Degradation of Appalachian Mountains

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The 205-thousand-square-mile Appalachian Mountain range, which spans from Eastern Canada to northern Alabama, boasts North America’s oldest mountains (formed approximately 400 million years ago), the highest peak of the eastern United States (Mount Mitchell), industrial production opportunities and leisurely recreation. The range includes the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky mountains (NCSU, n.d.). A range of recreational activities such as fishing in freshwater streams, camping, biking the Blue Ridge Parkway, skiing and hiking are available in the region. One popular hiking location is the 2,184-mile Appalachian Natural Scenic Trail, which is the longest walking trail in the eastern United States (United States. National Park Service, 2014). Its rich natural capital offers a plethora of resources, allowing production to range from small-scale agricultural establishments to larger industrial outputs of metal and timber. Approximately 80 percent of land has been used for the coal and logging industry since the 90’s (Little, 1995). Though the commercial utilization of the mountains has boosted the economy of Appalachian towns and cities, it has also degraded the range aesthetically and commercially.
One major business of the Appalachian mountain range is the coal mining industry; the range is the second-highest supplier of coal in America (Wuerthner, 2008). A common method of coal-extraction, mountaintop removal, results in mountain peaks becoming plateaus. The use of 300 million pounds of an explosive, ammonium nitrate rich fuel allows miners to remove hundreds of feet off mountain peaks each day, making the underlying coal more accessible and thus the extraction more efficient (Reece, 2006 & Shnayerson, 2008). The proces...

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...eved March 24, 2014, from Reece, E. (2006, January/February). Moving Mountains. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from Ritter, J. (2007). Soil Erosion – Causes and Effects. Retrieved March 26, 2014, from Shnayerson, M. (2008). Coal river. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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Wuerthner, G. (2003). Great Smoky Mountains: A visitor's companion. Mechanicsburg, PA:
Stackpole Books.
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