TDEC Division of Natural Heritage Proposal for
an Oak Ridge Reservation Designated State Natural Area

In the summer of 2001, the Tennessee Division of Natural Heritage (in TDEC) proposed creation of a Designated State Natural Area (DSNA) comprising most of the Oak Ridge Reservation (see map, below). Earlier, in 1985, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the State of Tennessee had entered into a cooperative agreement that recognized eight Registered State Natural Areas on the Oak Ridge Reservation. That agreement protected a few special habitats identified in a preliminary assessment, but subsequent field studies and research have provided substantially more information on the ecological significance of the area. Also, protecting species and communities at the landscape scale is a paradigm shift in conservation biology that was not understood in 1985.

After considering new information, the Division of Natural Heritage concluded that the ecological significance of the ORR warrants additional protection under state law (T.C.A. 11-114-108). Hence, the agency identified five natural area subunits that contain 30 ecological sites (mapped below) and that comprise approximately 20,000 acres of the ORR. According to TDEC, these five natural area subunits represent the most contiguous ecological core areas that can be preserved at a landscape level at ORR. TDEC notes that the ORR contains many other relatively small disjunct areas that are not included within the proposed ORR DSNA. These are areas that contain isolated, rare species and/or significant species assemblages and deserve special consideration for protection as State Botanical or Zoological Sites.

According to TDEC, the new proposal for the ORR DSNA "carefully and intentionally excludes areas of the ORR that are currently developed, or planned for development." Thus, valuable areas preliminarily identified by DOE for transfer to developers may have been excluded.

The proposed designation is intended to allow DOE and the State the ability to collaborate on significant natural resource initiatives, including research, restoration, and monitoring, within the five natural area subunits. Specific initiatives may include barrens restoration, establishment of warm season grass production fields for use in ecological restoration, and collaboration in the control and management of invasive species. This last objective is identified as a priority on federal lands under Executive Order 13112.

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Map of Proposed State Natural Areas on the DOE Oak Ridge Reservation; click on a numbered site to read a discussion of the indicated area (will open in a new window). Leatherwood Bluff Poplar Creek Bluff McKinney Ridge Hemlock-Rhododendron Forest East Fork Poplar Creek Floodplain Blackoak Ridge Forest East Fork Ridge Mesic Forest Bear Creek Forested Wetland Bear Creek Tributary and Floodplain Hembree Marsh Pine Ridge Wetlands Bear Creek Springs Lower Walker Branch Ledges Walker Branch Embayment Barrens Walker Branch Watershed Research Area McCoy Branch Embayment Barrens Chestnut Ridge Barrens & Wetland Bethel Valley Small-head Rush Wetland Middle Haw Ridge Mesic Forest Bearden Creek Water Gap & Wetland Rainy Knob Bull Bluff Freels Bend Solway Bend Bluff New Zion Boggy Bottoms Haw Ridge Uplands & Raccoon Creek Embayment Clinch Floodplain Swamp Ish Creek Raccoon Creek Barrens Copper Ridge Cave Flashlight Heaven Cave Dry River Bluffs & Caves Tower Shielding Bluffs Hickory Creek Bend Bluffs Melton Lake Bluffs Map of Proposed State Natural Areas. Click on a numbered site to read a discussion of the indicated area (will open in a new window).

Image map created for AFORR by OR KM Web Design using map from Tennessee Division of Natural Heritage.

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