Two people sit on a rocky outcrop to enjoy a view of a forested valley.
Chestnut Mountain Hikers share the view from Bald Point. © Byron Jorjorian

Stories in Tennessee

Marking Milestones at Chestnut Mountain

The Bridgestone Nature Reserve at Chestnut Mountain is a gift that will keep on giving to Tennessee.

No one expected a 5,763-acre gift back in June 2018. The Bridgestone Nature Reserve at Chestnut Mountain represents the largest gift in TNC’s 40-year history of working in Tennessee. Since then, TNC’s Tennessee staff has embraced many conservation opportunities made possible by protecting such a large and undeveloped piece of land. 

Chestnut Mountain

Inventorying Species

The Bridgestone Nature Reserve at Chestnut Mountain is part of a mosaic of 60,000 acres of protected public lands that include Virgin Falls State Natural Area, Fall Creek Falls State Park, ledsoe State Forest and the state-owned 10,000-acre Bridgestone/Firestone Centennial Wilderness Wildlife Management Area. Its size and location provide an opportunity to conserve many types of forests, safeguard the headwaters to a river and protect hundreds of species, many requiring lots of room to roam.

“It is a large property with some portions that are difficult to access,” says Alex Wyss, TNC’s director of conservation in Tennessee. “Since taking ownership of the Reserve, we’ve been hiking all of the trails and exploring every corner of the property.”

According to Wyss, TNC intends to conduct more intensive inventorying with additional help. Specifically, a grant from the Barbara J. Mapp Foundation has made it possible to organize a BioBlitz, which gathers scientists from a variety of fields—during a specific period—to rapidly survey plants and animals key to assembling a comprehensive list of wildlife found at the Reserve.

The property is just spectacular...thousands of acres of Cumberland Plateau forests, a 100-acre lake, caves and streams, all capped by Chestnut Mountain itself—the highest peak in the county at 2,000 feet.

State Director, The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee

Exploring New Markets

The Conservancy is also moving forward with plans to harness the carbon sequestering power of the Reserve’s forests to mitigate impacts from greenhouse gasses. Currently, the property stores about 200,000 metric tons of carbon, equivalent to greenhouse gasses emitted by 155,697 vehicles in one year.

In order to increase the property’s carbon storage, TNC is exploring the sale of carbon credits to businesses seeking to offset their emissions. Revenues from such transactions go towards restoring more of the property’s forest cover. For example, TNC is carefully re-introducing fire into the landscape and treating trees for pests like the hemlock woolly adelgid to foster even healthier forests. As part of its donation, Bridgestone Americas, Inc. set aside credits to offset emissions from its new headquarters in Nashville.

“These efforts also help with scaling up other conservation projects across the Cumberland Plateau, which strengthens the landscape’s overall health and resilience in the face of a changing climate,” adds Wyss.

A hiker looks out on a valley through leafless trees.
Chestnut Mountain A hiker takes in the view through the trees at TNC's Bridgestone Reserve at Chestnut Mountain. © Ellie Scholtz

Welcoming the Public

Once TNC has a better idea of the Reserve’s plant and animal species, and associated needs, it will plan for public uses that are compatible with the property’s natural values. In the near term, this includes hosting a community open house and working with partners to establish connector trails between the Reserve and the other protected lands in the area.

“We applaud Bridgestone Americas, Inc. for its commitment to the environment and are honored that they entrusted The Nature Conservancy to manage this important forest,” says TNC’s Tennessee state director, Terry Cook. “They’re setting an example for how corporations can attain success while protecting the planet in collaboration with the conservation community.”

The Story of Chestnut Mountain PBS's Live Green Tennessee reports tells the story about the largest land donation in The Nature Conservancy's history of working in the state.