This IBA occupies portions of the rugged mountainous region at the confluence of Wallen Ridge, Powell, and Stone Moutains in Wise, Scott and Lee counties. The mountainous landscape is highly dissected by a network of streams and steep, narrow valleys where characteristic rich and acidic cove forests develop in sheltered valleys. Upands are dominated by mixed oak-hardwood communities. The area represents a large contiguous forested landscape of generally unbroken, mature forests with over 75% of the forests greater than 70 years of age.

{link:For a fact sheet on this IBA, including a map, click here| and Stone Mountains.pdf}

Ornithological Summary

This site supports the entire suite of species associated with mature eastern mixed-mesophytic forest habitats. Dense cove forests and steep slopes support populations of Swainson's Warbler, Canada Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, and Worm-eating Warbler. The entire mountain population of Swainson's Warblers in Virginia is confined to the Cumberland Mountain region in the southwestern tip of the state, where this IBA is located. Species that depend upon old-growth conditions such as the Winter Wren and Cerulean Warbler are also regularly sighted, although it is unclear whether their populations meet thresholds. This area is known to be one of two Cerulean Warbler hotspots in Virginia. Louisiana Waterthrush are common in suitable habitat along stream channels and Wood Thrush are abundant and well-distributed throughout the IBA.

Conservation Issues

Mixed hemlock forests have become increasingly threatened by the invasion of the hemlock woolly adelgid, which has recently invaded the area. The US Forest Service is currently conducting an environmental assessment to begin mitigating this threat. On private lands, conversion of forest to developed, mined, or logged areas is a continual threat. Many of the species for which this IBA is important are habitat interior species and fragmenting this area could negatively affect their populations. Gas and oil drilling are allowed on leased parcels within the Forest Service boundaries and are maintained as small (~1 acre) clearings of grasses and shrubs. More extensive drilling and strip mining is occurring outside of Forest Service property, which can have serious impacts on sensitive bird species.


Over 50% of this IBA is owned and managed for timber and wildlife by the United States Forest Service. The remaineder of the site is in private ownership.


Habitat within the IBA is predominantly mature mixed-mesophytic or dry mesic oak habitats. In moist, sheltered cove forests, canopies are co-dominated by eastern hemlock, tulip-poplar, sugar maple, and several oak and hickory species. Dense shrub layers of rhododendron make up the understory, and where soils are more fertile, a lush herbaceous layer of forbs is also present. Deep north-northeast facing drains on slopes of similar aspect are generally in conifer-northern hardwood mistures giving way to northern hardwoods at the highest elevations. In the drier and less fertile uplands, habitat is composed of a mixture of oaks, other hardwoods such as yellow-poplar, and several hickory species, as well as scattered yellow pines on clifflines and dry ridges.

Land Use

Land is largely owned and managed by the U.S. Forest Service to meet timber and conservation objectives. Some gas and oil drilling is permitted on leased land within the Forest Service holdings. Private lands are largely in forest ownership and are largely rural in nature with some areas being held by private oil and gas extraction industries.

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