WASHINGTON, DC.-U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05) announced another milestone today in the long-term effort to secure land around Fern Lake and include it in the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that would enable the National Park Service to acquire an additional $1 million in land ringing the 150-acre Fern Lake, which is a focal point for visitors to Cumberland Gap and the primary source of drinking water for the nearby town of Middlesboro.
"I believe government has a role to play in preserving critical natural areas, just as it does in providing traditional economic development through transportation and infrastructure projects." said Rep. Rogers. "By uniting on this common purpose, the local community, the National Park Service and members of Congress are expanding the footprint of an historic national park and increasing tourism opportunities, protecting the environment and ensuring a clean water source for Middlesboro."
A key House committee approved the $1 million funding on June 21. In the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been a champion of this initiative. In 2003, Sen. McConnell and Rep. Rogers authored the Fern Lake Conservation and Recreation Act. Among other actions, the Act authorized the acquisition of Fern Lake watershed lands and expanded the Cumberland Gap park boundary to incorporate the lake and the watershed.
In 2004, McConnell and Rogers secured $1 million to protect the first part of the Fern Lake Watershed property. The ultimate goal is to acquire 4500 acres, and to date, 1850 acres has already been acquired from willing sellers of private land.
This new $1 million in funding will enable the Trust for Public Lands, a national non-profit land conservation organization, to purchase additional property that has already been identified.