But it’s not just bats that depend on this stretch of mature hardwoods that front the Obey River. A variety of mussels, migratory songbirds, and plants—some endangered or declining—call the area home. Its proximity to hundreds of thousands of acres of already-protected state and federal land benefits recreationists as well, providing increased opportunities for hiking, hunting, and wildlife viewing. Tennessee’s tourism industry continues to be one of the state’s top industries. Tourism-related expenditures in the two counties where Skinner Mountain Forest is located generated $20 million last year. This working forest also sustains hundreds of timber-related jobs, contributing nearly $5 million to the local economy each year.


When the nearly 14,800-acre Skinner Mountain Forest came on the market, its future became uncertain. The Conservation Fund and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) began working together to find a way to protect the property in perpetuity. Through our Working Forest Fund, we purchased Skinner Mountain Forest in 2017 as a stopgap until public and private funding could be secured to permanently conserve the property.

We transferred 3,041 acres to TWRA in 2019 and completed the protection of the remaining 11,723 acres under a conservation easement in 2021. Now part of the Skinner Mountain Wildlife Management area, the newly conserved forest will remain sustainably managed for timber production while preserving biodiverse habitat and providing new public recreational access.


Skinner Mountain Forest illustrates one of the greatest conservation challenges of our time—the widespread loss of working forests. An astounding 45 million acres of working forests across the U.S. are at risk of development and fragmentation over the next 15 years. The lifeblood of local economies, working forests also sustain vulnerable wildlife and give us opportunities to experience the natural beauty of places like the Cumberland Plateau.