Members include local landowners and representatives from government, industry and conservation groups

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture has formed a volunteer advisory council of local and statewide representatives for its proposed gas and oil research initiative. The initiative calls for the study of environmental and other risk factors related to oil and gas development on the UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center Cumberland Forest located in Scott and Morgan counties.
The 20-member council includes private landowners as well as managers of large corporate tracts of properties in the Cumberland Plateau region. Also represented are concerned citizens and environmental organizations, including the Nature Conservancy, Statewide Organization for Community Empowerment (SOCM), Tennessee Environmental Council, the Oak Ridge Environmental Quality Board and Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning. Other members include representatives from interested professional organizations like the Tennessee Forestry Association and from government entities like the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
The advisory council also includes UT faculty members and graduate students.
“This is the next step in our process to ensure that the community and interested parties are informed about and have input into the research,” said Dr. Kevin Hoyt, director of the UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center. “I look forward to meeting with the council and to hear their thoughts and ideas about proposed research how we move the project forward while addressing their concerns.” 
Hoyt expects the council to meet as necessary, but at least quarterly until the project is formally launched.
The goals of the proposed research initiative include providing baseline data to advance industry-specific best management practices specific to extracting natural gas and petroleum resources from the Chattanooga shale formations common throughout East Tennessee and the Cumberland Plateau region. The university proposes to enter a lease agreement with a private industry partner to extract the resources from its Cumberland Forest while studying the methodologies, their environmental and other effects, and the development of continuous improvement best management practices. 
The proposed fact-based, scientific investigation will seek to answer critical research questions regarding the relationships between the development of gas and oil resources through a process called fracking and water quality, air quality, terrestrial ecosystems, geological formations and best management practices.
The Cumberland Forest is a field-based research laboratory that is documented to have reserves of natural gas and oil.  This location provides an ideal site for university-based research given the long-term forest stewardship practices, previous research projects and historical baseline data that has been collected there since the university acquired the property.
More information about the proposed project can be found online at
The Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center is an 11,500 acre field research laboratory, which has been engaged in natural resources stewardship and research since 1936. The center is a regionally recognized leader in developing new technologies applicable to modern forestry and wildlife resources management and environmental stewardship. The FRREC is one of 10 research and education centers in the UT Institute of Agriculture’s AgResearch system. Headquartered in Oak Ridge, Tenn., the Forestry Resources Center is comprised of three forest units located in East and Middle Tennessee. 

Doug Edlund or Patricia McDaniels, UTIA Marketing and Communications, 865-974-7141


For a list of advisory council members, click here.