U.S. Forest Service officials at the Cherokee National Forest say a four-year effort with The Conservation Fund to protect the Rocky Fork property in Unicoi and Greene counties is complete with the recent purchase of nearly 1,200 acres of the tract.
For years a broad-based coalition of local, state and federal leaders worked together to save Rocky Fork. They did this because of the property’s natural resources, economic values and importance to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
In December 2008, The Conservation Fund purchased 7,476 acres of the nearly 10,000 acre tract, while the Forest Service acquired another 2,237 acres. Since that time, the Forest Service has acquired a total of 7,677 acres with more than $30 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a federal land protection program that receives funds from the development of federally-owned offshore oil and gas resources. Five million dollars of those LWCF funds were appropriated by Congress in Fiscal Year 2012 for the final acquisition, and a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, through Walmart’s 2012 Acres for America program, also enabled the completion of the final phase. The remaining 2,036 acres are protected with previous state and private funds and will be held by The Conservation Fund. The total cost of the Rocky Fork property was $40 million.