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Fall Creek Falls State Park, which is partially located in the economically distressed Bledsoe County. Photo courtesy of Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

The state wants to drive more tourism — and the revenue that comes with it — to its poorest rural counties.

  • A new program will try to accomplish that goal through Tennessee's vast network of parks, forests, and other natural areas.

Why it matters: Tennessee state parks have seen a historic increase in camping and other activities during the pandemic.

  • Four of the top 10 camping months in the state's history were in 2020.
  • State parks last year had a $1.84 billion economic impact, according to an internal review. That economic impact could be a lifeline for distressed communities.

The latest: On Wednesday, the Department of Environment and Conservation announced a task force to look for ways to harness the popularity of public land to benefit rural counties.

The big picture: Gov. Bill Lee came into office in 2019 on promises to invest more heavily in Tennessee's rural communities. As he approaches reelection, the governor has repeatedly touted his efforts to do so.

What's next: The task force will work through May 2022 to develop plans for each of the distressed counties.

  • TDEC spokesperson Kim Schofinski told Axios potential plans could include new trails, new overnight campgrounds, or more marketing for existing attractions.

Go deeper

Idaho plans to bill MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell for election audits

Photo: Jeff Kowalsky / AFP via Getty Images

Idaho Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck announced Thursday the state plans to bill MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell for the cost of auditing three counties to disprove allegations of election fraud, the Idaho Statesman reports.

Why it matters: Houck's remarks come days after the audit concluded, reporting a 0.1% margin of error across the three counties.

3 hours ago - Health

FDA authorizes mix-and-match for COVID booster shots

Photo: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) on Wednesday gave its approval for Americans to get booster shots that are different from the COVID vaccine they initially received.

Why it matters: The recommendation from the FDA, which also authorized booster shots for people who received Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines on Wednesday, paves the way for an expansion of booster shots.

GOP congressman forfeits committee seats after indictment

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) on Wednesday stepped down from his committee assignments after being indicted for lying to federal investigators amid a probe into illegal campaign donations.

What they're saying: In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Fortenberry said he is "grateful for the outpouring of support from my friends and colleagues as we work against the injustice confronting me."

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