by Bob Geary
The Southern Environmental Law Center is out with its "Top 10 Most Endangered Areas in the South" -- the South consisting of the six states (VA, NC, SC, GA, TN, AL) where SELC concentrates its efforts. North Carolina has two places on the list, at numbers 4 & 5:
4) Globe Forest, NC: "Despite public outcry, the U.S. Forest Service is planning to log over 210 acres of forestland near the community of Blowing Rock in western North Carolina. The plan threatens trees more than 300 years old, scenic views, and a popular recreation hotspot."
5) Pamlico River, NC: "It will be the single largest destruction of wetlands in North Carolina’s history—should a phosphate mining company get permission to expand its operations on the banks of the Pamlico River."
SELC's statement, and the full list, are below.
Charlottesville, Va. – January 5, 2009 − The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), the largest environmental advocacy organization dedicated solely to protecting the Southeast, today announced a list of ten special places in the South that face immediate, potentially irreparable threats in 2009. These endangered areas were chosen among hundreds that are impacted by SELC’s law and policy work throughout the six states of Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.
“The South is not only the fastest growing region in the United States but in many respects, the South is also a testing ground for the nation’s most pressing environmental issues, including energy, global warming, drought, land conservation, and biological diversity,” said Jeff Gleason, SELC’s Deputy Director.
The next 12 months will be telling for SELC’s list of endangered areas as they face a series of decisions that will either raise or lower the bar nationwide on critical issues like air quality and clean water. “Our region will either protect—or lose—areas of our native forest, coastline, and rural countryside. How the South accommodates growth and development while preserving our precious natural heritage could set a model for the rest of the country,” added Gleason.
Gleason also points out that the South disproportionately contributes to global warming. “If our six-state region were viewed as a country, we would rank 7th in the world for output of carbon dioxide. Reducing carbon emissions in the South is a critical part of any comprehensive global warming solution.”
Top Ten Endangered Areas in the South for 2009:
1) Clinch and Powell Rivers (Virginia)
Issue: Construction of a new coal-fired power plant in Wise County will accelerate mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia, and further increase mercury levels in the Clinch and Powell rivers.
2) Interstate 81 Corridor (Virginia)
Issue: Virginia officials are reexamining a plan to widen all 325 miles of I-81 to perhaps eight lanes to support long-haul truck traffic - a plan that would cost billions of dollars and cause tremendous harm to communities and historic, scenic, and environmental resources.
3) Marine Waters (Virginia)
Issue: Virginia is the first state in our region to begin the process of opening up its marine waters to offshore drilling for oil and gas. The benefit of this short-term supply of energy is dramatically outweighed by the harm to the environment and communities.
4) Globe Forest (North Carolina)
Issue: Destruction of rare, old-growth forest in the Southern Appalachians.
5) Pamlico River (North Carolina)
Issue: The single largest destruction of wetlands in North Carolina’s history will occur if a phosphate mining company gets permission to expand its operations on the river’s banks.
6) Great Pee Dee River (South Carolina)
Issue: Santee Cooper, a state-owned utility, is proposing to build more coal-fired power plants with outdated technology that would dump an additional 300 pounds of mercury into an already mercury-overloaded river.
7) Johns Island (South Carolina)
Issue: A $420 million highway proposal threatens to bring large-scale development to this historic community, transforming the island into a sea of condos, mega-stores, and traffic.
8) Salt Marshes (Georgia)
Issue: Large-scale development on biologically rich islands and tidal waters.
9) Weeks Bay (Alabama)
Issue: Unchecked development and weak regulation threatens an area so unique it is one of only three in Alabama to receive the designation of Outstanding Natural Resource Water.
10) Cherokee National Forest (Northeast Tennessee)
Issue: The U.S. Forest Service is moving forward with its plans to log several areas of this remarkable landscape, endangering trout, unbroken wildlife habitat and rare species.
For more detailed descriptions of each endangered area, photographs and a list of the top threats by individual state, visithttp://www.southernenvironment.org/about/top_10_2009