Appalachia’s Most Endangered Places

Charlottesville, VA © Robert Llewellyn
Charlottesville, VA © Robert Llewellyn

About this time every year, the Southern Environmental Law Center releases a list of 10 places in the South that face immediate, potentially irreparable, environmental threats. If ever there’s a list you don’t want your homeland to make, it’s this one.

endangered appalachiaUnfortunately, precious spots in Appalachia are always included. In fact, this year I was startled to count five of them. That’s right, half of the most endangered Southern places are in our mountains. From their farthest reaches in Alabama to their eastern edge in Charlottesville, the Southern Appalachians are under threat. The culprits include fracking, timber sales, roadway development, and mountain top removal mining.

I shouldn’t be surprised. Our region has extraordinary natural resources, and for nearly all of our recorded history, they’ve attracted those who would carelessly exploit them. I’m reminded of the 2008 coal ash spill in Kingstown, Tennessee; the more than 500 mountains that have already been severely impacted or destroyed by mountain top removal mining; and the wholesale destruction of our ancient forests throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Environmental degradation is not new, but neither are environmental successes. The Southern Environmental Law Center has been pursuing and winning environmental cases in the South for more than twenty-five years. Check out this video on their important work and find out how you can help save our most endangered places.

Know any of these places? What do they mean to you? And what do you think of the work of The Southern Environmental Law Center?

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