)—to introduce S. 1695, a bill to weaken the Wilderness Act and blast open every Wilderness in the nation to mountain bikes and other human-powered machines.
During the last session of Congress, Wilderness Watch spearheaded a sign-on letter to Congress in opposition to opening up the National Wilderness Preservation System to bikes. 150 wilderness-supporting organizations from around the nation signed on, clearly showing that the conservation community is united in its opposition to the mountain bikers’ efforts.
What you can do:
Now we need your help! Please take a few minutes to urge your senators to oppose S. 1695 and all attempts to amend and weaken the Wilderness Act to allow mountain bikes in Wilderness.
At a time when Wilderness and wildlife are under increasing pressures from increasing populations, growing mechanization, and a rapidly changing climate, the last thing Wilderness needs is to be invaded by mountain bikes and other machines!
Action call #2 Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park Threatened
In 2008, the 10,000-acre Rocky Fork Tract was acquired with $40 million from The Conservation Fund and the USFS to save this unique, wild mountain area from developers. The tract was added to the Cherokee National Forest, with 2,000 acres becoming the Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park (RFSP) in Unicoi County, TN. RFSP is, and should remain, Tennessee wildest state park.
Unfortunately, without developing a master plan or management plan, and ignoring hundreds of public comments, TDEC in 2018 announced intentions for extensive development of the area, including a massive and destructive road up Flint Mountain.
In April, TCWP joined with Defenders of Wildlife and 12 other regional and national conservation groups to draft and submit a letter to the new Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner, David Salyers, expressing our concerns with TDEC’s proposed development plans in Rocky Fork and asking Commissioner Salyers for a face-to-face meeting to discuss the matter further. TCWP Director, Sandra Goss, delivered the Rocky Fork sign-on letter to Mr. Salyers on April 16.
In spite of the fact that TDEC is officially still waiting for the permits required to begin building a road through Rocky Fork, TCWP just learned that an engineering firm is on site, as of May 6, to “start clearing the road right-of-way”. The firm has been awarded a $300,000 contract to perform a geotechnical surveying in areas where road structures (like 750 feet of retaining walls up to 27 feet high holding back fill dirt up to 30 feet deep) would be located to determine if the designs are compatible with soils and geology present. This survey work will require cutting trees to clear a path for the equipment and some bulldozer work to access the steep slopes where the proposed road would go. Since permits to build the road have not been issued and further discussion could result in a change in the plans, the damage done by this preliminary work is unacceptable at this time. Please make a call and ask them to stop!
Update (6/22/2019): For now, the geotechnical survey work and associated clearing/road-building has been put on hold. The state has also acquired an 88-acre tract (the “Sparks Tract”) adjoining Rocky Fork which we believe could provide a much less destructive location for the proposed visitor center and primitive campground. TCWP and other conservation organizations are actively pursuing a face-to-face meeting with the new TDEC commissioner, David Salyers, and staff, to ask them to re-consider alternative development plans (particularly the Sparks Tract) and re-open a discussion with the public before proceeding with further development of the park.
What you can do:
The TCWP website will attempt to stay informed of the changing situation at Rocky Fork State Park. We urge you to check it frequently (tcwp.org/tools for action).
Action call #3 OAK RIDGERS, PLEASE READ!: Deadline: ASAP
Colin Colverson of the Clinch Valley Trail Alliance (CVTA) met with the TCWP Board on May 16 to explain CVTA’s proposal for a network of multi-use (including mountain bike) trails on a 50-acre Greenbelt area in east Oak Ridge. In response to some concerns about the heavily trafficked access corner and lack of parking, Colverson indicated that CVTA doesn’t expect high usage for the trails, most of it from nearby residents. For more information about CVTA’s proposed trail, visit www.clinchvalleytrailalliance.org. The CVTA proposal should be of interest not merely to the neighborhood but to all Oak Ridge residents. It concerns the entire character of Oak Ridge as a city. From the outset, our greenbelts were wisely set aside as enclaves of uninvaded nature among our dwellings. They are an asset of nearly unparalleled value. Citizens don’t have to own large estates, or don’t have to drive great (and ever-growing) distances to enjoy uninvaded nature and wildlife. This objective is enshrined in the City’s greenbelt ordinance, which defines a greenbelt as “publicly held property to be preserved, as nearly as practicable, in its natural state.” The ordinance permits walking trails only (no machines). In its >50-year history, TCWP has several times fought for this objective — successfully. One purpose of developing the simple North Ridge Trail was to acquaint people with (and inspire them to defend) the value of greenbelts. TCWP is offering to help with a public informational and comment meeting so all Oak Ridge residents can share their thoughts.
