Press Release | February 2, 2010

Conservation Groups Cheer Settlement Ending Long Fight to Stop Road Through Great Smokies Park

Congressman Heath Shuler of western North Carolina has announced a settlement between the National Park Service, Swain County and others bringing to a close the decades-long fight to stop a proposed road through the most remote, wild area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The park service will pay Swain County $52 million, approximating today's cost of a county road that was flooded in the 1940s to make Fontana Lake.

Following is a statement from DJ Gerken:
“Today's announcement is the tipping point on the North Shore Road story – the resolution of an historical wrong in Swain County, and protection of the  park's most wild, remote area for the future.  It's also a win for American taxpayers, since the road would have cost several times more than this settlement.

“Congressman Shuler deserves enormous credit for bringing this often-contentious issue to an end.”

Following is a statement from Ted Snyder:
“The Sierra Club has been fighting the disastrous North Shore Road proposal since the late 1960s.  We have always stood by the people of Swain County and are thrilled that this issue is finally resolved for the great benefit both of the park and the county.”

Following is a statement from Don Barger:
“This is one for the history books. The wildest region of the park will stay wild, and future generations will be able to experience its isolation and grandeur. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Congressman Shuler and to the people of Swain County.”

In the 1960s, the National Park Service began building a replacement road for Swain County along the north shore of the lake, but abandoned the project after seven miles due to severe erosion and acidic runoff that wiped out fisheries in several streams. A number of county residents continued for decades to push for completion of what came to be known as “the Road to Nowhere,” even though the agency, the governors of North Carolina and Tennessee, the Swain County Commission all rejected the project on environmental and economic grounds in favor of a cash settlement with the county.

SELC, Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association joined with numerous local, state and national groups to oppose the project, which would have cut through the largest unbroken mountain forest in federal ownership in the East, destroying habitat for rare song birds, black bear, native fish, and other species, and impairing a backcountry sanctuary treasured by generations.

Southern Environmental Law Center (http:www// is the only regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of 40 legal experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.

The Sierra Club ( is America's oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization. Inspired by nature, we are 1.3 million of your friends and neighbors, working together to protect our communities and the planet.

Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association ( has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting our national parks. With 325,000 members and supporters, NPCA is the largest independent, membership organization dedicated to protecting the natural, cultural, and historic treasures of our National Park System. Our mission is to protect and enhance our national parks today for our children and for our grandchildren tomorrow.

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