The acquisition is being called a "significant win for nature and people."

Ataya Aerial
Credit: The Nature Conservancy

Last week brought a major win for conservation efforts in the Appalachians. The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a nonprofit that works to conserve land and water, announced that it has acquired 100,000 acres of forest in the Central Appalachian Mountains split between southeast Kentucky and northeast Tennessee (55,000 and 45,000 acres respectively). According to a news release, the property, known as "Ataya," is one of the largest land conservation and ecological restoration projects the organization has undertaken in the area.

"The Ataya acquisition represents a deep investment in the Central Appalachians—its forests, its wildlife, its streams, its economy, and its communities—and a significant win for nature and people," David Phemister, state director for TNC in Kentucky, said in a news release. "As a land conservation opportunity alone the scale of this project is impressive, but this is much more than a land deal. Fundamentally the project seeks to demonstrate that sustainable forestry can yield both smart conservation and good business, potentially creating a model that TNC, partners and communities could replicate across the Appalachians."

Ataya Map
Credit: The Nature Conservancy

The group plans to manage the property as a working forest and use sustainable practices to improve and maintain its health while keeping it safe from development. The project will protect wildlife habitats, secure clean water for people and nature, and mitigate climate change, all investing in local economies, the news release states. The public will continue to have access to the land for hiking, hunting and other activities.

According to TNC, state wildlife experts have determined that the Ataya property is home to more than 100 Species of Greatest Conservation Need (species that are rare or declining), including the little brown bat, eastern meadowlark, black sandshell mussel, cerulean warbler, black mountain salamander, and many more.

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"One of the unique aspects of this project is that it recognizes the importance that this area provides to people and the local communities," Terry Cook, state director for TNC in Tennessee, noted. "Kentucky and Tennessee forests have a tremendous economic impact, generating billions of dollars of economic activity and tens of thousands of jobs. Additionally, these lands support growing outdoor recreation opportunities. In Kentucky and Tennessee, the annual economic impact of outdoor recreation exceeds $13 billion and $20 billion, respectively."

Keep up the good work, y'all!