Tennessee Division of Natural Areas, the state’s leader in protection and management of native plants and animals, encourages Tennesseans to participate in upcoming events for Natural Areas Week, as well as observe the 50th anniversary of landmark legislation for preservation in the state.

Natural Areas Week, with several outings across Tennessee, will run through Sunday, April 11. Observance of the state’s Natural Areas Preservation Act of 1971 will feature guided hikes at various locations on Saturday, May 1.

“We want to share with Tennesseans an appreciation of the abundant natural resources we enjoy in our state,” said Jim Bryson, deputy commissioner of Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). “Our system of natural areas serves a special purpose, and we believe everyone should have a chance to be part of this celebration.”

Experienced leaders will head events for Natural Areas Week at designated locations across the state. From scenic hikes to water outings, staff and partners will explore and explain habitat in Tennessee State Natural Areas throughout the week. Detailed information on activities for Natural Areas Week can be found online.

Specifically, May 4 marks the 50th anniversary of passage of the Natural Areas Preservation Act, signed by Governor Winfield Dunn. Since the legislation was enacted, nearly 130,000 acres of pristine forests, vistas, undisturbed wetlands, grasslands, barrens, and glades, with some of Tennessee’s rarest species, have been preserved. More about the 50th anniversary events across the state can be found online.

The state has designated 84 natural areas. Under that process, the program recommends new natural areas for designation, Tennessee General Assembly amends the act, and the governor signs the legislation, which makes the natural area protected by law. The intent is to provide long-term protection for Tennessee’s rare, threatened, and endangered plant and animal life. Designated natural areas are publicly owned or are private lands encumbered by a conservation easement. A map and list of Natural Areas throughout the state are online.

Professionals in the Division of Natural Areas focus their efforts on searches, monitoring, conservation, restoration, and management of Tennessee’s native species and plant communities. Data gathered by division biologists help guide the TDEC Bureau of Parks and Conservation in protecting Tennessee’s special places as state parks or natural areas. Most designated natural areas are managed by TDEC. Some natural areas are managed through cooperative management agreements with local, other state and federal agencies as well as with non-governmental organizations.