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10 most endangered places in the South

Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau

Photo: Ron Lowery

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Cumberland Plateau

State parklands and wildlife preserves on Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau serve as an ecological treasure chest, protecting natural riches that have made the plateau world-renowned for its biological diversity and abundance of rare species.

These public lands belong to the citizens of Tennessee, but they face the threat of mountaintop removal coal mining and similarly destructive practices because other owners — including the Tennessee Valley Authority and mining corporations — hold the underlying coal rights.

In Tennessee, Virginia and other central Appalachian states, mountaintop removal mining has claimed some 500 mountain peaks and destroyed or damaged more than 1,500 miles of streams. Tennessee is seeking to prevent a similar fate for mountain ridges that are managed for hunting, hiking, wildlife viewing, and other outdoor recreational activities.