The refuge would cover approximately 25,000 acres in Franklin County near Estill Fork, Hurricane Creek and Larkin Fork.
Dwight Cooley, who manages refuges in Alabama, said the tract is 1 of the most important in the southeast.
Living within it are at least 15 federally endangered or threatened species and a number of species considered endangered or threatened in Tennessee. Much of the land is forested and provides habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.
The agency hopes to have a draft plan for public review in April and have authorization for the refuge by fall.
Fish and Wildlife is taking comments on the proposal.
More information is available at fws.gov/southeast/paintrockriver.
Information from: WRCB-TV