Walls of Jericho, protected in 2004
Walls of Jericho protected in 2004. © Byron Jorjorian

Stories in Tennessee

Tennessee Treasures

Milestones of the Tennessee Chapter. We've saved a place for you. Dozens actually.


2018 is our chapter's 40th anniversary year in Tennessee! Over those 40 years, The Nature Conservancy has helped create or expand 30 State Natural Areas, 13 Wildlife Management Areas and 3 National Wildlife Refuges in Tennessee. Here are a few of the milestones along the way.

1978 – Chapter chartered by The Nature Conservancy.

– 4,138 acres at Savage Gulf State Natural Area purchased from J. M. Huber Corporation and transferred to the state of Tennessee.

Taylor Hollow Preserve in Middle Tennessee purchased.

– Chapter transfers 4,000-acre Bumpus Cove property in Washington and Unicoi Counties to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to become part of the Cherokee Wildlife Management Area.

1979 – Jenkins Cranberry Bog purchased in Shady Valley to protect Tennessee’s only native cranberry population. Chapter donates bog to East Tennessee State University for an outdoor research laboratory.

– Chapter and partners acquired a 133-acre tract to expand Nashville's beloved Radnor Lake State Park, one of several tracts acquired for the park by the Conservancy. Over the years, The Nature Conservancy has expanded Radnor Lake by purchasing and donating 280 acres of the now 1,300-acre preserve--over 20 percent of park. 

1981 – Chapter purchased Powell River Preserve to protect Tennessee’s only native population of showy lady’s-slipper. Today it is a State Natural Area.

– Purchased Barnett's Woods, a 40-acre property with two significant caves, located in Montgomery County west of Clarksville. Price's potato bean was rediscovered here after it was thought eradicated from Tennessee. Today, the property is a State Natural Area and is open to the public. In 2017, TNC gated the sensitive Cooper Creek Cave on the property to protect its endangered Indiana bats and other cave creatures from vandals.

1984 Hubbard’s Cave purchased. Endangered gray bat population is roughly 50,000.

– Chapter purchased the first 72 acres acres of what is today Colditz Cove State Natural Area, which features the spectacular 60-foot Northrup Falls.

– Chapter purchased 2,600-acre White Oak Swamp in Hardin County, a habitat for river otter and numerous waterfowl. It's now a state wildlife management area.

1985 – Chapter installed a massive steel gate at Hubbard’s Cave to protect bat population.

– Received 1,100 acres for the protection of the Tennessee River Gorge from Bowater, Inc.

– Chapter purchased the first 90 acres of the Vesta Cedar Glade in Wilson County for the protection of the endangered Tennessee coneflower. Vesta Cedar Glade is now a State Natural Area.

– 12,262 acres purchased for Chickasaw National Wildlife Refuge in West Tennessee.

1990 Mount View Cedar Glade in Middle Tennessee purchased to protect the endangered Tennessee coneflower’s site of discovery. It is now a State Natural Area managed by the state of Tennessee.

1991 Sunnybell Cedar Glade in Middle Tennessee purchased.  The Tennessee Chapter subsequently convinced Tennessee Department of Transportation to re-route a section of State Route 840 to avoid destroying the glade. Today it is a State Natural Area managed by the state of Tennessee.

1992 – Acquired the first 43 acres of Couchville Cedar Glade with financial support from American Airlines, Cracker Barrel, and BellSouth. Today this cedar glade is a 122-acre State Natural Area that is contiguous with Long Hunter State Park near Hermitage, Tennessee.

1993 William B. Clark Conservation Area established on the Wolf River near Memphis with a land donation from Buck Clark and his family foundation.

1994 – Began purchasing land at Flat Rock Cedar Glades in Murfreesboro; at 846 acres, it’s now the largest protected cedar glade in the Southeast. Today it is a State Natural Area and is open to the public.

– Purchased Orchard Bog in Shady Valley in East Tennessee and soon launched mountain bog restoration efforts to benefit migratory birds, cranberries, and the endangered bog turtle.

1996 – 452-acre John R. Dickey Birch Branch Preserve in Shady Valley donated to Tennessee Chapter by Marie Dickey Kalman.

– 57,000 total acres protected in Tennessee.

1997 – Community-based conservation office opened in Shady Valley for East Tennessee.  Two Shady Valley residents are employed by the Chapter to run the office and manage the Shady Valley preserve system.

