No one was expecting the 5,763-acre gift. But when the Bridgestone Corporation donated its Chestnut Mountain forests to The Nature Conservancy in 2018—the largest gift in TNC’s history of working in Tennessee—it didn’t take long for the donation to be put to good use.
In addition to being large enough to give wildlife room to roam, the Bridgestone Nature Reserve at Chestnut Mountain’s size also makes it an ideal living laboratory for exploring innovative forest management strategies and natural solutions to climate change. (According to a peer-reviewed study coauthored by TNC scientists, trees have the greatest potential to cost effectively reduce climate emissions by capturing carbon in the air during the process of producing oxygen.)
Because it is possible to quantify the carbon-capturing power of forests, TNC is tapping into an emerging field, through its Working Woodlands program, where landowners can pursue opportunities to sell carbon credits to businesses seeking to offset their emissions. The forest at the Bridgestone Nature Reserve at Chestnut Mountain currently stores about 200,000 metric tons of carbon, a number that is expected to increase with a forest management plan secured through Working Woodlands.
The Bridgestone Nature Reserve at Chestnut Mountain also serves as a demonstration for shortleaf pine restoration. Once the most prevalent pine tree in the eastern United States, these long-living evergreens have decreased by more than 50 percent throughout the Southeast in just 30 years. TNC is in the process of conducting a comprehensive wildlife inventory of the property and evaluating opportunities for providing public access in ways that do not harm key habitats.
The hemlock woolly adelgid pest threatens native shortleaf pines. Also, a lack of regular and natural fire disturbances has compromised some fire dependent habitats typical of a shortleaf pine-oak woodland and savannah forest.
In the early 1970s, not long before TNC set up shop in Tennessee, the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company acquired land in White County to eventually use as a corporate retreat. When Bridgestone acquired Firestone in 1988, the property remained undeveloped.
Many years later, in 2014, they consulted with TNC about pursuing Forest Stewardship Council certification—one of the highest standards of forest management for sustainable forest products—for the largely forested parcel. In addition to collaborating on a forest management plan, the two organizations also began treating hemlocks on the property to to fight invasive hemlock woolly adelgid.
Visit Chestnut Mountain
Plans for the Bridgestone Nature Reserve at Chestnut Mountain include low-impact public access and the creation of connector trails between the Reserve and other protected lands in the area.
Nestled within the Cumberland Plateau, 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, Bledsoe State Forest and the state-owned 10,000-acre Bridgestone/Firestone Centennial Wilderness.
The Reserve’s namesake, Chestnut Mountain, is the highest peak in White County, with an elevation of about 2,000 feet. It includes mixed hardwood and pine forests, wooded mountain gulfs, caves, and headwaters of the Caney Fork River and Billy Branch Lake, a source of drinking water for local communities.