What you can do:
To receive information about the as yet unscheduled public meeting, or to comment on the CVTA proposal please write to, or call, Jon Hetrick, Oak Ridge Parks and Recreation Director (firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-425-3450), members of the Oak Ridge City Council (CityCouncil@oakridgetn.gov), AND TCWP executive director, Sandra Goss (email@example.com)
Action call #4 Help needed for maintaining TCWP’s valuable Newsletter archives
Help needed for maintaining TCWP’s valuable Newsletter archives. Publication of the TCWP Newsletter began in the summer of 1966 – almost 53 years ago, and the 345 issues, to date, contain a good deal of Tennessee’s (and a little of our country’s) conservation history. Several years ago, the University of Tennessee Library agreed to archive the collection, and to set up a searchable website on which references to numerous subjects could be found. Several dedicated TCWP members worked diligently to locate copies of all issues, digitize them, and begin work on a searchable index of major topics covered over the decades. Alas, diminished volunteer power has caused this effort to lag. Over the past five(!) years, current Newsletters have not even been transmitted to the archive, and the index has ceased to be built. Hopefully, TCWP has members who believe strongly enough in the value of this resource to be willing to spend just a few hours every couple of months* to transmit the current Newsletter to the archival database and to augment the index. Some computer know-how would be helpful, but could probably be acquired without too much effort. *[Note that the initial effort would be greater, since we have a backlog of five years.]
What You Can Do:
If you are willing to help, even if only part-time, contact Sandra Goss (865-583-3967 or Sandra@sandrakgoss.com
Action call #5 Volunteering in Parks
The following lists of volunteer opportunities were provided by Frozen Head State Park staff:
A. Independent tasks (without presence of Park Personnel):
•Weeding flower beds
•Painting signs and banisters
•Program Schedule distribution
•Litter patrol in the Gobey (Emory River) area
•Ditch clearing in the Flat Fork area
•Removing mold and mildew from the Book House
B. With direct supervision of Park Personnel:
•Mulching beds and trees
•Putting up Park fencing
•Special-event(s) set up
•Volunteer-day assistance (e.g. National Public Lands Day)
For all tasks, volunteers are required to first check in at the Park Office for instructions and guidance, and the issuance of an identification name tag.
You can also join the Trail Keeper Program, or volunteer for any of several other service activities at BSFNRRA or Obed WSR. Contact the volunteer coordinators, Effie Houston (firstname.lastname@example.org) for BSFNRRA, or Veronica Greear (email@example.com) for Obed WSR.
Action call #6 Restore our Parks Act is Reintroduced
[Information from The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks]
On February 14, the bipartisan bill that would address the backlog in NPS maintenance projects (NL341 ¶5B) was reintroduced by the ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Angus King (I-ME). He was joined by Senators Alexander (R-TN), Portman (R-OH), and Warner (D-VA), and there were 21 additional original cosponsors. A similar bill introduced in the House of Representatives the same day had more than 90 cosponsors. The act would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” to allocate existing revenues the government receives from onshore and offshore oil and gas development. This funding would come from 50% of all such revenues that are not otherwise allocated, not to exceed $1.3 billion each year for the next five years.
P.S.: The president’s budget released early in March calls for a total cut of $481 million to the NPS budget, including a $77 million cut to the Park Service’s already inadequate operating budget. This would result in the loss of hundreds of park staff and dig our parks into an even bigger financial hole.
What you can do:
Urge your congressman and both senators to support the Restore Our Parks bill (addresses in Political Guide at top of page).
Thank Sen. Alexander for co-sponsoring the bill. (Ph: 202-224-4944; Fax: 202-228-3398 e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org Local: 865-545-4253 (Fax 865-545-4252) 800 Market St., Suite 112 Knoxville 37902
Action call #7 2018 Voting Record
LCV publishes the 2018 Environmental Scorecard [Information from League of Conservation Voters]
The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has published a National Environmental Scorecard for every Congress since 1970. For 2018, experts from about 20 respected environmental and conservation organizations selected key votes (14 and 35 for Senate and House, respectively) on which to judge members of Congress. Excluded are issues on which no recorded vote occurred. The divide between environmental champions and politicians who vote for polluters and natural-resource exploiters has never been wider. In 2017, Senate Republicans hit a new low with a 1% average score, the lowest-scoring Senate average since LCV began tracking votes in 1970. In contrast, House Democrats tied their highest average score of 94%.
