The 112th Congress has a lot of unfinished business that likely will remain undone before the current session concludes, yet there remains strong bipartisan support in both chambers to make some vital permanent additions to the nation's designated wilderness areas before this Congress adjourns. Among these long-sought additions are six outstanding tracts totaling nearly 20,000 acres of gloriously pristine land in East Tennessee's Cherokee National Forest. Action by Tennessee's senators and representatives to provide permanent protection of these tracts in the wilderness bill is crucial, and time is short.
The wilderness bill now before Congress is a slimmed down version of the original 2011 package, which included widely supported additions in 25 states. The trimmer version contains areas designated for wilderness areas that are already being managed as wilderness, and where there is no dispute about the merit of permanent wilderness designation, no roads to be closed, no taxes to be lost, no costs required for purchase. There are only benefits to designating them as lasting wilderness.