Southern Environmental Law Center

Southern Environmental Law CenterFor nearly a quarter-century, the Southern Environmental Law Center has been at the front of efforts to protect the natural resources of the South. They work at all levels and branches of government to safeguard the region's forests, air, water, wildlife habitat, rural landscapes and other critical resources. With eight regional offices, SELC's efforts encompass a wide swath of the South, including Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee.

“Our role is multifaceted,” says David Carr, general counsel for SELC. “We work with the staffs of members of Congress and participate in strategy development.”

SELC has played a key role in getting wild lands in Virginia designated as wilderness, including passage of the 2009 Virginia Ridge and Valley Act, which expanded six existing wilderness areas within Jefferson National Forest.

Currently, SELC's wilderness efforts are focused on Tennessee. As a founding member of the Tennessee Wild coalition, SELC helped develop a proposal to designate nearly 20,000 acres of wilderness in the Cherokee National Forest: The Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2010. Introduced by Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, the measure would expand five wilderness areas and create one new area, the Upper Bald River, while safeguarding watersheds and protecting vital habitat for native brook trout, black bear, bobcat, grey fox and white-tailed deer.

In addition to proactive campaigns to designate wild lands as wilderness, SELC defends roadless areas from timber sales and road building by providing input for forest management plans; SELC also educates the public and lawmakers about the legal meaning of wilderness.

“In a wilderness campaign, you have lots of arguments raised about what you can and can't do in wilderness,” Carr says. “We are often involved in getting to the bottom of these issues and getting the information to congressional staffers on what wilderness actually does.”

The legal and policy expertise of SELC, coupled with more than a decade of work on Capitol Hill, has the organization well positioned to be an influential conservation voice for years to come.

For more information, visit the Southern Environmental Law Center website.