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Environmentalists appeared before the media today to lay out their agenda for this year's legislative session. As usual, it was a sad affair with the downtrodden tree-huggers feigning confidence and reporters trying really hard not to laugh out loud. Everyone knows full well that all of these ideas almost certainly are dead on arrival at the corporate slot machine known as the Tennessee General Assembly.
Among the DOA proposals: Restoring the state fund that once paid for acquisition of scenic land in Tennessee. That money came from a special real estate transfer tax dedicated to that purpose in 1991. But two years ago, the legislature raided the fund to help balance the budget and redirected the transfer tax for general purposes. It amounts to roughly $20 million a year. With the state facing a billion-dollar budget shortfall, lawmakers aren't likely to put back that money anytime soon.
What are the consequences? For one, we may lose one of Tennessee's most beautiful places--the bluffs surrounding Fall Creek Falls. That land, which is featured in state park promotional videos, is for sale. From the developers' website:
There is a tremendous amount of interest in the mountain land surrounding Fall Creek Falls, mostly from people in Florida. Tremendous bluff view, creeks and waterfalls, this scenic rural community is the ideal location for your dream estate, log home, or development investment opportunity.
The Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation
is trying to persuade the governor to restore the land conservation fund in his soon-to-be-released budget recommendation. "We have wonderful landscapes all over Tennessee at risk," says the foundation's director, Kathleen Williams. "We need the full restoration of this fund. Land conservation cannot wait. This is the defining moment for our state."