The Tennessean reports that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is hoping to create a new national wildlife refuge in central Tennessee. The refuge would be named the Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge.
The refuge would cover about 25,000 acres in Franklin County near Estill Fork, Hurricane Creek and Larkin Fork.
Dwight Cooley, who manages refuges in Alabama, said the tract is one of the most important in the Southeast with respect to natural resources. Living within it are at least 15 federally endangered or threatened species and several species considered endangered or threatened in Tennessee. Much of the land is forested and provides habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” Cooley said. “It’s a wonderful area.”
Some of the land is already protected, and the USFWS is looking to buy the remaining land from willing landowners or acquire conservation easements that allow the land to stay in private hands while the habitat is protected.
Gina Hancock, director of the Nature Conservancy’s Tennessee chapter, said the nonprofit group has acquired about 26,000 acres in the Paint Rock River watershed that it conveyed to Tennessee and Alabama. In Tennessee, that land now forms the Bear Hollow Wildlife Management Area and the Walls of Jericho State Natural Area.
The USFWS is currently seeking public input on the proposed refuge. People can e-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org; mail comments to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2700 Refuge Headquarters Road, Decatur, Al. 35603; or telephone comments to 256-353-7243.
The USFWS is also hosting an open house to receive comments and answer questions on Feb. 5, from 3-7:30 p.m. at the Franklin County Public Library in Winchester, Tennessee.
For more information, visit the Proposed Paint Rock River NWR website.