Press Room

Interior Department and Tennessee Protect 75,000 Acres of Cumberland Plateau

Critical area for outdoor recreation, tourism and wildlife now off-limits to surface mining.

WASHINGTON—Yesterday, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell declared 75,000 acres of eastern Tennessee mountain ridgelines as unsuitable for surface coal mining operations. The decision comes after Tennessee's Department of Environment and Conservation petitioned Interior to protect the area, which is of critical importance for the state's outdoor recreation economy and wildlife. The National Audubon Society issued the following response: 

“It’s not every day 75,000 acres of Tennessee mountain range are set aside and protected,” said David O’Neill, Audubon’s chief conservation officer. “The Cumberland Plateau is home to birds like the Cerulean Warbler and the Wood Thrush, both of which face uncertain futures as our climate changes. Protecting the places birds need now and in the future is more important than ever. It’s encouraging to see Tennessee and the Department of the Interior team up to secure such a huge win for birds and people.”

The Cerulean Warbler and the Wood Thrush are both climate-threatened according to Audubon's 2014 Birds and Climate Change Report. The study found that more than half of the bird species in North America are at-risk of losing at least 50 percent of their current habitat by 2080 due to climate change. Audubon's science identifies the places that will continue to be important as warming continues. These climate strongholds are the priorities for conservation management and investment.

To learn more about Audubon's work protecting birds from climate change, please visit

The National Audubon Society saves birds and their habitats throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon's state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon's vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at and follow @audubonsociety.


Contact: Nicolas Gonzalez, Media Relations Manager,, 212-979-3068.

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