Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
The Clinch and Powell Rivers are formed in the Appalachian Mountains of southwestern Virginia, and are considered the only ecologically intact (undammed) headwaters of the Tennessee River system.
Rare and endangered species abound here. The Clinch River sustains 48 imperiled and vulnerable animal species, including 29 varieties of rare freshwater mussels and 19 species of fish. Rare plants, mammals and birds also thrive along the river's edge.
Because of this concentration of rare animals, the Clinch River basin has been identified as the number-one hotspot in the U.S. for imperiled aquatic species.
Significantly, the Clinch Valley's land, water and natural resources also sustain human communities and their economies. The socioeconomic conditions of the area are defined by high unemployment and economic disparity. Our challenge is therefore to develop and promote economically compatible approaches to conservation that not only protect the Clinch River as a natural resource but also allow for its sustainable economic use. Declining water quality, a legacy of coal mining, and unsustainable agricultural practices are the primary threats to the Powell and the Clinch Rivers today.
35 varieties of freshwater mussels and 19 rare fish species call the Clinch River home, including the pygmy madtom, a tiny, endangered catfish that is found in only one other river — the Duck River.
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
Beginning in 1990, The Nature Conservancy targeted the watersheds of the Clinch and Powell rivers as part of the "Last Great Places" ecosystem conservation program. A joint project of the Virginia and Tennessee chapters, the Clinch Valley Program has seven staff members working from field offices in Abingdon, VA and Hancock County, TN. The Conservancy owns seven preserves in the Clinch Valley.
Actions taken by the Conservancy include: