July 31, 2014
Jul 27 - Marion Farrar
Written by Marion Farrar
“Tennessee ranks 32nd among the states for total agricultural production. Currently, there are 85,000 farms in Tennessee, making up 44% of the state.’’
“Soybeans, greenhouse/nursery, cotton, corn, tobacco, wheat, tomatoes, hay, snap beans, sorghum, apples, squash, peaches, honey, wool, mushrooms.’’
“Cattle and calves, broilers (9-12 week old chickens), dairy products, hogs, chicken eggs, sheep and lambs.”
“Over 50 percent of Tennessee’s land is covered in forests. The trees are the source of lumber, which is one of the state’s largest industries. The wood is used for a variety of products but mostly for paper products, lumber and furniture.’’
“The Equine industry is an important part of Tennessee’s economy and its heritage. We are ranked 6th in the nation for the number of equine in the state according to the 2007 Ag Census.’’
Originally grapes and winemaking were popular in the early 1800’s, but shut down in prohibition days. In the 1970’s, growing grapes for wine became popular again and now there are 43 wineries and 13 vineyards (only grow grapes). “Winemakers in Tennessee win awards every year, competing against thousands of wines from not only the United States, but other countries as well,” says Elizabeth Owen, a marketing consultant who works for the Tennessee wineries. “In fact, grapes are the fastest growing cash crop in the state.”
“Tennessee has over 60,000 miles of streams, approximately 536,000 acres of lakes and about 787,000 acres of wetlands.”
The Lost Sea located at Athens, is a 4.5 acre underground lake, the largest in the nation. Tennessee is riddled with underground rivers and caves whose potential is unknown as a natural resource.
TVA operates 19 hydroelectric dams and six coal-fired power plants on our waterways, bringing power to Tennesseans at a rate slightly below the national average. “At 11.7 million megawatthours in 2013, Tennessee’s net electricity generation from hydroelectric power is the third highest of any state east of the Mississippi River.”
“Over 50 million tons of goods move up and down the Tennessee River every year. Anything that’s transported in bulk quantities — the raw ingredients that go into many consumer products — makes a good candidate for shipping by barge. Drought and flooding on the Mississippi sometimes cause problems in the river shipping industry.”
Tennessee’s rivers offer cruises by riverboat in Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville that last from a few hours to 8 days. Boating and river cruising are a great way to enjoy Tennessee’s beautiful scenery.
Whitewater rafting on rivers in the Smokies and on the Ocoee River have become popular attractions for water recreation. The 1996 Atlanta Olympics chose the Ocoee for the whitewater rafting competition site.
“TVA’s wind power site is on Buffalo Mountain near Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In 2004, TVA greatly expanded its wind generating capacity when it added 15 very large turbines to the three original smaller turbines at the site. Wind energy is now a major contributor to Green Power Switch,” a TVA program to support regional renewable energy.
“Tennessee has a moderate climate featuring cool, but not cold, winters and warm summers. The drop in elevation causes temperatures to rise significantly from east to west. In Nashville high temperatures in July average in the upper 80s F (about 32 °C); high temperatures in January average in the mid-40s F (about 8 °C), while the average low is around 30 °F (−1 °C). The growing season ranges from 130 days in the mountainous east to nearly 240 days at Memphis. Most of Tennessee is within the range of 160 to 220 days. The state receives ample precipitation, about 51 inches (1,300 mm) a year, rather evenly distributed over the seasons and regions.”
“Tennessee’s mineral industry contributes nearly $800 million in product value annually. Total direct and indirect economic impact is nearly $8.8 billion annually, affecting more than 98,000 jobs. Tennessee has a history of mining more different kinds of mineral resources than any other state east of the Mississippi River except North Carolina, dating back to the late 18th century.”
Minerals mined are “limestone, clay, phosphate, sand, gravel, marble, sandstone, barite, chalcopyrite (copper), iron, fluorite, hematite, saltpeter and sphalerite (zinc). There is a sizable reserve of lignite in West Tennessee, more than a billion tons, but as yet there has been no mining. The Smith county zinc mines produce the highest-grade zinc concentrate in the world at 64.5 percent and are also one of the world’s largest sources of germanium, a critical and strategic material that is used in fiber optics, infrared systems, and semiconductors.”
