The Cumberland Plateau has been named one of the southeast’s ten most endangered natural areas.
The list was compiled by the Southern Environmental Law Center, or SELC. The Cumberland Plateau was included out of fear that the controversial coal-mining technique known as mountain top removal could begin there. But it’s also on the list because the group feels hopeful that a major step towards preventing surface mining could be imminent.
While the state owns large swathes of land on the plateau, the mineral rights largely belong to mining companies and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Last year, state officials filed a petition with the federal government, asking for a ban on mining about 500 acres of publicly-owned land. SELC Director Marie Hawthorne says the process of public hearings and studies to determine whether to grant the request will likely begin soon.
“We think it could be a model for other places. It’s a really courageous action and this is the year that that petition could become binding.”
The Cumberland Plateau is the only area in Tennessee to be included on the list. Other endangered sites include Alabama’s gulf coast, Georgia’s cypress forests and the Chesapeake Bay.