Johnson City Press: Editorial: Wilderness expansion a true win-win issue

Posted on July 25, 2011

We often hear politicians and business leaders talk about “win-win” situations to describe solutions that benefit all the parties involved. Even so, we don’t see this cliché put into practice very much in Washington. Extreme partisanship leaves little room for compromise.

There are some issues, however, that should transcend political bickering. Finding an agreement on raising the debt ceiling is certainly one of them. We have no doubt Congress will resolve this issue before the Aug. 2 deadline, although we doubt the end results will be anything groundbreaking.

We hope that when this dispute is ended, lawmakers in Washington will turn their attention to other worthy issues. One such matter is a bill sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander to designate additional acreage in the Cherokee National Forest as wilderness areas. Specifically, the Tennessee Republican wants to extend the protected acreage of the Sampson Mountain Wilderness Area in Washington and Unicoi Counties by 2,922 acres, as well as the Big   Laurel Branch preserve in Carter and Johnson Counties by 4,446 acres.

Alexander’s junior colleague in the Senate, Bob Corker, has signed on as a co-sponsor of the measure, which represents the first expansion of Tennessee’s wilderness land in 25 years.

As Press staff writer Amanda Marsh reported last week, the acreage is already part of the Cherokee National Forest. That means there is no need for federal funds to purchase these lands. That’s a “win-win” for both taxpayers and Tennesseans who love nature and want to see it preserved for future generations.

And as Jeff Hunter — Tennessee field organizer for the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition — told the Press last week, “there’s no better way to protect water quality than to protect intact forests.” Thus passage of Alexander’s bill would truly be a “win-win” for all parties involved.