1998 Schoolyard Springs Preserve acquired in Shady Valley to protect unusual artesian springs and several rare plant species, including Gray’s lily.

– 65-acre Quarry Bog Preserve purchased in Shady Valley to begin the Chapter’s second wetland restoration project to benefit bog turtles.

1999 – Community-based conservation offices opened on the Duck River in Columbia and on the Hatchie River in Brownsville.

– 1,100-acre Tally Wilderness Preserve donated to Chapter by Burton Tally in Pickett County, adjacent to Pickett State Forest.

– 78 acres along Clifty Creek on the Roane/Morgan County line donated to Chapter by William & Lee Russell, forming the Clifty Creek Preserve.

2001 – Award-winning boardwalk opened at the William B. Clark Conservation Area.

– 1,571-acre Jim Creek tract purchased in Pickett and Fentress Counties. Shortly afterward, TNC transferred the land to the state to become an addition to Pickett State Forest.

– Carter Lands (5,200 acres) in Southern Cumberlands purchased. These lands were transferred to the state of Tennessee and now constitute a large portion of the Bear Hollow Mountain Wildlife Management Area.

– 1,063 acres purchased on the Hatchie River within the Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge.

– Chapter purchased Millstone Mountain on the Hatchie River (161 acres) to protect a unique geologic formation and associated rare plant communities.

– Chapter purchased a 469-acre addition (Dobbs Creek Preserve) to the Tally Wilderness Area in Pickett County.

2002 – Chapter completed boardwalk for visitors at Schoolyard Springs Preserve in Shady Valley.

2003 - 200,000 total acres protected in Tennessee.

– 11,800 acres of bottomland hardwood forest and wetlands purchased from the Anderson-Tully Corporation to create the John Tully Wildlife Management Area.

– U.S. Geological Survey found that the Duck River is one of the most biologically rich rivers in the Southeast.

– Helped purchase 75,000 acres on the Cumberland Plateau to create the Sundquist Wildlife Management Area.
– Knoxville office opened for East Tennessee operations.

2004 – Tennessee and Alabama Chapters joined forces to protect the Walls of Jericho, 21,000 spectacular acres in the Southern Cumberlands.

– Chapter protected 10,000 key acres connecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee National Forest, in a historic agreement with Alcoa Power Generating, Inc. and a dozen other private and public stakeholders.

– Chapter purchased a 250-acre tract on Roan Mountain to add to the Cherokee National Forest.

– Chapter secured $750,000 from the U.S. Congress to purchase tracts along the Obed Wild & Scenic River.

– Chapter secured $1,800,000 from the U.S. Congress to purchase tracts in the Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge.

2005 Pogue Creek Canyon, 3,000+ acres adjacent to Pickett State Forest, purchased.

Alexander Cave donated to the Conservancy by philanthropist M.C. Davis; the Chapter installed a bat-friendly gate soon afterward.

– Tennessee Chapter partnered with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) to create pioneering State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP), which includes a cutting-edge, habitat-mapping software package, allowing TWRA and TNC to pinpoint and tailor habitat protection for wildlife species to ensure their survival.

– Chapter secured $6.1 million in federal funds to construct the Duck Riverwalk in Columbia.

– Chapter purchased 200 acres in the Yanahli Wildlife Management Area on the Duck River in Maury County.

2006 –  220,000 total acres protected in Tennessee.

– Bellamy Cave in Montgomery County purchased for the Conservancy and the State of Tennessee with funds provided by philanthropist M.C. Davis.

– Chapter installed new state-of-the-art bat-friendly gate at Hubbard’s Cave. Cave’s gray bat population has grown tenfold—to more than 500,000.

Dry Branch Creek (2,569 acres) in Lewis County purchased from International Paper to protect an endangered Tennessee yellow-eyed grass population.

– Skinner Mountain (4,208 acres) purchased in Fentress County. In 2015 it became a Tennessee Wildlife Management Area, open to the public.

Orchard Bog Preserve in Shady Valley more than doubled in size, reaching 169 acres.

– Chapter received a 30-acre wetlands donation in West Tennessee’s Carroll County to honor the late Dr. James T. Holmes. It is now part of the 250-acre Jarrell Switch State Wildlife Refuge.

