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Conservation, Opportunity Areas Protect Tennessee Habitats and Wildlife

Tuesday, November 04, 2014 | 02:51am

NASHVILLE --- For wildlife resource managers, an initial, critical aspect of preserving and protecting wildlife is identifying the key habitats that support particular species and populations. 

Biologists at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have collaborated to identify Conservation Opportunity Areas (COAs) that are addressing the habitat requirements of Species of Greatest Conservation Need. These include amphibians, freshwater mussels, reptiles, fishes, birds and mammals, identified in the Tennessee State Wildlife Action Plan (the update process of which is underway). 

COAs are natural areas in Tennessee that represent clusters of species of plants and animals where conservation actions should be targeted and complement other state-wide conservation planning efforts. Information on the COAs will be uploaded to a new website that the TWRA is developing to showcase the Tennessee State Wildlife Action Plan and associated activities and projects, and will be available for public review in early 2015. 

These recently proposed COAs, which include areas such as rivers, streams, wetlands, lakes,
forests, migratory bird corridors, protected greenspaces, and other areas where targeted
conservation planning and action can take place on public and private lands, are being used to
identify conservation opportunities and priorities, as well as stakeholders that are already
working in these places or could be valuable partners in this conservation effort. An example of
a proposed COA includes the Buffalo River, which is home to one of the last remaining
populations of the hellbender, the largest species of aquatic North American salamander, in the

Another COA, the Western Highland Rim, has been determined to have a significant
number of intact forests that provide habitat for forest breeding birds, like the Cerulean Warbler,
but is an area where active logging is leading to fragmentation and water quality impacts. In the
Mill Creek Watershed COA, the only place in the world where the federally endangered
Nashville Crayfish can be found, residential and commercial development threaten this species’
existence. Yet another important COA includes karst and cave habitat, like that found in east
Tennessee that is providing habitat for animals such as the Eastern Small-footed Bat.

To learn more about Tennessee’s conservation goals and the measures necessary to recover endangered species, restore unique habitats, keep rare and imperiled species off the endangered species list, and to keep common species common, visit the Tennessee State Wildlife Action Plan page at For questions about the ongoing TN SWAP update process or to make comments contact Bill Reeves, Chief of Biodiversity, 615-781-6645 or


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