Top 10 Endangered Places In The Southeastern U.S.

The Southeastern United States is rich in historical significance and biological diversity. It’s also a region rife with poverty, low quality education and environmental distress.

The mountains, valleys, rivers, streams, forests and coastal areas that make the Southeastern U.S. a popular destination for tourists as well as scientific research face dire threats from those who want to exploit the natural resources they contain.

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), an environmental advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the Southeast, recently announced its fourth annual list of the top 10 places in the South that face immediate, potentially irreparable threats in 2012.

“The South’s special places and natural riches are threatened by a wave of calculated attacks on the bedrock laws that protect our environment and health,” said Marie Hawthorne, SELC’s Director of Development. “Under the guise of promoting economic growth, anti-environmental forces are working in Congress, in state legislatures, and in government agencies to gut our most essential safeguards.

“The truth is, environmental protection had nothing to do with the financial crisis or today’s weak economy,” Hawthorne added. “Doing away with effective laws and enforcement will accomplish nothing except sacrifice the natural treasures like those on our Top 10 list and other resources that make the South such a great place live, work, and raise our families. We owe it to ourselves — and to future generations — to make sure this doesn’t happen.”

On the following pages, you’ll see breathtaking pictures of these endangered regions, some of which you may have visited or hoped to visit in your lifetime. Some might be right in your own backyard. During this election year, let’s resolve to keep conservation and environmentally-sound regulations at the forefront of the national conversation.

1. Alabama’s Coast

Alabama Coast by John Wathan

Following the tragic BP oil spill, the government has returned to business as usual and is authorizing risky deepwater drilling projects under the same assumptions that failed in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. This approach is irresponsible, illegal, and poses an ongoing threat to Alabama’s beaches, marshes, wildlife, and coastal communities.

Photo ©John Wathan

2. Dawson Forest, Georgia

Dawson Forest by Joe Cattoni
A costly, unnecessary proposed reservoir in this Georgia forest would siphon 100 million gallons per day from the Etowah River to fuel metro Atlanta’s unchecked sprawl, threatening prime habitat for endangered aquatic life, water supplies of downstream communities, and a popular recreation area.

Photo Credit: ©Joe Cattoni

3. Catawba-Wateree Basin, North Carolina & South Carolina

Catawba River Basin by Ken Teeter

The health of the Catawba-Wateree River, which provides drinking water for hundreds of thousands of residents of central North Carolina and South Carolina, faces an array of threats, including pollution from toxin-laden coal ash ponds, hydroelectric dams that will continue to disrupt stream flows and fish migration, water withdrawals that rob water from downstream farms and communities, and unnecessary reservoir projects that promote inefficient development and water use.

Photo Credit: ©Ken Teeter

4. North Carolina Piedmont

NC Piedmont by Kevin Adams

The gas drilling industry and its allies in the North Carolina General Assembly are pushing hard to pass legislation that would expedite hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. ‘fracking’) to extract natural gas, despite mounting evidence that the drilling technique, in the absence of appropriate regulatory controls, can lead to the contamination of groundwater and surface water. Potential fracking sites in North Carolina’s Piedmont are underneath or upstream from water supplies for 2.4 million people.

Photo Credit: ©Kevin Adams

5. Savannah River, South Carolina & Georgia

Savannah Harbor by Robert Llewellyn

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to deepen 38 miles of the Savannah River shipping channel would increase saltwater intrusion in the river and jeopardize freshwater marshlands in the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, drinking water supplies for Savannah and other communities, and habitat for endangered aquatic species.

Photo Credit: ©Robert Llewellyn

6. Chilhowee Mountain, Tennessee

Chilhowee Mtn. by Ron Lowery

The outdated plan for completing Corridor K between Chattanooga and Asheville includes a proposal to cut a new four-lane highway through the Cherokee National Forest near the Ocoee Gorge, even though improvements to the existing two-lane highway on its current footprint would be less damaging, less costly, and no less effective.

Photo Credit: ©Ron Lowery

7. Chesapeake Bay, Virginia

Chesapeake Bay by Robert Llewellyn

For decades the Chesapeake Bay has suffered from pollution from all sides — air, land, and water. Unfortunately, industry interests and their political allies are doing all they can to impede a comprehensive rescue plan.

Photo Credit: ©Robert Llewellyn

8. Mountains of Tennessee & Virginia

VA/TN Mountains by Robert Llewellyn

Mountaintop removal and other destructive coal mining practices have already destroyed at least 500 mountains and damaged 1,700 miles of streams in Virginia, Tennessee and other central Southern Appalachian states, and pressure continues to mount.

Photo Credit: ©Robert Llewellyn

9. Charlottesville, Virginia & Surrounding Countryside

Charlottesville countryside by Robert Llewellyn

Local and state decision-makers are attempting to revive a wasteful, destructive, and ineffective proposed bypass that would leave a permanent scar on one of the South’s most special communities.

Photo Credit: ©Robert Llewellyn

10. Southside Virginia

Southside Virginia by Katherine Vance

An intense push to mine uranium in southern Virginia risks polluting drinking water supplies with radioactive and toxin-laden wastewater. Lifting the state’s ban on uranium mining could open up Virginia’s Piedmont countryside to more large-scale mining projects.


Related Reading:

Top 10 Vacation Spots In Danger

Top 10 US Species Threatened By Fossil Fuels

Top 10 US States For LEED-Certified Buildings

Photo ©Katherine Vance

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Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe3 years ago

OMG. Some of these locations are so beautiful It is such a shame to lose them.

Andrea A.
Andrea A.3 years ago

Thanks. Sad.

Janine H.
Janine H.3 years ago

This is a very sad story. People only know how to destroy and to pollute something. And other life forms (animals, plants,...) have to go only because "we" humans do not want to share the world with other life forms, these life forms "we" would not eat (vegetarian food is not a bad idea, or eating with conscience as the so called primitive cultures did and still do, if they still exist. No meat/fish every day).

As little child i thought that rain is when God and the angels cry - because "we" humans have forgotten that we need this "intelligence", someone who could help... if "we" hadn't turned away for many centuries ago...

"Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten."
(Native American proverb)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

Jordan Ayres
Jordan Ayres3 years ago


Patrick F.
Patrick f.3 years ago

They call this progress. They should have spent more time in school.

Chad A.
Chad Anderson3 years ago

There are so many things we are losing every day... we really need to do much more to reduce our impact on the globe...

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran3 years ago


Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran3 years ago


Masha Samoilova
Past Member 3 years ago

hope can save