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Living Landscapes

Local Voices
Elk grazing at Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountain National Park – Jill Lang

The land offers new promises to each generation.

Once it was the giver of food, offering fish, game and hard-won crops to the Indians, whites and African Americans who settled here. Today, it's a subject of study by researchers or the beacon of outdoor peace and beauty for boaters, hikers and city-dwellers fleeing the hustle, bustle and noise of everyday urban life. Cars and trucks rumble along roadbeds where buggies and covered wagons once bumped and jostled. Families picnic in the spots where Cherokee tribesman once hunted.

In spite of changes over time the land abides. Deer still roam within sight of gated communities. Fish and frogs still swim downstream from weekend boaters. Trees, some older than the first recorded settlement, still stand watch over all. "The amazing thing to me is that most of the species of the East Tennessee valley, so far as we know, have persisted," said Charlie Saylor, a Tennessee Valley Authority biologist. "Some of the populations are reduced, but they're still here. That speaks to their resiliency."

The landscape lives on, healthier now in some places than ever. With the cities' spread has come a passion for preserving natural beauty and protecting public lands – a promise to the land that still offers so much.

– Matt Lakin