OSI and TennGreen Land Conservancy's protection of 620 forested acres along Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau secures critical regional resource for forest carbon storage, expands wildlife corridor for sensitive and rare species

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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Tennessee , November 17, 2022 (press release) –

Project marks OSI's most recent success in protecting the fragile forests of the Southern Appalachians

The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced the protection of more than 600 acres along the biologically rich Cumberland Plateau. The successful conservation effort, completed by TennGreen Land Conservancy and local property owner Robert D. McCaleb, secures a critical regional resource for forest carbon storage while expanding a growing wildlife corridor for sensitive and rare species.

The 620-acre “Custard Hollow” property is fully forested and home to ecologically important caves. It contains more than a half-mile of Custard Hollow Creek, designated as “significant” by the Tennessee Rivers Assessment Project, and is located within an extensive conservation corridor atop the Cumberland Plateau that includes Bear Hollow Mountain Wildlife Management Area, Walls of Jericho State Natural Area, and South Cumberland State Park.

Support for the project came in large part from OSI’s Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund (ALPF). The ALPF supports land protection along the Appalachian Mountain range, an area that is home to the world’s largest broadleaf forest, stores most of the nation’s forest carbon, and provides an essential refuge for plants and animals at risk of habitat loss from climate change. The Fund is made possible thanks to major support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and additional funding from the Lyndhurst Foundation, Riverview Foundation, Footprint Foundation, and the McKee family from Collegedale, Tennessee.

"I believe large portions of the southern Cumberland Plateau are irreplaceable and very much warrant preservation," said landowner Robert D. McCaleb.
Image Credit: Kristen Hanratty
"The successful conservation of Custard Hollow with the support of OSI's Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund demonstrates the critical importance of securing the Southern Appalachians' fragile forests in the face of a changing climate," said Joel Houser, OSI's Southeast Field Coordinator. "We applaud and thank TennGreen, Robert D. McCaleb, and The Nature Conservancy for their tireless dedication to conserving this beautiful and wild property, which will benefit countless generations to come."

“OSI is proud that its ALPF grant funds were instrumental in securing this long-sought property for conservation,” said Peter Howell, OSI Executive Vice President. “Protection of our precious natural resources benefits people, communities, animals, and plants. The acquisition of the Custard Hollow property represents another building block toward a healthier planet for us all.”

Through funding from OSI and TNC, TennGreen Land Conservancy partnered with McCaleb, of Cleveland, Tennessee, to place a conservation easement on his property.

When asked why he chose to protect his land, Mr. McCaleb stated, “Whereas we cannot preserve all places, I believe large portions of the southern Cumberland Plateau are irreplaceable and very much warrant preservation so that future generations will have the opportunity to explore and enjoy the beauty of the area. The relative peace and tranquility of the forests and mountains should provide the opportunity for inspiration and spiritual benefit to those who choose to explore this corner of God’s creation and remarkable landscape. My father, H. Kenneth McCaleb, an ex-POW in WWII, found great solace in these forests from the wartime injustices he endured. I would like to remember him, indeed the entire 'Greatest Generation,' and all combat veterans, by this donation. After careful consideration, I have been pleased to work with responsible conservation organizations on this project."

The Cumberland Plateau is home to the longest hardwood forested plateau in the world, which stretches across four states — Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama — and has endured a long history of aggressive deforestation. With only 10 percent of the Southern Cumberland Plateau permanently protected, OSI and other committed conservation organizations are leading the charge to protect the landscape.

The property also lies within the focus area for the Cradle of Southern Appalachia Initiative, a conservation blueprint adopted by the Thrive Regional Partnership's Natural Treasures Alliance. Although the tri-state area around Chattanooga is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, only 15 percent of the region is currently protected. Protection of this property is the most recent step amid decades’ worth of collaborative efforts to expand conservation work within the region.

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Dan Rivard
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