U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05) announced today that Congress has approved an additional $1.15 million in federal funding for the acquisition of the Fern Lake watershed for inclusion in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Rogers collaborated with Senator Mitch McConnell to secure these funds in the FY 2010 Interior Department Appropriations bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives last week and signed into law by the President on October 30, 2009.
“The scenic ‘gateway to the west,’ Cumberland Gap National Historical Park has enabled thousands of visitors to enjoy the rich history, landscape, caves and trails of southeastern Kentucky for generations. The protection of this historic park, and all national parks, is vitally important to both preserving our environment and driving economic development through tourism,” stated Rogers. “Acquiring the Fern Lake watershed for inclusion in Cumberland Gap has long been a priority of mine and Senator McConnell because of its dual functions—preserving the pristine viewshed from the popular Pinnacle Overlook so that future visitors might envision this land as Daniel Boone and his westward-moving pioneers once did, but also ensuring that the community of Middlesboro has access to a clean water supply. I’m pleased to see local and federal officials, along with the contribution of The Trust for Public Land, come together to expand this historic national park.”
Senator Mitch McConnell and Congressman Rogers sponsored the Fern Lake Conservation and Recreation Act, enacted in 2004, which authorized the National Park Service to expand the boundary of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park to incorporate the lake and 4,500 acres in its watershed. Since 2005, McConnell and Rogers have secured $4.95 million for this important acquisition, which protects the drinking water supply for the residents Middlesboro, preserves Appalachia’s historic passageway to the west for future generations, and promotes tourism and economic development in surrounding counties. In December 2008, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a non-profit conservation organization, purchased a key tract of land surrounding Fern Lake from a private landowner, and in a May 28, 2009 ceremony, with the funds secured by McConnell and Rogers, TPL conveyed over 2,000 acres of this property to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. To date, 4,021 acres of the watershed have been added to the park, and the ultimate goal is to acquire 4,500 acres within the sightline of the park’s popular Pinnacle Overlook.
Rogers currently serves as a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. Through this role, Rogers supports important initiatives in the Fifth Congressional District.