Division of Natural Areas Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
Acquisition priorities are set by the Division of Natural Areas comprised of TNAP and the Tennessee Natural Heritage Program (TNHP) staff. Sites are assessed by conducting natural area inventories and prioritized utilizing NatureServes Biodiversity Ranking System. Projects are approved by the State’s Lands Committee and the Commissioner of Finance Administration.
State natural areas are protected in perpetuity through designation under the Tennessee Natural Areas Preservation Act of 1971. Designation occurs on state owned lands (60), other public lands (10), and private lands (12). The latter now requires a conservation easement. Protection is achieved through partnerships with the land owners and managers of state natural areas. TNAP directly manages 32 state natural areas.
TNAP has five full time staff; program administrator, program manager, one stewardship ecologist for the east and west region, and an operations steward. The TNHP conducts inventory and monitoring assisted by TNAP staff. TNHP also provides stewardship assistance per request of the TNAP. A natural area requires a management plan. Management may include invasive species control, prescribed burning, mowing and bushhogging, providing and maintaining public access, habitat restoration, research, monitoring, and other operations.
The TNAP seeks to include adequate representation of all natural communities that make up Tennessee’s natural landscapes, and provide long term protection for Tennessee's rare, threatened and endangered plant and animal life. Management is a significant component of that protection. TNAP also provides a non – binding state natural area registry program for private land owners.
In 2011, TNAP celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Natural Areas Preservation Act of 1971. In 2011, Tennessee coneflower (Echinacea tennessensis) was delisted from the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). This was a milestone event since it was one of the first species listed on the ESA in 1979, and is only one of five plant species to be delisted. A major reason for its delisting is because colonies from all five extent and sustainable populations are protection in 10 of Tennessee’s state natural areas.