A team from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is part of a conservation initiative that has launched a $5.25-million fund to support land protection and climate-change work in the region.
The fund is guided by a map created by a group at UTC who spent three years on the project. Charlie Mix is director of the UTC Geographic Information System (GIS) and Interdisciplinary Geospatial Lab (IGT), which designed the Cradle of Southern Appalachia map.
The award-winning map can be found on the Thrive Regional Partnership website and is part of the Cradle of Southern Appalachia master plan, which was designed collaboratively by Thrive and the Natural Treasures Alliance. It identifies seven specific landscapes in the region that need protection
“Southern Appalachia is among the most biodiverse areas in North America, but only 15% is protected. It’s the least-protected with the most biodiversity in North America,” Mix has said.
The $5.25 million slated for the Southeast Tennessee region is part of an $18-million effort by the Open Space Institute. Founded in 1974, the institute focuses on environmental conservation efforts in the eastern United States.
Dubbed the Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund, its ultimate goal is to conserve 50,000 acres along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains which, along with Southeast Tennessee region, includes the Middle-Atlantic and Northern Appalachians, home of the world’s largest broadleaf forest. About 30,000 acres of that is in the Southeast Tennessee region.
An additional $66 million is expected in matching public and private funds, according to the institute.
“The forests of the Southern Appalachians are not only critical for their natural and local heritage, they also protect the land that matters most as we take on the largest environmental challenge of our time—a changing climate,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute.