The announcement of a plan to preserve nearly 4,000 acres connecting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cherokee National Forest drew praise today from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander.

“There is no more popular or magnificent section of the great American outdoors,” the Tennessee Republican said in a news release.

“Any effort to find new ways to protect that land and make more of it available for outdoor recreation certainly will be welcomed by Tennesseans. Today’s announcement means tens of thousands of Tennesseans and visitors will be able to continue to enjoy more hiking, hunting, fishing and boating,” he said.

Alexander joined officials with the Brookfield Renewable Energy Group, the state, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park service for a news conference at Calderwood Dam, near Maryville, Tenn.

Brookfield is transferring nearly 4,000 acres to The Nature Conservancy, which will hand it over to the state and federal governments over the next two years. It will join 6,000 acres that became part of the Smokies park and the Cherokee National Forest after an agreement in 2004 to relicense Alcoa’s hydropower facilities.

Alexander continued, “Brookfield’s generosity, and the efforts of The Nature Conservancy, will ensure that this land will be available for Tennesseans and others to enjoy now and in the future.”