The Department of the Interior announced Tuesday the establishment of the Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge in Franklin County, Tennessee.
Tennessee’s newest national wildlife refuge will serve as a critical link between nearby state and nonprofit conservation lands in Tennessee and Alabama that help conserve the Paint Rock River watershed and one of the largest contiguous tracts of hardwoods remaining in eastern North America. The Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge is part of a unique ecosystem with a high diversity of aquatic, terrestrial, and karst habitats that support threatened and endangered species, including gray bats, Indiana bats, Tennessee cave salamanders, and Alabama cave shrimp. Its waters are home to 100 species of fish and 50 kinds of freshwater mussels, including some that are found nowhere else in the world.
In 2016, the Service developed a land protection plan for the Paint Rock River watershed through a public process, which authorized the purchase of conservation easements and fee title lands from willing sellers in Franklin County, Tennessee, through a Conservation Partnership Area. The newly acquired 87-acre tract that establishes Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge was donated to the Service by The Nature Conservancy and the Open Space Institute. Refuge visitors will enjoy hunting, fishing, hiking, and photography if deemed compatible with refuge use.
Conservation areas are national wildlife refuges that consist primarily or entirely of conservation easements on private lands. These less-than-fee-title acquisitions, or easements, allow landowners to maintain working lands in their current configuration with no further subdivision or development, which supports conservation goals and helps to support a way of life for family farms and ranches. Fee-title acquisitions purchased from willing sellers can support additional wildlife-dependent recreation opportunities such as hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, and interpretation.