Alexander to U.S. Forest Service: Protect Tennessee’s Natural Landmarks from Sprawling Energy Projects, Invasive Species

Says U.S. Must Keep Electricity Lines and Windmills Off Tennessee Ridgetops,

Posted on March 17, 2010

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), in a hearing of the Senate Appropriation Committee’s Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies – of which he is the senior Republican – discussed with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell the importance of “protecting and encouraging the wise use of the Cherokee National Forest.” Excerpts of his remarks and questions to Chief Tidwell follow, and a full transcript of the hearing is available upon request:

On invasive species:

  • “I’d like for you to say something about invasive species and what you’re doing about that. It’s a big problem for us. The Great Smoky Mountains and the Cherokee National Forest have more species of trees than Europe, but we’re about to lose all the hemlock trees, because gypsy moths have penetrated the whole region. Our University of Tennessee is trying to do some research in that area.”
  • “I’ve been there myself to see that it works to use predator beetles to deal with the woolly adelgids that are destroying the hemlock trees, yet your budget is cut for on-the-ground treatments, like beetles.”
  • “I’d simply like to encourage you to, wherever appropriate, work in partnership with states and universities, like Tennessee and the University of Tennessee, to get the most out of our dollars on this. Forty years ago, the chestnut was our major hardwood tree in the eastern part of the United States. It’s gone.  The hemlocks appear to be going unless the predator beetle or something else makes a difference.”

On energy sprawl:

  • “The problem with renewable energy in this country is the one of scale. For example, if we were to get 20 percent of our electricity from wind, we’d have to build 19,000 miles of transmission lines – in addition to the 186,000 wind turbines—and where would those lines go? Well, the easiest place to put them is not through somebody’s suburban backyard but through a national forest or some conservation easement plan that we’ve worked for 50-60 years to protect … So, we need a policy from the U.S. Forest Service saying, ‘Wait a second, we’ve got some treasured landscapes that we want to protect and we don’t want to just override that for a little bit of intermittent wind power or a little bit of intermittent solar power."
  • "It’s possible for someone to get a bunch of federal subsidies to build a big wind park right outside of the Cherokee National Forest in East Tennessee and say, ‘Okay, we want to run the transmission lines through the national forest to get to Knoxville.’  We wouldn’t want our vistas destroyed for a puny amount of power that only works a third of the time.”

On Rocky Fork:

  • “I’m glad to see Rocky Fork included in the Forest Service Land Acquisition fund.  We’re getting close to finishing that—it’s your number one ranked project and it’s a tremendous piece of property for the Cherokee National Forest.”