We've probed the oceans, sifted soils, scoured jungles and forests. We've examined moons and planets, and after decades of searching we find that the river-valley system of the Southern Appalachians on Planet Earth remains a gold standard for biodiversity.
Tennessee's smack in the middle of it, so that makes our business your business. Our forests and rivers comprise flourishing habitats and deep carbon wells which benefit you. The entire world really.
Sadly Tennessee ranks among the top in destruction of habitat. That's why folks who take time to preserve this tapestry that gives rise to songbirds, speckled trout and blue-tailed salamanders are heroes to me.
They need your help, because the State Parks Land Acquisition Fund--so important in saving Tennessee's great natural treasures--has become an endangered species. Even as this is written, the fund's fate is being decided in the Tennessee state legislature. (See links below).
Republicans who run the legislature would divert the Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT)—a fund dedicated in 1991 to saving wilderness, farmlands and parks--to attack general fund shortfalls.
Please urge them restore this fund to its intended purpose. Our natural world must not be sacrificed on the altar of politics and backroom deals.
Bear with me if you care about wildlife, clean water, air and natural beauty. This real estate tax was passed in 1986 for the purpose of preserving wetlands, but thanks to hard work by Tennessee nature lovers generally, it was expanded in 1991 to become a powerful force in saving wild and scenic lands and rivers, as well as to build parks across the state. You don't have to go far to feast your eyes, your soul, on what's been preserved.
The view from Buzzard's Roost, one of the most photographed vistas in the southeastern United States was preserved at Fall Creek Falls—among the highest east of the Rockies--in 1992. The crown of Black Mountain, a wonderland of woods, bluffs and scenic vistas was saved with seed money from RETT. Add the Cumberland Trails State Park, a 220-mile wilderness maze stretching from Virginia to Georgia, and you begin to see the impact this fund's had. It's preserved hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness and farmland from bulldozers and drills and asphalt.
It's brought millions of dollars to the region in federal and private matching grants and bolstered our tourism economy, while enhancing property values, recreational opportunities, scenery, and the quality of air and water over much of the Southeast and beyond. By providing habitat for migrating songbirds, and a deep carbon well in its forests, its influence is felt across the western hemisphere.
Now comes word the fund will be sacrificed to the state budget. It took lobbyists, legislators, bureaucrats and ordinary people working together to make it a reality. Once diverted, re-channeling it will not be easy. If we lose this fund, our mountains, waterfalls, songbirds and other natural wonders could be lost, maybe for all time. Gov. Phil Bredesen has diverted this fund before, but to his credit he's included the money in his version of this year's budget. Still, Republicans hold a majority. They need reminding that the habitats and carbon sinks of Tennessee's rivers, fields and forests are fragile, elegant things, and that all Americans have a stake them. Time is not on the side of our trees, rivers and our amazing variety of species. They disappear daily, and as the economy grows, they'll disappear faster. The time to save them is now, while land prices are low and natural treasures available.
Please take a moment to contact members of the Finance Committee, the Governor and other legislators, including yours if you live in Tennessee, by clicking on this user-friendly page: http://www.legislature.state.tn.us/. Urge them to restore the real estate transfer tax to its original purpose: saving our lands, rivers, wildlife and parks. Even if you don't live in Tennessee, you have a stake in cleaner air and waters for us all, so please help NOW. It's my understanding they'll be making final decisions during the remainder of this week and early next. PLEASE DON'T DELAY. Let them know we won't take kindly to sacrificing our air and water and a future for our children and fellow creatures on this planet.
OR cut to the chase, and start phoning on this list, especially those marked by an asterisk. ( * ) These guys really, REALLY need to hear from you.)
Lieutenant Governor: *Sen. Ron Ramsey (R, Sullivan Co.) 615-741-4524
Deputy Speaker: Sen. Bill Ketron (R, Rutherford Co.) 615-741-6853
Speaker of the House: Rep. Kent Williams (Carter County Republican) 615-741-7450
TENNESSEE SENATORS (FINANCE COMMITTEE)
Chairman: * Randy McNally (R, Anderson Co.) 615-741-6806
Vice-Chair: Douglas Henry (D, Davidson Co.) 615-741-3291
Secretary: Sen. Tim Burchett (R, Knox Co.) 615-741-1766
Diane Black (Rep. Caucus Chair) (R, Sumner Co.) 615-741-1999
Joe Haynes (D, Davidson Co.) 615-741-6679
Roy Herron (Dem. Caucus Chairman, D, Weakley Co.) 615-741-4576
Jim Kyle (Dem. Senate Leader, D, Shelby Co.) 615-741-4167
*Mark Norris (Rep. Party Leader, R, Shelby Co.) 615-741-1967
Doug Overbey (R, Blount Co.) 615-741-0981
Bo Watson (R, Hamilton Co.) 615-741-3227
Jamie Woodson (R, Knox Co.) 615-741-1648
TENNESSEE REPRESENTATIVES (FINANCE COMMITTEE)
Chairman: Craig Fitzhugh (D, Lauderdale Co.) 615-741-2134
Vice-Chair: Charles Sargent (R, Williamson Co.) 615-741-6808
Secretary: Johnny Shaw (D, Hardeman Co.) 615-741-4538
Joe E. Armstrong (D, Knox Co.) 615-741-0768
Stratton Bone (D, Wilson Co.) 615-741-7086
Harry Brooks (R, Knox Co.) 615-741-6879
Kevin Brooks (Asst. Caucus Chair, R, Hamilton Co.) 615-741-1350
Tommie Brown (D, Hamilton Co.) 615-741-4374
*Glen Casada (R, Williamson Co.) 615-741-4389
Kent Coleman (D, Rutherford Co.) 615-741-6829
Lois DeBerry (Speaker Pro Temp., D, Shelby Co.) 615-741-3830
Bill Dunn (R, Knox Co.) 615-741-1721
Jimmy Eldridge (R, Madison Co.) 615-741-7475
Michael Harrison (R, Hawkins Co.) 615-741-7480
Curtis Johnson (R, Montgomery Co.) 615-741-4341
Mark Maddox (D, Weakley Co.) 615-741-7847
Debra Young Maggart (R, Sumner Co.) 615-741-3893
Steve McDaniel (R, Henderson Co.) 615-741-0750
Steve McManus (R, Shelby Co.) 615-741-1920
Larry J. Miller (D, Shelby Co.) 615-741-4453
Richard Montgomery (R, Sevier Co.) 615-741-5981
*Jason Mumpower (R, Sullivan Co.) 615-741-2050
Jimmy Naifeh (D, Tipton Co.) 615-741-3774
Gary Odom (Dem. Leader, Davidson Co.) 615-741-3774
Dennis E. Roach (R, Grainger Co.) 615-741-2534
Donna Rowland (R, Rutherford Co.) 615-741-2804
Janis Sontany (D, Davidson Co.) 615-741-6861
Harry Tindell (D, Knox Co.) 615-741-2031
Mike Turner (Dem. Caucus Chair., Wilson Co.) 615-741-3229
Les Winningham (D, Scott Co.) 615-741-6852