2007 –  Chapter achieved $14 million goal for its first ever capital campaign, the biggest fundraising drive for conservation in the state's history.

– The state of Tennessee and the Tennessee Chapter, teaming with two timber companies, completed the largest conservation transaction in the state since the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Dubbed "Connecting the Cumberlands," the deal protects 127,854 acres of forest and links to 66,000 acres of existing public lands on the northern Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee. In the process, it expanded Frozen Head State Park & Natural Area from 13,000 to 24,000 acres.

– The Nature Conservancy selected the Tennessee Chapter as the Outstanding Conservation Field Program in the entire organization for 2007 and honored State Director Scott Davis for his leadership and accomplishments with an Outstanding Performance Award.

– Chapter purchased 13 more acres at Schoolyard Springs Preserve in Shady Valley.

2008 –  Chapter purchased two key forest properties near the Walls of Jericho: the Thompson property (874 acres) and Pumplog Hollow (1,012 acres). 

2009 – Chapter protected five and half miles along one of the richest mussel shoals on the Duck River in a conservation easement with Allen Dairy in Marshall County.

– Chapter collaborated with The Hermitage, President Andrew Jackson's historic home, to clean up a massive sinkhole filled with decades of trash. More than 60 tons of garbage were removed, and the area has now been restored and replanted.

2010 –  Chapter received donation from Helen and Fred Stone of 66 scenic acres along the Obed Wild and Scenic River creating the Stone Preserve. The chapter also expanded its Clifty Creek preserve to more than 80 acres with a donation from Doris and Albert Clark.

– The Shady Valley program expanded its restored bog habitat by an additional 26 acres, bringing the total of restored wetlands in Shady Valley to more than 140 acres.

2011 –  On Aug. 4, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the Tennessee coneflower would be removed from the Endangered Species List. The Tennessee Chapter played a leading role in the recovery of this iconic flower, acquiring key cedar glade habitats for the plant beginning in the 1980s.

- The chapter concluded two highly successful, multi-year programs working with farmers and other landowners to improve habitat around streams that feed into the Duck River. Together, the two programs brought more than $2 million of restoration to those streams, keeping the Duck River's water quality good for the benefit of people and nature. The Duck River was featured in National Geographic for its biological diversity.

2012 – The chapter and the state of Tennessee worked together to purchase Doe Mountain, an 8,600-acre, richly forested tract in Johnson County, to be public park land. Multiple public recreation uses are planned, and the new landholding is expected to provide a boost to tourism in Johnson County and northeastern Tennessee.

- The chapter built the world's first artificial cave for hibernating bats as a way to combat white-nose syndrome, an epidemic that has killed millions of bats across the U.S. and Canada. The cave is an experimental prototype. If successful, it can be replicated nationwide. The artificial cave was featured in national and international news media.

2013 – The chapter acquired 4,000 acres of mountain forest along the Little Tennessee River from Brookfield Renewable Energy Group. These lands connect the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with the Cherokee National Forest. We call this historic project "Bridging the Smokies."

2014 - The chapter purchased 63 acres of cliff-top property along the Obed Wild & Scenic River, the protected corridor of lands and waters managed by the National Park Service. The acquisition preserves the broad bluff that can be seen directly across from the National Park Service's popular Lilly Bluff Overlook platform.

2015 -Working with Bat Conservation International, the Tennessee Chapter co-funded breakthrough research on treatments for White Nose Syndrome in bats. Initial trials led to 75 bats healed and released to the wild in May 2015.

- Chapter purchased 16.7-acre property adjacent to Big South Fork. The Gil & Summerfield Johnston Preserve contains a rare double arch of sandstone and other scenic features.

2016 - The chapter enrolled its first Tennessee property in the Conservancy's Working Woodlands program. Working Woodlands helps preserve private landowners' forests while still allowing the owners to generate income through Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) C008922 (FSC) certified timber management and the carbon sequestration market.

2017 - The largest dam in Tennessee ever removed for river restoration purposes--the Roaring River Dam in Jackson County--was taken out by The Nature Conservancy and partners including the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

2018 - The chapter accepted its largest land donation ever when the Bridgestone Americas tire company donated its 5,800-acre Chestnut Mountain property in June. Now known as the Bridgestone Nature Reserve at Chestnut Mountain, this new preserve will open to the public once a public access plan and new trails are complete.