The Conservation Fund and state wildlife and forestry officials reached a deal to conserve and manage thousands of wild acres in Fentress County.
The expanse was previously held by an out-of-state speculative investment company likely originally tied to timber companies.
The Cumberland Plateau and escarpments have been increasingly recognized for their biodiversity along with the Smokies to the east beyond the Tennessee Valley. The Cumberlands are along a songbird and fowl migration route, and host a niche population of mature timber, mosses, lichens, fungi, mammals and amphibians. Elk were reintroduced a decade ago, and black bears have begun to range across the Cumberlands and their base.
The area is pocked with caves and sinkholes, some containing petroglyphs and other carvings from previous populations.
"On the Cumberland Plateau, the key to maintaining biodiversity is to retain as much natural forest (both managed and unmanaged) as possible," a forestry expert told the News Sentinel's Vincent Gabrielle.
The Foothills Land Conservancy has also helped protect thousands of acres along the plateau and its escarpments in recent years.