Two weeks ago, the U.S. Senate passed sweeping legislation that will preserve Tennessee’s natural beauty and protect our historical sites. I have seen first-hand how a popular park or museum can provide a recreation or educational experience for Tennesseans. But these sites also can help local economies by attracting tourism, which brings with it jobs and tax dollars to Tennessee.
The bill I co-sponsored and voted for includes several different pieces of legislation I sponsored that will be especially valuable to our state.
First, it will permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which will help ensure Tennessee’s beautiful lands, water resources and recreation areas are protected and preserved for future generations. The LWCF has played a large role in protecting Tennessee’s outdoors for more than 50 years and has provided more than $200 million to conservation and outdoor recreation efforts in Tennessee.
For example, in its first 50 years, the LWCF helped protect nearly 200,000 acres within the Appalachian National Scenic Trail corridor, which spans from Georgia to Maine. Rocky Fork, a nearly 10,000-acre tract that serves as Upper East Tennessee’s gateway to the Appalachian Trail, was protected in part due to funding from the LWCF. The state of Tennessee acquired 2,000 acres of the 10,000-acre tract to create the Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park.
The bill also will expand the boundary of Shiloh (Tenn.) National Military Park in Shiloh. Learning from the past helps us become better Americans in the future, and preserving and protecting these sites will allow future generations to learn their history by walking these fields. Expanding the park also will provide an opportunity to attract more visitors to Tennessee and boost local economies.
In addition, the bill will take the next steps to protect and preserve President James K. Polk’s home in Columbia as a national treasure. Tennessee is full of history, and the Polk Home is a special prize for Tennesseans as well as all Americans. We talk a lot about the importance of science and math, but according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, most high school seniors in America score the worst in history. I can think of no better way to encourage the study of U.S. history than to protect and preserve sites like the Polk Home and Museum.
The bill also will name a bridge on the Foothills Parkway in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park after Dean Stone, the late editor of The Daily Times. It is hard to imagine Blount County without Dean Stone. No one worked harder for the Foothills Parkway than Dean, and I can’t think of anyone more fitting to name this bridge on the Foothills Parkway after than him. Dean talked to me about the Foothills Parkway when I was at Maryville High School as the school newspaper’s editor, and he talked to me in every job I’ve ever had since, literally. Naming this bridge after Dean ensures he will be a part of the Smokies for generations to come.
Finally, the legislation includes a bill I sponsored with Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, the Every Kid Outdoors Act, which will allow fourth-graders and their families free entrance to all federal lands and waters, including national parks.
Tennessee is filled with rich history and is home to some of our nation’s most beautiful lands. In order for future generations to enjoy our great outdoors and historical sites the same way that we have, it is important that they are protected and preserved.
I’m glad this legislation passed in the U.S. Senate and hope this bill will be passed by the House of Representatives and signed by President Trump soon.