Sandra K. Goss is executive director of Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning, a nonprofit based in Oak Ridge, Tenn. and dedicated to the preservation of natural lands.
Two mountain ridges, two paradises. My daddy, a native Appalachian and rurally reared, loved to hunt elk in Colorado and Wyoming. The Rockies were “God’s Country” and surpassed all other places for beauty and natural grandeur.
We frequently hiked our property along the Obed River, on the Cumberland Plateau, and I would remonstrate with Daddy that we were in the middle of God’s Country right there. He maintained his position that the Rockies were God’s Country.
Growing up on the land. Perhaps Daddy’s lack of appreciation for the special land on the plateau came from the fact that his family made their living from that land. When he was around 15 years old, Daddy and his daddy would leave their home before dawn, lighting their way with a coal oil lamp. There they would work all day sawing and trimming trees into railroad ties. The trip home at the end of the day included picking up the coal oil lamp and lighting their way as night fell.
Daddy told me about the community hog roundups that were held every fall. Neighbors would bring in the many hogs that had been allowed to summer in what is now a wildlife management area, and then separate them by the ear notches that denoted the hogs’ owners. The slaughtering was another neighborhood affair, with the men doing the butchering, and the women rendering, wrapping and cooking.
Living in a rural area, his family grew or killed most of their food. Hunters from an early age, Daddy and my uncles were expected to bring back as many animals as bullets they had taken. When spring came, his family would eagerly seek out greens in the woods, glad to have fresh vegetables after a winter of canned and dried fruits and vegetables and smoked and canned meat.
Ethnicity: Appalachian. Daddy taught me about the woods, and about his upbringing. I treasure my heritage, and wish there were an “ethnicity: Appalachian” option on surveys and the census. I know the Cumberland plateau is God’s Country and that it is an irreplaceable, unique piece of nature. I know that my relatives and friends on the plateau have a right to make their livings on the plateau, off the land and the water.
Non-traditional allies. Can solutions be found that meet the needs of foresters, of creatures, of our planet? They can be found and we must work together to find those solutions.
Over the last several years, Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning has worked to establish the Alliance for the Cumberlands, which has the goal of preserving and sustaining the Cumberlands and its citizens. This is a gathering of those oft-sought “non-traditional allies,” working together on the goals we have in common.
Last year, members of the forestry conservation community helped put on a Sustainable Forestry Seminar for hardwood forest owners and forestry practitioners. Everyone went away with a new awareness of how every party values the land and the resources.
Through these connections, and a better understanding, we human beings who love the land and who use products from the land, and who make our living from the land can find common interests. If we all focus on those interests with courage and a spirit of compromise, much can be accomplished. Much must be accomplished.