Nature Conservancy and Groups Collaborate for Restoration of the Cherokee National Forest

Recommendations will be presented to Forest Service staff on March 23, 2012

Unicoi, TN | March 16, 2012

The North Zone of the Cherokee National Forest is in need of some help. Spanning seven counties in upper east Tennessee, the North Zone is an incredible asset to the local economies of the region—as a supply of drinking water, a tourism destination and a source of forest products. 

However, past land management practices, including those prior to the land coming under public ownership as a national forest early in the 20th century—and future threats from invasive forest pests—left large portions of the forest in need of restoration. In order for the Cherokee’s North Zone to continue to be a strong, resilient and healthy ecosystem, the forest is now in need of a sound plan for restoration. A good restoration plan should be based on science, garner public support and consider varied management approaches including active methods such as regeneration cuts, targeted thinning and prescribed fire and passive methods that would allow nature to take its own course. 

Many different individuals and organizations are passionate about their concerns for the Cherokee National Forest, but in the past they have not all agreed about how this national forest should be managed.  That long-term lack of cohesion, coupled with strained budgets and planning hurdles, resulted in a situation where the necessary forest restoration was a very elusive target.

Two and a half years ago, in partnership with Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy convened a diverse group of stakeholders to determine what landscape restoration for the North Zone should look like.  “It was time to think outside of the box and do things differently,” says Tom Speaks, the Cherokee National Forest Supervisor.  The assembled group was made up of environmentalists, sportsmen, loggers and forest managers, and they have worked for two years to develop a set of consensus-based recommendations to the Forest Service about how forest restoration should be conducted in the North Zone of the Cherokee National Forest.

The members of the group—the Cherokee National Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative Steering Committee— had much work to do in considering the available science and the diverse viewpoints on the Cherokee National Forest. To arrive at recommendations, the committee polled the public, pored over computer-simulation models, considered numerous alternatives and finally came to consensus on a slate of recommendations. “It was a challenge at times, but, we used the best available science and we worked together to achieve our goals,” says Parker Street, a local sportsman representing the Ruffed Grouse Society on the committee. 

On March 23, 2012, representatives from the steering committee will come together to celebrate their work and present the Forest Service staff with their final restoration recommendations.  “This is a really important step in the right direction,” says committee member Catherine Murray, representing Cherokee Forest Voices, a local conservation organization.


The Cherokee National Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative Steering Committee members are:

Geoff Call, US Fish and Wildlife Service

Dennis Daniel, National Wild Turkey Federation

John Gregory, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

Steve Henson, Southern Appalachian Multiple Use Council

Josh Kelly, At Large-Environmental Community

Dwight King, Sullivan County Commissioner/Logger

Joe McGuiness, Cherokee National Forest

Katherine Medlock, Tennessee Chapter of The Nature Conservancy

Catherine Murray, Cherokee Forest Voices

Danny Osborne, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Division of Forestry

Terry Porter, Tennessee Forestry Association

Mark Shelley, Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition

Parker Street, Ruffed Grouse Society


To find out more about the initiative and to read the final recommendations, please visit the Cherokee Community Plan at

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.

Contact information

Paul Kingsbury
Communications Manager
2021 21st Avenue South
Suite C-400
Nashville, TN 37212
(615) 383-9909 p.
(615) 383-9717 f.

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