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Don Says...Obed Wild & Scenic River “Wilderness”?

leah kirk

Are there enough "wilderness quality" acres in Obed Wild and Scenic River to be officially designated as wilderness? The question is being asked, “Does any of the landscape that falls within the Obed Wild and Scenic River in Tennessee qualify as ‘a wilderness’?”  Located in the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee, the area is currently under the federal national scenic rivers/recreation area management program that allows pretty much unfettered access to waters and lands by anglers and hunters. Becoming a federally designated wilderness would restrict a number of recreational uses of these public lands.

A Wilderness Eligibility Assessment is underway among park staff and regional office representatives to determine which of these lands, if any, possess the necessary characteristics to be considered a wilderness. The Wilderness Act of 1964 describes wilderness as “…an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

Should portions of Obed Wild and Scenic River, which encompasses almost 5,200 acres along 45 miles of the Obed River and its tributaries, be determined to possess the necessary wilderness characteristics, the park will request funding to further examine those lands as part of a formal Phase I “Wilderness Study.”

The conclusion of this study would be the point that would constitute an agency decision. Ultimately, however, the actual creation of a wilderness area will require an act of Congress and will be based on the recommendations made in the “Wilderness Study.” Wilderness areas themselves may accommodate wide varieties of recreational pursuits such as camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, and canoeing/kayaking. Private oil and gas operations on private mineral lands in the park would not be included in any proposals, hence there would be no effect on current or future levels of activity.

If you have any questions about the Wilderness Eligibility Assessment or the process of designating a wilderness area, please feel free to contact the park’s Wartsburg HQ obri_superintendent@nps.gov, or calling (423) 346-6294.