WASHINGTON — Nearly 7,500 acres in East Tennessee would be designated as federally protected wilderness areas and would be added to the Cherokee National Forest under a bill filed Thursday by U.S. Rep. Phil Roe.

Roe’s bill, called the Tennessee Wilderness Act, marks the first time legislation to expand the national forest has been filed in the U.S. House.

U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker have been pushing a similar bill in the Senate for a number of years.

“As an avid outdoorsman, I strongly believe we must protect the beautiful lands we’re fortunate to have in East Tennessee,” said Roe, a Johnson City Republican. “Though these particular lands have been treated as wilderness for more than a decade, it’s important to officially protect them.”

Roe’s legislation differs from the Senate bill in one respect: The Senate version would add almost 20,000 acres of designated wilderness to the national forest. Roe’s bill would apply to only some 7,500 acres located in his congressional district.

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