The Southern Appalachian mountains escaped glaciation during the last Ice Age, so they have harbored plant and animal life continuously for as long as 200 million years longer than any other region in the United States. One major group of salamanders evolved, and still remains in our mountains.
The Southern Appalachians host one of the world’s greatest diversities of mussels and fish and more than half of all tree, fern, and flowering plant species found on the North American continent.
Eighty percent of the Southern Appalachians 690 vertebrate species and 82% of the region’s 2,245 plant species are found on public lands.
Twenty-five of these natives appear on the federal list of endangered or threatened species; another 68 are candidates for federal listing. Many of them are found nowhere else in the world.
Recent studies indicate that the global decline of neotropical migratory songbirds 27% over the past nine years is as much the result of deforestation in the U.S. as of rain forest destruction in Central and South America. Southern forests are critical songbird breeding habitat and migration flyway.
Southern Appalachian national parks and national forests are noted for their scenic beauty and are some of the most heavily used recreation areas in the country. These wooded, mountainous lands are popular areas for hiking, canoeing, hunting, fishing, camping, rock climbing, etc.
Current public land management practices, most notably clear cutting and road construction pose a serious threat to regional biological diversity by destroying habitat, causing forest fragmentation, and degrading water quality.