Don Williams
Photo by Justin Williams

Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

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Those who breathe, drink or eat should make common cause
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   08/18/2006)

And you call yourself a conservative. Liberal? Creationist? Humanist? Nature lover?

Then prove it by conserving the most precious gifts God or nature bestows - our very Earth, water and air. Let's make common cause, shall we?

Here, in the Southern Appalachians, where eagles nest, where joe-pye weed joins ironweed to pour the colors of wine into unspoiled valleys, where trees drink deep of carbon fumes to exhale sweet oxygen. Here, in this international biosphere, where an amazing variety of shrubs, vines and grasses filter runoff to keep our waters drinkable and livable for fish, waterfowl and critters who prowl the shores.

Here along the French Broad and Tennessee and Holston rivers - and the shores of a dozen lakes strung like pearls in the clefts of the Smokies and Cumberlands - nature is under assault.

The Tennessee Valley Authority and the Development Corporation of Knox County, Tennessee appear to be leading the charge, despite good intentions by many in those organizations. Let's convince these good neighbors to become the solution rather than the problem. It's up to those of us who love boating, fishing, hiking, biking, hunting, trail-running - or merely the music and color of songbirds, the variety and grace of four seasons or the look of a lakefront's emerald smile - to do what we can.

It's been considerable in the past. I remember when a phone-in and letter-writing campaign shut down a governor's plans to close more than a dozen state parks. Maybe we were more rational five or six years ago, more attuned to what's lost when we tell nature to get lost. I don't know. You tell me.

Better yet, tell the TVA board. Tell the Knox County Commission.

TVA officers and other vested interests are at least going through the motions of listening to concerns about the agency's plans to sell off thousands of waterfront acres, land that its strapped budget can no longer manage, evidently.

Already it's transferred hundreds of acres to developers in a controversial exchange at Tellico, Nickajack and Chickamauga lakes, according to press accounts. TVA appears to have forgotten a promise made in its charter to families forced off their farms so many decades ago "to provide for reforestation and the proper use" of such lands in the Tennessee Valley.

This is important: TVA held hearings earlier this week and to its credit asked that media like this newspaper announce it'll continue accepting comments on land policy issues until Aug. 23 - yikes, that's Wednesday - so do it now before you forget by e-mailing; by mail to the Land Policy Hearing, 400 West Summit Hill Drive, Knoxville, TN 37902; by phone at 888-882-7675; or by fax to 865-632-3146. Tell them you're against the cheap sell-off of so much public land which wildlife and nature lovers and ordinary people depend on for their health and happiness.

As for the development corporation, its proposed business park for Midway Road off Interstate 40, east of Knoxville, TN, has the appearance of being steamrolled through the zoning and land-use process. Opponents point out that we already have an industrial park at nearby Forks of the River - and much of it stands idle. So why build yet another that could lead to more development close to the French Broad River corridor? Who benefits? Why touch this largely unspoiled region at a time when nearly every ecologist would testify that such development is destroying much that the world holds dear?

Maybe those promoting the bad idea of altering forever the land-use philosophy of rural East Tennessee have the public interest at heart. If so, what's the hurry? Why the lack of greater opportunity for public input in a project so expensive? One that threatens to open the door to a brand of development that could destroy this last, relatively untouched region of the county?

Many who love the hills, river bluffs and valley glades bequeathed by a passing farmland ecology point out that Midway Road is the Knox County entry point to the Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge. As one who frequently runs, bikes, boats, hikes and swims there - yes, I know, the water's polluted - I tell you the Seven Islands area is still a piece of paradise.

Those interested in this issue should call the development corporation and Knox County government. The issue is expected to come before the County Commission at its Aug. 28 meeting. Tell them this is the wrong place for a new business and industrial park. For more information about the French Broad Preservation Association, phone spokeswoman Elaine Clark at 865-599-2473.

Come on, folks. I challenge liberals, conservatives, farmers, sportsmen, women, Christians, Jews, Muslims, humanists and anyone else who breathes or drinks water or yet holds an ounce of soulful appreciation for nature. Let's not finish the dirty work of destroying our own natural heritage.