Pine Mountain IBA occupies the south-southeastern facing flank of Pine Mountain along the Virginia-Kentucky border in Wise and Dickenson counties. This area is comprised predominantly of uplifted sedimentary stones such as siltstone, sandstone, and shale, through which an intricate network of streams have dissected deep and narrow valleys. The habitat is mainly forested, with lush moist cove forests on the north and eastern facing slopes and drier mixed oak-hardwoods in the uplands and south/western facing slopes. The IBA is largely one contiguous forest block with only occassional small openings.

{link:For a fact sheet on this IBA, including a map, click here|http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/virginia/Documents/Pine Mountain.pdf}

Ornithological Summary

This area supports the entire suite of species characteristic of eastern mixed-mesophytic forests. The extensive network of streams and associated dense cove forests support Swainson's Warblers at relatively high densities compared to other surveyed areas in the region. Other stream-associated species or those that require large blocks of forested habitats such as the Kentucky Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, and Wood Thrush are also likely to exceed thresholds within the IBA. Cerulean Warblers are found sporadically on USFS breeding bird surveys and on BBS counts but it is unlikely that their populations meet thresholds within the proposed IBA. However, with only 8 survey routes throughout the enitre 13,000 ha area, the majority of the IBA remains un-surveyed and under-studied.

Conservation Issues

Mixed hemlock forests have become increasingly threatened by invasion of the hemlock woolly adelgid. The adelgid has recently invaded the proposed IBA and an Environmental Assessment is currently being developed to control it. On private lands, conversion of forest to developed, mined, or logged areas is a continual threat. Gas and oil drilling are allowed on leased parcels within the Forest Service boundaries and are maintained as small (~1 acre) clearings on grasses and shrubs that are not likely to impact the contiguity of the forest. However, road construction associated with this drilling is a fragmenting feature and may degrade the quality of the forest and increase edge effects, although such construction does comply with Forest Service guidelines when occurring on federal lands.

Ownership

The large majority of the land within the IBA is owned and managed for timber and conservation by the USDA Forest Service as a portion of the Clinch Ranger District of the Jefferson National Forest. Breaks Interstate State Park comprises the northeastern tip of the site. Private holdings surround the core of Forest Service lands along the length of the site, including holdings by oil and gas companies.

Habitat

The dissected and primarily south-eastern facing aspect of this area has led to the formation of protected coves and concave slopes that provide cool and moist conditions with soils of varying fertility. Generally acidic soils have led to the production of rich and acidic cove forests of tall hardwoods co-dominated by a diversity of tree species such as tulip poplar, oaks, and eastern hemlock. American beech and birch species represent a smaller proportion of the forest. Understories are generally lush and characterized by dense colonies of rhododendron and ohter low shrubby species and, where soils are more fertile, by a varity of herbaceous species. Uplands are drier and primarily contain mixtures of oaks and maples along with other hardwoods; yellow pine species sporadically occur on clifflines and drier slopes.

Land Use

The majority of the land is used for forestry purposes including timber production and extraction. Much of the forest is managed for wildlife conservation, including birds, and some portions of the forest have been designated as special biological areas that are unsuitable for timber production. The Forest Service leases some parcels to oil and gas companies for extraction purposes. Hunting and low impact recreation activities are allowed on much of the IBA.

Stay abreast of Audubon

Our email newsletter shares the latest programs and initiatives.