At grocery stores, coffee shops and libraries throughout the region, newsstands are filling up with spring peepers. We’ve chosen this little frog as the cover celebrity for “The Silent Majority” — the countless creatures that share our treasured Appalachian Mountains with us.
This issue of The Appalachian Voice is dedicated to understanding how the region’s wildlife are faring and listening to what they’re trying to tell us. We also feature a four-page politics pull-out section on some of the loudest voices in Appalachia, our representatives in Washington and our state legislatures.
We devoted this issue to wildlife for two primary reasons. Partly, we wanted to celebrate the truly amazing variety of life in our region, and share our discoveries (slime mold? cool!) with readers far and wide. We also realize that humanity’s influence in the landscape doesn’t stop with a road or a mowed yard. Wildlife share these developed spaces with us, just as we share the wilds of public lands with them.
In “The Custodian’s Conundrum,” we open the issue by reflecting on the challenges of stewardship exemplified by the golden-winged warbler, a conservation darling that has stirred up a bit of controversy. We also take a brief look at a Forest Service proposal to bring controlled burns to the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area in western North Carolina. The Forest Service will release an environmental assessment and project alternatives for public comment in late spring or early summer, which gives curious readers plenty of time to look into the issue.
Writer Matt Grimley takes readers on a subterranean romp with a troop of Boy Scouts through Worley’s Cavern in Tennessee, sharing his fellow cavers’ boyish enthusiasm and delving into Appalachia’s fragile ecological underground. From salamanders to mussels to springtails and beyond, Appalachia is a global epicenter of biodiversity — and we’re probably losing some species to extinction before ever discovering them. “On the Fringe of Life” takes a look at the stunning depth of our region’s life forms and pays tribute to those that have gone the way of the dinosaur.
Anticipating spring, “Safe Passage” explores the role of the Appalachian Mountains in facilitating the annual migrations of songbirds, raptors, and countless other winged travelers. And in “The Ebb and Flow of Game Species,” our new editorial assistant Davis Wax checks in on the conservation status of several species that have long been a cornerstone of the Appalachian hunting tradition.
Appalachia’s Political Landscape
As the U.S. Congress begins its 113th session, we reserved a special pull-out section to take a look at our region’s political past and its current representatives. In “Where There is a Will,” writer Brian Sewell discusses how the present political climate in Appalachia came to be and looks for a way forward.
Sure, the pervasive influence of fossil fuel interests in politics can be discouraging. Ultimately, however, politicians are still elected by and accountable to We the People. Keeping tabs on what our representatives in Washington are doing on our behalf is even more important when we know that polluters are also seeking to influence our legislators. Check out our introduction to the 2013 class of Appalachian representatives and their districts, and don’t let your legislator be a stranger this year.
Environmental and energy policies will also be hot topics in our region’s statehouses this year. Read our preview of the environmental agendas across Appalachia, and stay tuned for what promises to be a wild legislative ride.
We received a thought-provoking essay, “The Conception of Wild Ideas,” from The Wilderness Society about the struggle to protect wild areas in a world where threats such as climate change and pollutants transcend wilderness boundaries. An abridged version of this essay is published in our print Viewpoint opinion column, and you can read the full version online.
And don’t miss an intriguing AV Book Club, where Paige Campbell reviews The Evening Hour, the debut novel from Carter Sickels.
If you’re a longtime reader, you might have noticed that a few changes from last issue to this one. We’re always striving to make The Appalachian Voice better, and would love to hear your thoughts.
Please take a moment to fill out this reader survey, and you’ll also be entered to win a great prize such as an Osprey backpack or wool throw!