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Goforth Creek Canyon: A Most Endangered Place

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PHOTO: Plans for road construction have landed Goforth Creek Canyon on this year's list of the most endangered places in the South. CREDIT: Sam Evans SELC
PHOTO: Plans for road construction have landed Goforth Creek Canyon on this year's list of the most endangered places in the South. CREDIT: Sam Evans SELC
February 7, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A new list of the top 10 places in the South that are facing immediate and potentially irreparable threats includes two areas of Tennessee. Goforth Creek Canyon is among those most at risk, due to a proposed road project.

Jeff Hunter, director of the Tennessee Wilderness Campaign for Wild South, said this listing reinforces the need for passage of the Tennessee Wilderness Act.

"If that area had been protected by the Wilderness Act," he noted, "we certainly wouldn't be having this conversation, because it protects these lands in perpetuity from road building, from clear-cut logging or any other development activity."

The Tennessee Wilderness Act seeks to designate the first new wilderness area in the state in 25 years, Hunter said, as well as expand five existing areas in the Cherokee National Forest.

"Arguably, the 650,000 acres of the Cherokee National Forest are some of the most biologically rich, temperate forests in the world," he explained. "The biodiversity is simply off the charts, so to have the GoForth Creek area impaired would be terrible."

The list of the most endangered places comes from the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC). This year, the list includes the mountains of Virginia and eastern Tennessee because of mountaintop-removal coal mining.

SELC legislative director Nat Mund says energy issues are a common theme across the region, but a healthy environment and a healthy economy can go hand in hand.

"We don't need to be mining uranium in southwest Virginia," he said. "We don't need to be blowing the tops off our mountains in east Tennessee and in Virginia. We don't need to be doing hydraulic fracturing in parts of the Piedmont to get energy. We have other sources that are cheaper and easier on the environment."

Mund warned that many of the South's natural treasures still are at stake because of short-sighted attempts to weaken safeguards.

More information is available at www.southernenvironment.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TN