Years in the making, an effort to help protect some of the state’s most pristine areas finally is moving forward in Congress. First introduced in 2010, the Tennessee Wilderness Act is headed for the Senate floor after passing through committee Tuesday. Among those applauding the approval is Will Skelton, an advisory committee member with the group Tennessee Wild. “If this bill does pass, it’s going to mean a lot for the residents of Tennessee, because we’re going to have some additional areas protected for recreation and hunting and fishing that are just simply outstanding,” Skelton said. “Upper Bald River is one of the best areas in the Southern Appalachians.” The Tennessee Wilderness Act would create the state’s first new wilderness area in 25 years, expand five current wilderness areas and permanently protect some 20,000 acres of Cherokee National Forest. In addition to protecting the unique flora and fauna, Skelton said passage of the bill also is critical for the economy. Outdoor recreation in Tennessee generates $8 billion in consumer spending each year and supports more than 80,000 jobs. “From an economic standpoint, it’s only going to mean more areas to go to and, therefore, more people that will be visiting the areas where they’re located,” he said. “So, we’re really thrilled to see that it’s finally moving and can now head to passage in the full Senate. So, it’s a good day for wilderness in Tennessee.” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is the act’s sponsor, with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., as the co-sponsor. It has not yet been introduced in the House. Years in the making, an effort to help protect some of the state’s most pristine areas is finally moving forward in Congress. The text of the legislation, S. 1294, is online at beta.congress.gov.