Oil and Gas Production
“Energy minerals mined are oil, natural gas, and oil shales, and radioactive minerals, but not all are in deposits large enough or high-grade enough to recover under present economic conditions. Coal, oil, and natural gas are currently being recovered.” According to University of Tennessee Professor Bob Hatcher, “Tennessee has greater petroleum potential than has been developed—large parts of TN remain undeveloped. The greatest potential is oil, because it is much more valuable than gas.”
Known as the state gem, commercially grown freshwater pearls were very popular in the 1980’s and still bring prices up to $4500.
“All 56 Tennessee State Parks are open to the public seven days a week, year-round. There is no access fee charged, although there may be fees associated with certain activities. Tennessee award winning state parks offer hiking and picnicking as activities, but many also have fishing, boating, biking and camping as well as interpretive programs, all to showcase the beauty of Tennessee. There are six Tennessee State Parks with inns and conference centers. Many of the parks also have restaurants that can also provide on-site catering. Eight parks feature golf courses.”
“Tennessee’s forests are home to a broad spectrum of animal life. Dozens of species of mammals are native to the state. Among them are deer; various carnivorous species such as bobcats, coyotes, foxes, skunks, and weasels; shrews; opossums; assorted bats; and various rodents, including beavers, voles, and squirrels. The state also hosts nearly 100 species of amphibians and reptiles, some one-third of which are snakes. Birds are especially abundant; many migratory waterfowl winter in the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge in the northwestern part of the state. Loons, grebes, herons, ducks, geese, and numerous shorebirds inhabit Tennessee’s wetlands, while a wide array of woodpeckers, warblers, vireos, and other small birds animate the woodlands. Common fish include various suckers, catfish, sunfish, perch, and many types of minnows. During January and February, Reelfoot Lake is home to thousands of American bald eagles.”
Plants and Flora
“From the Appalachian Mountains to the flood plains of the Mississippi, Tennessee’s native plant communities make this one of the most botanically diverse and interesting states in the nation. Remnant alpine and prairie plants also contribute to the variety of plant communities and give wildflower enthusiasts a chance to see plants that are rare or endangered, both nationally and regionally. The beauty and habits of Tennessee’s plants fascinate professional botanists and amateurs alike.”
Natural Resources Needing Restoration
“The intensive growing of cotton and tobacco led to serious soil erosion in many parts of the state. This condition has been largely corrected by sound farming practices taught by the TVA and the state Department of Environment and Conservation. Corrective measures include contour plowing, terracing, and crop rotation.”
Livestock, Wildlife, and Domestic Animal Abuse:
“The shocking number of cruelty cases reported daily in the media is only the tip of the iceberg. Most cases are never reported, and most animal suffering goes unrecognized and unabated. Although there is no national reporting system for animal abuse, media reports suggest that it is common in rural and urban areas. Cruelty and neglect can also cross socio-economic boundaries.”
Tennessee was one of the earliest states to enact animal abuse laws against everything you can imagine; torture, failure to provide food and water and shelter, abandonment, transporting or confining an animal in a cruel manner, laws about horse shows, veterinarians practicing scientific experimentation, cock and animal fighting, dying baby fowl and rabbits, and the list goes on and on. God has given us dominion over all His creatures and we need to watch for ungodly treatment of animals.
Forest fires, acid rain, gypsy moths and a variety of pests are serious problems to our forests.
“Poor logging roads and the skid trails made as timber is dragged from an area can cause erosion in forested areas. Operating machinery in or near a stream can also cause erosion.”
The Humane Society of the U.S. states that “the Tennessee walking horse is bred for its smooth, natural gait—the running walk—and The HSUS supports the many owners and trainers who use humane training methods to showcase this natural gait, while also working to end the abusive practices often used to create the exaggerated high-stepping gait that has long been associated with soring. Many are subjected to a cruel practice known as soring—the intentional infliction of pain to their feet and legs to produce an exaggerated gait known as the ‘Big Lick.’ “
Winemaking and Distilleries:
Tennessee is home to Jack Daniels, George Dickel as well as some 22 other distilleries. Now these are joined by 43 wineries and 13 vineyards. Do we want Tennessee known for turning her natural resources into a product that is a problem for some? We need to know God’s will for our state.
