More than 15-thousand acres of Tennessee woodlands were spared from development (today/yesterday) through a set of grants issued by the Heritage Conservation Trust Fund.
Board members – appointed by Governor Bredesen last summer – approved eight projects totaling more than 10 million dollars. The properties are scattered around the state but most are concentrated on the Cumberland Plateau, including two additional tracts from Bowater Incorporated. A separate deal involving 13-thousand acres from the paper company was finalized (yesterday/Monday).
Trust Fund chairman Drew Goddard says after a year and a half, the board is past setting up processes and will be able to move faster to protect sensitive lands in the state. But Goddard says the review process is still thorough and aims to maximize the state’s dollars.
“When we are looking at projects and valuing partnerships, and funding only part of a project and money is coming from other sources, be it private not for profits or the federal government, it takes a while to get those kind of things together. And I think we wish we could have gotten some of that could have happened sooner but are very, very pleased with the quality of the first set of grants we have been able to make, the quality of the properties that are going to be protected.”
The Heritage Conservation Trust Fund received 14 applications for grants this year and issued eight.
Two grants are still pending, one in the historic town of Rugby, which lies just outside the Big South Fork National Recreation Area. It’s a 185-acre Bowater tree farm that was put up for sale this month. The board’s executive committee will likely make a decision before the trust fund’s next meeting February 22nd.
The application deadline for the next funding cycle will be March 1st, with those grants announced next summer.