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State Acquires Additional 109 Acres for Walker Branch State Natural Area

Wednesday, October 27, 2021 | 10:17am

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) today announced the state’s acquisition of 109 acres that will add to the 520-acre Walker Branch State Natural Area in Hardin County.

The land, the Gammill Slough Tract, consists of approximately 80 acres of fields that were formerly used for crops, 10 acres of additional open habitats, and a remaining acreage of forest. The fields will eventually be converted into areas harboring native herbaceous species, wetlands and forest. The addition expands the habitat of the numerous dragonfly and damselflies for which Walker Branch Natural Area is protected.

Two nonprofit organizations, The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), helped the state acquire the property with assistance from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). The Conservation Fund and TNC, which help protect and expand public conservation lands across Tennessee, worked out the purchase. The acquisition used money from the State Lands Acquisition Fund and TWRA’s Wetland Acquisition Fund, a TDEC/TWRA partnership. 

“We are delighted to have this valuable addition to Walker Branch,” Roger McCoy, director of the Division of Natural Areas at TDEC, said. “We are grateful to the groups who helped make this happen. This shows the strength of having partners who care about our natural resources and want to protect them.”

“It’s always gratifying to work with landowners in Tennessee who wish for their property to be protected for conservation,” Ralph Knoll, state director for The Conservation Fund, said.

“This addition to the state natural area expands breeding habitat for over 40 species of dragonflies and damselflies, which are drawn to the habitats here, which transition from bottomland, swampy areas to higher elevations,” Gabby Lynch, director of protection for The Nature Conservancy, said. “TNC is proud to have played an acquisition role here with our friends and partners at The Conservation Fund and the State of Tennessee.”

Walker Branch State Natural Area, designated in 1997, is three miles south of Savannah. The lower slope of the natural area consists of a network of wetland communities: floating and emergent vegetation, scrub-shrub wetlands, marsh, swamps and seepage forests. The wetlands are interspersed with drier though periodically flooded bottomland hardwood forests. The eastern end of the natural area rises 225 feet. The higher elevations contain mixed pine-hardwood and oak-hickory forests. An approximately 30-acre field dominated by herbaceous plants is along the western boundary. The diversity of plant communities amounts to a richness of plants and animals, of which six plants and three animals are rare in the state.