The Mountains of the Southern Appalachians
Image by, D L Ennis, from the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.
The forests of the Southern Appalachian Mountains are among the oldest and most biologically diverse forests in the world. Sheathing some of the most ancient mountain ranges on earth, the forests of the Southern Appalachian Mountains have served as the heart of evolution for many of North America’s plant and animal species. The geologic and climatic stability of the region over the past 65 million years has afforded sanctuary during extraordinary climate changes, permitting species to weather ice ages and then repopulate in the wake of receding glaciers. The forests of the Southern Appalachian Mountains are currently home to more than 20,000 species of plants and animals.
There are 4.6 million acres of National Forests in the Southern Appalachian Mountains ranging from Virginia to northwest Alabama, offering recreational opportunities, within a day’s drive, to over half of the population of the United States. The wild and magnificent mountainous Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia adds another 900,000 acres of public lands to the network. Southern Appalachian National Forests also include the Thomas Jefferson and George Washington National Forests in Virginia, Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests in North Carolina, the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee, the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forest in South Carolina, Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in Georgia and the Bankhead and Talladega National Forests in Alabama.
The Southern Appalachian National Forests contain 728,487 acres of road-less wilderness which provides refuge to an extraordinary natural legacy: more tree species than in all of Europe; hundreds of native vertebrates, from the mighty black bear to the petite, endangered blue shiner; over half the flowering plants and ferns in North America; abundant migratory songbirds; numerous salamanders; and, one of the greatest intensity of aquatic diversity in the world.
However, as stunning, rare and valuable as the Southern Appalachian National Forests are they still face numerous threats from the Bush Administration’s corporate welfare policies, including increased commercial logging, continued conversion of native forest to pine plantation, oil and gas development, and the negative impacts of illegal motorized vehicle recreation on the forests.
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