Letter: The Majestic Cherokee

Take a load off and visit the Cherokee National Forest.

On National Public Lands Day (Sept. 29), I was backpacking the Cherokee National Forest. I know what you're saying, "But what about the Smokies?" Frankly, I am over the national park, its tourists, its traffic, its smog, its garbage, all of it.

Cherokee National Forest is everything I wish the national park could be. When I go there, it's like I have it all to myself. For those who truly appreciate solitude, there is no place more ideal than the majestic Cherokee.

Luckily, there is legislation in the works to preserve parts of this great expanse in their most pristine state. The Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2011—sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander, and supported by Sen. Bob Corker, and Rep. John Duncan—proposes the expansion of five of Tennessee's existing wilderness areas by more than 20,000 acres. The areas under consideration have already been recommended for wilderness designation by the State Forest Service, and managing them as such would cost tax payers literally nothing.

Wilderness is the highest form of federal protection for public lands. If made into law, this bill would protect the Cherokee National Forest indefinitely from the very things that have sullied our national park system: road building, and motorized use. In addition, the bill would protect these areas from timber harvest and help preserve nearly the entire Bald River watershed.

Unfortunately, if Bill S. 1090 does not come up for a vote this year, it may not go through at all. Only Congress has the power to designate wilderness, so this piece of legislation is critical. I urge anyone who appreciates the outdoors to pay the Cherokee a visit, soak in its beauty, and come out in support of this bill.

St. Thomas LeDoux