The Southern Blue Ridge
This region supports a wide diversity of plant and animal life because of highly varied topography and climatic conditions. The kind of vegetation changes with elevation and slope aspect. The diverse plant communities provide habitat for many species of wildlife. Black bear, white-tailed deer, and wild turkey are plentiful. The higher elevations provide suitable habitat for the birds and animals that are common in northern latitudes, such as northern saw-whet owl, Canada warbler, common raven, northern flying squirrel, and red squirrel.
Most of this region is forestland used for timber production, watershed protection, recreation, and wildlife habitat. The federally owned forestland in the area is mainly U.S. Forest Service or National Park Service land. The small acreage of cropland is used for vegetables, fruit orchards, native ornamental crops, and Christmas trees as well as corn and small grain. About 10 percent of the area is in pastured areas used for dairy, beef, and wool production. The area is very popular for tourism and retirement living. As a result, steady or rapid urban growth occurs in many areas.
Erosion from poorly constructed and maintained access roads is a major management concern. Sediment from access roads and urban development is the main pollutant of streams in the region. Proper woodland management is extremely important since privately held forestland makes up a significant portion of the land area. Conservation practices in agricultural areas include field borders, grassed waterways diversions, and riparian buffers along streams. Prescribed grazing and proper forage, nutrient, and pest management practices are critical in maintaining the productivity of grazing land. In areas where streams have been channelized, riparian areas have been removed, and livestock access is unchecked, stream bank erosion is a major concern. The condition of stream banks and channels becomes increasingly important in managing the storm-water runoff from growing urban areas.