“Air pollution is shrinking scenic views, damaging plants, and degrading high elevation streams and soils in the Great Smoky Mountains. Even human health is at risk. Most pollution originates outside the park and is created by power plants, industry, and automobiles.”
In 2010 the National Resources Defense Council listed Tennessee as “the 11th worst state for toxic air pollution from coal-fired plants, emitting more than 9.6 million pounds of harmful chemicals, which accounted for 37 percent of state pollution and about 3 percent of toxic pollution from all U.S. power plants … It also found that Tennessee ranks 21st among states with the worst levels of mercury air pollution from industrial sources, citing 1,250 pounds of the toxic substance released into the air in 2010.”
“The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has estimated that about 30 percent of the state’s streams are of such poor water quality that they cannot support a healthy population of fish and other aquatic wildlife, and almost 40 percent are not fit for human recreation.”
“The most common causes of pollution in rivers and streams are mud (sediment/silt), habitat changes to accommodate development, viruses and bacteria (pathogens), and nitrogen and phosphorus (nutrients). The main sources of these pollutants are stream changes to accommodate development, agricultural runoff, sewage and storm water discharge, and construction runoff. The leading causes of pollution in reservoirs and lakes are heavy metals (like zinc and copper), dissolved oxygen (too little or too much), and chemicals like, PCBs, dioxins, and chlordane.”
One of the worst pollution disasters affecting both water and land was the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal fly ash slurry spill on December 22, 2008, when “an ash dike ruptured at an 84-acre solid waste containment area at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant. 1.1 billion US gallons of coal fly ash slurry was released. Fish and wildlife died. Although the land surrounding the power plant is largely rural rather than residential, the spill caused a mudflow wave of water and ash that covered 12 homes, pushing one entirely off its foundation, rendering three uninhabitable and caused some damage to 42 residential properties. It also washed out a road, ruptured a major gas line, obstructed a rail line, downed trees, broke a water main, and destroyed power lines.”
“Three-quarters of Tennessee’s coal came from surface mines in 2012, which have negatively impacted more than 125 square miles of the Cumberland Plateau. The companies that mine the coal are owned almost entirely by out-of-state or foreign corporations, and 99 percent of coal mined in Tennessee is shipped to other states.” Yet the destruction continues. It is time that Tennessee leads the way in stopping mountaintop removal.
“Acid mine drainage and toxic runoff from mines remains a problem in Tennessee. The Sewanee coal seam underlying much of central Tennessee is the most toxic coal seam east of the Mississippi”.
“In 1843 copper was discovered in the area known as Ducktown basin and the mining that began there laid waste some of the worst pollution ever seen in our state. Tunnels were dug as deep as 3,000’ to extract the ore from the ground, then the copper was separated by a process known as smelting, releasing a substance called sulfur dioxide. When sulfur dioxide is combined with the water in the atmosphere, it creates a liquid called sulfuric acid. Today there still remains 50 square miles where no plant or animal can grow. Independent companies and the government have been trying to clean up the damage and will continue to do so for years to come.”
Oil and Gas Production:
“Pumping oil and gas out of the ground produces large volumes of water with undesirable quality known as produced water. Safely disposing of this highly saline water and mitigating the effect of past disposal practices is a national concern for environmental officials, land managers, petroleum companies, and land owners.”
“Runoffs from petroleum processing and petrochemical plants have dumped tons of toxic wastes into nearby waters. Gas and oil pipelines have stanched many creeks and rivers, swamping prime pastures and cropland. Modern technology in extracting the oil have led to less contamination, but oil and gas production are not to be entered into without evaluating every potential concern.”
Government and Industry
Much vigilance is required in regards to the laws being passed that affect our God-given natural resources. Elected officials with integrity, a respect for Tennessee’s wealth as well as a future perspective is needed. Government officials at every level require a long term diligence to see that past mishaps by industry or individuals are cleaned up.
Jobs are needed in our state, but there is a balance of how the state’s resources are used in order that Tennessee be preserved for generations to come. Stewardship involves watching over industries and how decisions are made. Tennesseans have a voice.
Photo credits: “Roaring Fork Waterfall” © Mark Vandyke | Dreamstime.com; “Ducktown-mine-collapse-tn1” by Brian Stansberry - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons