Cherokee Forest Voices History
Cherokee Forest Voices (CFV) was founded in the mid 1980's by TN Chapter Sierra Club members and incorporated as a 501(C) (3) in 1999 as a coalition of individual members and conservation groups: Wilderness Society, Wild South, Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning, Tennessee Audubon Council, and Tennessee Chapter Sierra Club. Catherine Murray is the current CFV Director.
Arthur Smith * Hugh Irwin * Ray Payne * Will Skelton * Barbara Allen * John Doyal
Covering a span of more than 655,000 acres, the Cherokee National Forest is one of our nation's natural treasures. As such, this magnificent forest, which serves as much of the natural border between Tennessee and North Carolina, deserves to be protected. For years, Cherokee Forest Voices has worked diligently to protect the forest from environmentally unsound, illegal and greedy attempts at deforestation for profit. Little by little, they have secured victories, each one resulting in the preservation of hundreds of acres of forest.
A Few Examples of Accomplished Work
- CFV was part of the Cherokee National Forest Wilderness Coalition responsible for the designation of eleven Wilderness areas on the CNF totaling 66,349 acres.
- Secured 20,000 acres of wilderness recommendations in the 2004 Forest plan.
- Mapped 85,000 acres of Inventoried Roadless areas on the Cherokee NF.
- Found and mapped the 4,574 acres of old growth forest on the Cherokee NF.
Cherokee Forest Voices' overall goal is to achieve on the ground protection and restoration of ecologically sensitive areas on the Cherokee National Forest (roadless areas, old growth, biological hotspots, critical aquatic habitat, backcountry, cultural, and wilderness study areas) from environmentally damaging activities and roadbuilding until permanent protection can be achieved. CFV call these special areas "Tennessee Mountain Treasures."
Cherokee Forest Voices' mission is the restoration and preservation of biodiversity, improved protection of fish, wildlife, plants, soil and water resources, an increase in the size of existing Wilderness Areas, designation of additional Wilderness Areas, increased availability of nature oriented recreation and the protection of scenic values.
This mission is accomplish by: Monitoring Forest Service management activities and commenting on proposed activities; participation in the appeal and objecting process and litigation if necessary, enhancing public awareness of, and interest in, forest-related issues; sponsoring or promoting activities designed to increase citizen participation in the forest management process; and cooperating with other groups through the region who share common interests and concerns regarding our national forest.
In 2003, the Southern Environmental Law Center was successful in their appeal to halt plans that included clearing 84 acres of trees that sat in the Carter County section of the Cherokee National Forest. Concerns were raised about possible harm to the native flora and fauna of the affected forest area.
In 2005, Watauga District Ranger Candace Allen was pressed to cancel a Walnut Mountain timber sale that had been scheduled in the Cherokee National Forest. 726 acres of logging was planned in areas that would have adversely impacted the Pond Mountain Wilderness and the Slide Hollow roadless area. Cherokee Forest Voices coalition efforts stopped the project from moving forward.
In 2010 CFV stopped a timber sale of 122 acres in the Cherokee Forest's Laurel Mountain area. The original appeal was filed over concerns about loss of wildlife habitat, as well as mud runoff from the steep slopes that would be difficult to stop without the trees forming a natural barrier. As a result, the Forest Service agreed to withdraw plans for all Laurel Mountain area logging.
Also in 2010, the Tennessee Wilderness Act was introduced. The Act, backed by a broad group of conservation organizations and introduced by Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, was designed to protect new areas of the Cherokee National Forest on a permanent basis. In total, just over 19,500 acres of the forest would have been classified as wilderness.
When an area is given a 'wilderness' designation it is the highest level of protection afforded to public lands that are federally owned. That means that the nearly 20,000 acres would be legally untouchable by those looking for deforestation opportunities. The Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2010 represented the first wilderness designation effort in Tennessee in almost 25 years, following similar successful Acts in 1984 and 1986.
Unfortunately, the 2010 Wilderness Act failed to make it to a vote; however the same Act has now been reintroduced as the Tennessee Wilderness Act. Currently moving through Congress in 2018, the future of the Tennessee Wilderness Act is uncertain.
What's at Stake
Through the efforts of CFV, natural habitats have been protected and preserved, ensuring a safe haven for the forest's indigenous fauna. The Cherokee National Forest is home to more than 260 bird species, including the northern saw-whet owl, the red-breasted nuthatch, and the blue-headed vireo. Black bears live in the forest, along with 43 other species of mammals, including white-tailed deer, bobcats, and the northern flying squirrel. In addition, 55 species of reptiles and amphibians call the forest home, as do 154 species of fish.
Thanks to ongoing conservation efforts, outdoor enthusiasts can continue to enjoy the splendor of the forest without the intrusion of excessive corporate and governmental deforestation efforts. Fishing, whitewater rafting, camping and hiking are popular outdoor activities for those visiting the forest.
Like anything of value, the Cherokee National Forest is worth fighting for. Thanks to the hard work and unrelenting support of CFV members, conservation groups, litigation partners and the TN Chapter SC the fight for this national treasure is being won, one victory at a time.