July 1999


Set aside

DOE, state create wildlife management area on ORR tract

big rig
Energy Secretary Bill Richardson checks out an experiment by Bradley Hensley, who took part in the summer Science Explorers Camp held at Freels Bend Cabin. Bradley is the son of ESD’s Virginia Dale.
In an acknowledgment of the Oak Ridge Reservation’s value as an environmental resource, a significant portion of the ORR has been set aside as a conservation and wildlife management area.

State officials and Energy Secretary Bill Richardson announced the establishment of the 3,000-acre reserve during the secretary’s visit on June 23. The ceremony at Freels Bend Cabin, which is included in the tract, marked the signing of a five-year agreement between DOE and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The proclamation, signed by Secretary Richardson and George Akans Jr. of the Tennessee Wildlife Commission, calls for the land to be cooperatively managed for preservation purposes under a use permit.

“The proclamation signed today will help balance recent land use initiatives to foster economic development in the Oak Ridge area with better protection for unique habitat and wildlife,” Richardson said.

The Three Bend (Freels, Gallaher and Solway bends) Scenic and Wildlife Management Refuge will provide a habitat for threatened, endangered and rare animal species including bald eagles, ospreys and migrant songbirds. It also contains the 80-acre Clark Center Park and the historic Freels Bend Cabin, built in the 1820s and one of the earliest settlements in the area.

The Three Bend area is a combination of open fields, hedgerows, woodlots, wetlands and water—a combination that is becoming increasingly rare in the rapidly developing region. State-listed rare plants include the Canada lily and tall larkspur. The area also includes recognized special habitats such as chestnut oak–tuliptree–white oak hickory forests; white oak–northern red oak–hickory forests; limestone sinkholes; limestone barrens and oak–hickory–ash limestone woodlands.

The establishment of the Three Bend area pleases the Environmental Sciences Division’s Virginia Dale, who has been one of the Lab’s most ardent advocates of preserving the ORR.

“This is a beginning. We are all excited,” Dale says. “It’s very positive to see the secretary take an interest in the DOE communities and thinking about the value of the land. So many of us use facilities like Clark Center Park, and it’s nice to know that these will remain available to the community.

“And it’s also very important to the science, particularly the environmental research, that goes on at ORNL.” Similar preservation activities have been implemented at DOE’s Hanford, Washington, and Rocky Flats, Colorado, sites.—B.C.