Conservation Public Lands & Waters

Public Land Wins for Hunters and Anglers in Arizona, North Carolina, and Tennessee

These recent cases buck the trend of eroding access
cut laurel gap
The Cut Laurel Gap will eventually be open to the public. U.S. Forest Service

In a time when access to quality habitat is eroding across North America, it’s worth celebrating three recent cases that reverse that trend in Arizona, North Carolina, and Tennessee.


The Santa Teresa Mountains are a network of rugged terrain with bald summits, deep canyons, and sprawling mesas northeast of Tucson. Elevation ranges from 4,000 feet to 7,400 feet. Much of the land is in the Coronado National Forest or managed by the Bureau of Land Management ground, but access is challenging because of surrounding private lands.

This month, Interior Ryan Zinke announced that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will acquire the 600-acre ET Ranch to increase access for hunters, hikers, and backpackers to the Santa Teresa Wilderness Area. The move was applauded by local hunting groups, and made possible by the Land & Water Conservation Fund.

The BLM purchased the land from TPL using $480,000 from the Sportsman’s and Recreational Access component of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which is generated from offshore oil and gas revenue.

“These types of partnerships are vital to managing sustainable, working public lands,” said Scott Feldhausen, Manager of the BLM’s Gila District Office. “We manage the public lands for the benefit of current and future generations, supporting conservation and our multiple-use mission. This acquisition will add a new public access point to public lands where it was previously very limited.”

Meanwhile, Back East…

A total of 1,684 acres has been added to public land in Tennessee and North Carolina at a price of $4.6 million, according to an announcement recently from The Conservation Fund.

The land includes 1,098 acres in northeast Tennessee that will be added to the 640,000-acre Cherokee National Forest. The acquisition is just north of Mountain City.

The deal also includes are 586 acres in North Carolina on Pond Mountain Game Land that will be overseen by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

Dollars from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund enables protection of this high-elevation terrain along the Tennessee-North Carolina border for wildlife, water quality and public recreation. The land connects more than 127,000 acres of public lands from Cherokee National Forest to Mount Rogers National Recreation area in Virginia.

The land, known as Cut Laurel Gap, features some of the best remaining stream habitat for Southern Appalachian Brook Trout and will eventually be open to the public for fishing as well as hunting for ruffed grouse, turkey, white-tailed deer and black bear.

“This is an outstanding example of how federal, state and private partners can work together to achieve common goals, said Cherokee National Forest Supervisor JaSal Morris. “This beautiful and unique tract of land will be a great addition to the Cherokee National Forest.”