The Virginia headwaters of the Upper Tennessee River consist of three river systems — the Holston, Clinch, and Powell — which together contain more species and varieties of plants and animals than any other watershed in continental North America. The heavily-forested and mountainous region contains 48 imperiled fish and mussel species, 21 of which are listed as federally endangered or threatened. The three rivers and their many tributaries are also essential to the health and well-being of people in the region and millions of citizens downstream. All three rivers are extensively used to supply public drinking water as well as recreation and wildlife habitat.
Since 2006, Mountain Heritage, a conservation group based in St. Paul, Virginia, has published and distributed books about the Clinch River Watershed and the Big Sandy Watershed to thousands of high school students and other interested parties in Russell, Tazewell, Wise, Scott, Buchanan, and Dickenson counties and the City of Norton. The books link the students’ earth science SOL (Standards Of Learning) curriculum to their own watershed, giving them a personal reference point in their studies and an incentive to protect the watershed in which they live.
Mountain Heritage plans to expand this watershed education program to include the entire Virginia section of the Upper Tennessee River Watershed. The location of the Upper Tennessee Watershed is shown below, highlighted as the Powell Watershed and the Upper Clinch Watershed at Southwest Virginia’s most western tip.
Funding opportunities are now available for businesses, colleges, local governments, and individuals to help supply these books to the region’s students.
Funding from area benefactors, local governments, individuals, and foundations is essential because it will allow researchers, writers, and editors to begin the writing and layout of the book, thereby getting the Upper Tennessee watershed book project off the ground and into the hands of students eager to learn about their own watershed and environment, not to mention a very interesting local history of human activity.
The book will also showcase companies and individuals that are innovative in protecting/restoring watersheds while balancing the need for natural resource development. Energy development companies, such as Alpha Natural Resources, that win national, regional, and state recognition for innovative reclamation and post-mine land use projects as well as other businesses, farms, and individuals that bring protective attention to the world-class status of far Southwest Virginia’s biodiversity will be featured. The region’s many biological “hotspots” and the programs and agencies that protect them will be included, as well as a visitors’ guide to the many trails, birding spots, and hunting and fishing sites that make up the three river system. Educational programs and jobs that can be attained in the many fields of natural resource management and development will also be listed.
This new book covering the Upper Tennessee Watershed in the counties of Lee, Wise, Scott, Tazewell, Russell, Washington, Smyth and a small portion of Bland County and the cities of Norton and Bristol is a great forum for area colleges and other organizations and businesses to support our region’s high school students and their science studies.
The Clinch River and Big Sandy books have enjoyed the support of New Peoples Bank, regional colleges, energy development companies, school districts, county governments, and individuals. The books are passed along from student to student and home to home and are kept for years. Sponsors of the book will benefit from this sustained exposure as well as knowing they made a difference in a student’s knowledge and appreciation of our unique and beautiful area. To become a sponsor, contact Mountain Heritage at firstname.lastname@example.org for tax-deductible donations, ad rates, and layout and design options. Remember, the watershed you protect and the child you educate may be your own.