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The Top Six Stories in Environment and Conservation for 2006

Monday, January 01, 2007 | 06:00pm

Nashville, Tenn. – Many good things happened for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation over the past year. A quick look back provides just a glimpse at some of the top stories for 2006:

State acquires approximately 12,500 acres on Cumberland Plateau

In November, the state finalized the purchase of 12,500 acres of land with exceptional conservation value from Bowater. Governor Phil Bredesen recognized a “once in a generation opportunity” when Bowater announced it would be divesting itself of significant land holdings in Tennessee. In his 2006-2007 budget, Bredesen proposed and the General Assembly approved funding for a bond initiative to purchase these parcels on the Cumberland Plateau, which had previously been identified by the state as priorities for preservation. Recurring funding was also approved to provide in lieu of tax payments so local communities would not be negatively impacted by the state’s purchase.

Heritage Conservation Trust Fund awards first grants

The Heritage Conservation Trust Fund Board awarded its first grants in November 2006 for eight projects across Tennessee. This initial round of grant funding will be leveraged with other public and private dollars and will result in the preservation of approximately 15,000 acres. The Heritage Conservation Trust Fund was proposed by Governor Bredesen and created by the General Assembly in 2005 so the state could better respond to emerging opportunities for preservation of priority open spaces. The Trust Fund received an initial state investment of $10 million in FY2005-2006 and an additional $10 million investment in 2006-2007.

A vision for the future of Tennessee State Parks is unveiled

Governor Bredesen unveiled his vision for the future of Tennessee State Parks in October 2006 with the announcement of three parks initiatives for a second term. These include a new low-impact park in rapidly growing Middle Tennessee where scenic beauty, history and culture are abundant and a new rustic lodge to be located in the Hiwassee/Ocoee region of Southeast Tennessee. Governor Bredesen also renewed the state’s focus on caring for existing resources with new investments at state parks, beginning with two projects at Pickwick Landing and Reelfoot Lake State Parks in West Tennessee.

Access fees are removed from Tennessee State Parks

Stating, “Our parks, like our libraries, should be accessible to everyone,” Governor Bredesen removed access fees from the 23 state parks that had previously charged them on June 30, 2006. The access fee program had been in established in 2001 when 14 state parks were also closed to the public by the previous administration due to the budget crisis it faced at that time. The access fee program, originally scheduled for implementation in phases across Tennessee’s system of 54 state parks, had only been put into place at 23 parks when Bredesen took office in 2003. The access fee collections were replaced with a $924,000 budget improvement to help fund parks’ maintenance and upkeep requirements.

Environment and Conservation granted stop work order authority to protect water quality on mine sites

In the 2006 legislative session, the General Assembly passed a bill giving the Department of Environment and Conservation the authority to issue stop-work orders on mine sites when mining activities cause pollution to waters of the state. This new authority was exercised for the first time in September 2006 for impacts at a mine site in Campbell County.

Alternative Fuels Initiative focuses on increasing the use of cleaner renewable energy resources

Governor Bredesen signed Executive Order 33 in February 2006 requesting officials from six state departments to work together to develop a comprehensive state alternative fuels strategy to increase production and use of cleaner renewable energy resources. Representatives from the departments of Agriculture, Economic and Community Development, Environment and Conservation, General Services and Transportation formed the Alternative Fuels Working Group. In October 2006, with input and recommendations from the working group and a $4 million investment approved by the General Assembly, the Governor outlined a number of steps to increase biofuels availability at retail stations, produce more ethanol and biodiesel, assist local governments in making biofuels available to their fleets, and communicate the importance of biofuels to the public.

For more information on these and other announcements of 2006, please visit the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s newsroom at www.tdec.net/news/release

Press Releases | Environment & Conservation