MEIGS CO, TN (News Sentinel) -- A 68-acre tract in Meigs County that was slated for a treatment plant and high-density development is now included in one of the most important wintering rest stops for sandhill cranes in the eastern U.S.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency recently acquired the property with help from The Tennessee Land Trust, a nonprofit that specializes in preserving lands of high conservation value throughout the state. The property adjoins the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, a 2,570-acre preserve located at the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee rivers near Birchwood, TN.

The TWRA manages the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge mainly for migratory waterfowl and wading birds. In past decades an increasing number of migrating sandhill cranes have been drawn to the refuge to feed on the 300 to 500 acres of corn, milo and millet grown to feed the wildlife.

The acreage was included in a larger tract that had been marketed for high-density residential development. A wastewater treatment facility was to be built on the 68 acres, which, according to TWRA spokesman Dan Hicks, would have seriously impaired the habitat quality of a nearby slough that attracts thousands of ducks, geese, and cranes each winter.

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