January 4, 2017

Nashville, Tenn.—The Bedsole Property was one that got away. A big one. In the early 2000s, The Nature Conservancy tried to purchase the 14,000-acre tract in south central Tennessee from the Bedsole Land Company. But in the end, The Nature Conservancy was outbid by another party for the Cumberland Plateau property, and that was that.

Until 2016, that is. It pays to be persistent. The Nature Conservancy and The Conservation Fund kept their eyes on this biologically rich and resilient area, and earlier this year they co-purchased two large sections of the rugged property, totaling 4,372 acres, from RLF Winchester Properties LLC.

Today these two nonprofit conservation organizations announced the transfer of the properties to the State of Tennessee using funding provided by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program, the Open Space Institute’s Southeast Resilient Landscapes Fund and Southern Cumberland Land Protection Fund, and the estate of Carolyn King. The RLF Winchester properties are now protected public lands that will be managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for hunting, hiking and wildlife viewing. These tracts will be managed as part of the Bear Hollow Mountain Wildlife Management Area in Franklin County.

“We are very pleased to be turning over this biologically rich landscape to the State of Tennessee for the public’s enjoyment,” said Gabby Lynch, director of protection for The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee. “But there is a part of me that still mourns the fact that we weren’t able to protect all 14,000 acres when it was available.

Lynch added: “When properties are bought, subdivided and sold off, we lose something. It’s like having pieces of a puzzle disappear. That fragmentation of large forest blocks may result in plants and animals losing access to habitat corridors that they need for their life cycles. It makes survival harder for some of them.”

“Outdoor recreation is an important economic driver in the South Cumberland region, and these lands, formerly not open to public access, will provide new opportunities for hunters, hikers and those that enjoy spending time in nature,” said Ralph Knoll, Tennessee Representative with The Conservation Fund. “We’re thankful to Senators Alexander and Corker and Representative DesJarlais for their continued support of the Wildlife Restoration Program for conservation in Tennessee, and to all the partners who made this conservation success possible.”

Both The Nature Conservancy and The Conservation Fund have focused long-term efforts on protecting the still-unbroken swaths of forest in the Southern Cumberlands. These forests provide key habitat for numerous migratory bird species and contain the tributary headwaters of the ecologically significant Paint Rock River in Alabama.

Since 2004, The Nature Conservancy has bought and protected more than 20,000 acres in the Southern Cumberlands containing the Walls of Jericho, and just this year acquired 1,350 more acres known as The Narrows in Franklin County. In November, The Conservation Fund announced it had protected the 4,000-acre Sherwood Forest property in Franklin and Marion counties in partnership with The Land Trust for Tennessee, the State of Tennessee and other organizations.

“In a changing climate, we need to identify the places that will retain or attract wildlife not only today but far into the future. The Winchester lands are such a place — a natural stronghold that will help wildlife as well as human communities adapt in the face of extreme weather,” said Peter Howell, OSI Executive Vice President. “We applaud The Nature Conservancy and The Conservation Fund for their collaboration, and the State of Tennessee’s Wildlife Resource Agency for its commitment to manage these lands for public enjoyment.”

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 65 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more about The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee visit www.nature.org/tennessee.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than 7.8 million acres of land, including more than 290,000 acres of beloved natural lands across Tennessee.

About the Open Space Institute
OSI protects scenic, natural and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat and working lands and sustain communities. Founded in 1974 to protect significant landscapes in New York State, OSI has been a partner in the protection of nearly 2.2 million acres in North America. A leader in environmental conservation, OSI leverages its knowledge and attracts resources for strategic investments to make innovative land conservation happen. Visit OSI online at www.osiny.org.

Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 | asimonellli@conservationfund.org
Paul Kingsbury | The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee | 615-516-4480 | pkingsbury@tnc.org