In 2018, the House continued to serve as a rubber stamp on the Trump administration’s attacks, and once again pushed their own breathtakingly anti-environmental agenda.
The good news is that, thanks to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and the “Green Firewall” of defense, the overwhelming majority of the House’s harmful legislative proposals didn’t even come up for a vote in the Senate. There were a few instances of bipartisan cooperation, largely thanks to leadership from the Senate. This included the passage into law of a pro-conservation Farm Bill (which, of course, included the Tennessee Wilderness Act, NL343 ¶1).
The Senate Scorecard also includes votes on several extreme nominees to serve in the Trump administration. One of the most damaging legacies of Trump’s presidency will be reshaping the federal judiciary with his nomination of extreme and partisan candidates for lifetime appointments. This includes the Supreme Court, which wields immense power over the interpretation of our bedrock environmental protections.
This year’s scorecard, as well as past ones, can be viewed at http://scorecard.lcv.org/.
A few of the results are summarized below.
Table 1. Average 2018 LCV scores for Congressional leaders and all members
|Senate committee leaders* (5R,5D)||10||94|
|House committee leaders* (6R,6D)||6||81|
|Senate party leaders** (4R,4D)||11||100|
|House party leaders** (5R,4D)||2||86|
|All senators ***||8||95|
*Committee leaders are chairs (Repub.) or ranking members (Dem.).
**Party leaders are majority/minority leaders, whips, conference chairs, etc.
***Two Independents caucused with Democrats
Table 2. LCV scores for the Tennessee delegation.
With an average Senate score of 7, Tennessee placed among the 11 lowest states (which ranged from 4-7). Though the average score for Tennessee’s House delegation was a low 23, our state didn’t make it down to the 11 lowest, which had a range of 0-9.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Tell your representative and both senators (addresses in Political Guide at top of Take Action page) that environmental issues matter to you, and that, based on their LCV score, you either commend them or are disappointed in them.
Action call #8 TENNESSEE WILDERNESS ACT PASSES – AT LAST
We now have an additional ~20,000 acres in the Cherokee National Forest protected under the 1963 Wilderness Act. When the Tennessee Wilderness Act repeatedly failed to pass as stand-alone legislation, Senators Alexander and Corker included it in the must-pass Farm Bill. Rep. Phil Roe (R-1) became the House sponsor. On December 11, during the Lame Duck Session, both Houses of Congress passed the Farm Bill that had emerged from the conference committee with most of its environmental poison pills removed. The bill was signed into law a few days later.
What you can do
Please express your thanks to:
Senator Lamar Alexander (Ph: 202-224-4944; Fax: 202-228-3398 e-mail: email@example.com Local: 865-545-4253 (Fax 865-545-4252) 00 Market St., Suite 112 Knoxville 37902 and to Representative Phil Roe (Ph: 202- 225-6356 ; Fax: (202) 225-5714 email is through https://roe.house.gov/Contact Local: 423-247-8161(Fax: 423-247-0119) 205 Revere Street Kingsport, TN 37660 (Sen. Corker is now retired)
Action call #9 Campaign to include the Nolichucky in the National W&S Rivers System gains support – AT LAST
Campaign to include the Nolichucky in the National W&S Rivers System gains support
A campaign that got going in the summer of 2017 to designate the Nolichucky a National Wild & Scenic River (NL335 ¶1C) has since gained momentum. According to TSRA, the campaign has garnered thousands of endorsements from individuals and businesses and the support of many groups, including American Whitewater and the local chapter of Trout Unlimited. A petition has gathered well over 20,000 signatures, and a new endorsement webpage has been set up.
What you can do
To learn more about how you can support this effort, visit
Our up-to-the minute Newsletters and e-lerts give you the facts and instruct you about specific actions you can take.
Our Political Guide provides information on how to contact decision makers.
We often partner with sister organizations.
TCWP has many other opportunities to volunteer for short-term project (e.g.. preparing mailings, work a shift at the TCWP booth during festivals, work on a comment generation campaign)
Email Executive Director, Sandra Goss