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List Names Southeast's 10 Most Threatened Places
Georgia's cypress forersts are on of the south's most threatened places.
Credit: Craig Tanner.

The southern United States is home to many places that could be irreversibly damaged in 2011, according to one environmental law group.

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) released its third annual list of the top 10 most endangered places in the South on Jan. 18. The list shows how the nation's most urgent environmental issues are playing out in the Southeast, especially how the region produces and uses energy, said the SELC. [In Images: The Southeast's 10 Most Threatened Places .]

"Our region is headed down a path that threatens to overwhelm the Southern landscapes we love our mountains, rivers, coast and rural countryside," said Marie Hawthorne of the SELC. "Decisions made today about how we extract and produce energy will have consequences for decades to come. The key message behind our top ten list is that there is still time to save these special places but we need to act now."

This year's list includes endangered areas that were chosen from among the hundreds of places that the SELC works, including Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.

The list spotlights the current and potential impacts of offshore oil drilling on Alabama's coast, mountaintop removal coal mining in Tennessee, coal-fired power generation in Georgia, fracking to tap natural gas in Virginia, and more. While the list focuses on the South, damage in these places has a much larger reach.

"The South's energy choices aren't just affecting our own backyard," Hawthorne said. "If our six-state region were a country, it would be the seventh-largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world."

Top 10 Endangered Areas in the South for 2011

  • Alabama's Coast
  • Georgia's Cypress Forests
  • Oconee River, Ga.
  • Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, N.C.
  • Snowbird Mountains, N.C.
  • Cape Fear Basin, N.C.
  • Santee River Basin, S.C.
  • Cumberland Plateau, Tenn.
  • George Washington National Forest, Va.
  • The Chesapeake Bay