OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – The Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) has signed an agreement with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) that lays the groundwork to transfer more than 3,500 acres of scenic land to the state.
Transferring this federally owned land moves EM closer to its ultimate vision for the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) as an asset that benefits the community. The transfer will designate areas for greenspace and mixed-use recreational opportunities and put the land under the oversight of an agency whose mission is to preserve, conserve, manage, protect and enhance the fish and wildlife of the state and their habitats for the use and benefit of the public.
“The east Tennessee region is unique, and we are pleased to be working together with DOE on these property transfers that will allow us to expand our services in the area,” said Bobby Wilson, TWRA executive director. “We will be able to increase recreational opportunities, prioritize wildlife habitat management and introduce new programs that will benefit both the community and the environment.”
EM and TWRA will complete the transfer process under federal law, which requires regulatory approvals and generally takes one to three years to complete.
Once the transfer is complete, the community will have greater access to the region’s abundant natural assets. The ultimate vision is to provide open spaces where residents and visitors can experience nature. The areas identified for transfer offer opportunities for fishing, hunting, boating, hiking, birding, mountain biking and wildlife viewing.
“This is an exciting step forward in our efforts to transfer land that can be reused and benefits the community,” said Laura Wilkerson, acting manager for OREM. “Our program has always focused on advancing conservation and sustainability, so finding new and diverse opportunities to connect people with the environment is a great achievement. I want to thank our contractor partner UCOR for its incredible support and helping bring this agreement to fruition.”
After nearly two decades of work that removed 500 dilapidated, contaminated structures, OREM completed major cleanup at ETTP in 2020. The effort transformed a former enrichment complex that presented a liability to the community into a marketable asset that is attracting new businesses and economic development.
The agreement, signed Dec. 15, is a component of a larger effort by OREM and UCOR to transform ETTP into a multi-use industrial park for the community. To date, EM has transferred nearly 1,300 acres to attract new economic development, constructed facilities to support historic preservation and set aside thousands of acres for conservation. The latter will be under the watch of TWRA through these future transfers.
DOE’s Oak Ridge Reservation is located on approximately 32,000 acres in east Tennessee. It lies within the Great Appalachian Valley between the Cumberland and Great Smoky Mountains, bordered by the Clinch River that ultimately joins the Tennessee River.
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