by Jeff Woods
Check out this waterfall. That's Cummins Falls, the highest privately held waterfall in Tennessee. Now, imagine it with houses all along the bank. You might not have to use your imagination soon. It's one of many scenic gems now for sale to developers all over Tennessee.
The state of Tennessee can't buy any of this land to conserve it because we don't have the money. To make ends meet, legislators have been emptying the state's land funds. Here's my story about it in The City Paper today.
For once, you can't blame the legislature. I'm as green as Aldo Leopold, but even I wouldn't squirrel away money for land conservation when I'm cutting health care for the poor and laying off prosecutors and public defenders. Unmet needs are mounting. Even once the economy recovers, land conservation never will become a high priority. Until we reform the tax system and make the wealthy pay their fair share, we may have to say goodbye to beauty spots like Cummins Falls.