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vii Foreword On September 27, 2010, several thousand protesters marched in Washington , D.C., demanding an end to the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining.Ranging in age from twelve to seventy-two,most of the marchers were from the Appalachian region, and many came directly from the communities directly impacted by the practice. In front of the White House, where the march ended, more than one hundred individuals were arrested, ending what many observers called the largest protest against mountaintop mining in our nation’s history. For those attending the rally, the objective was clear: tell the president that his administration should honor its own regulations and scientific findings. If the Environmental Protection Agency finds that slicing the tops off mountains does irreversible harm to Appalachia’s ecosystems and watersheds, then such mining practices should be immediately stopped. Unfortunately,neitherthearrestsnorthesubsequentgovernmentreportsdocumenting the environmental hazards of mountaintop removal mining put a stop to the controversial practice. Nor was this the first widely publicized environmental injustice faced by mountain residents. For more than a century, Appalachia has been a major battleground between those who live and work in the mountains and those who have perennially profited from the vast natural resources of the region. In fact, one of the first environmental lawsuits in the United States was Madison et al. v. Ducktown Sulphur, Copper & Iron Co. et al., which in 1904 pitted North Georgia residents angry over the devaluation of their lands against a large copper smelter operating in nearby Tennessee. The suit argued that the emissions coming from the smelters were killing forests and orchards over the border as well as making local residents ill. Although the mountain farmers were defeated in the initial lawsuit, the case would eventually make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1915 the court ruled in favor of the Georgia plaintiffs , a bittersweet ending to a decade-long battle. By that date, much of the mountain landscape was already irreversibly scarred by toxic smoke, forcing most of the remaining landholders to permanently leave the area. Environmental and social injustice in Appalachia predates Madison v. Ducktown, however. By the 1890s excessive soil erosion and flooding in the region initiated considerable discussion among local residents, conservationists , and lumbermen regarding the precise role of standing timber in preventing floods and the loss of valuable topsoil. In many counties, more than half Donald Edward Davis viii the total surface area was owned by absentee timber barons, individuals who might clearcut entire headwater forests without any regard for those small landholders living downstream. After considerable public debate, there was little doubt that injudicious lumbering was causing major flooding in Appalachia , and in some cases, even the loss of life. It wasn’t until several tragic floods in West Virginia and Kentucky in 1907 that federal legislation was proposed to protect mountain forests and those living along major floodplains. After hearing testimony from industry spokesmen, conservationists, and local residents ,Congress passed the Weeks Act in 1911,authorizing the federal purchase of “forested, cut-over, or denuded lands within the watersheds of navigable streams,”lands that would later become America’s first eastern national forests. Ironically, the creation of more than seven million acres of public preserves in Appalachia during the 1920s and 1930s did not fully stop the destruction of mountain forests. Perceived largely as timber reserves by the U.S. Forest Service, these public lands were heavily logged once again as lumber demands rose after World War II. In fact, large-scale timbering in Appalachia’s national forests continued for several decades, resulting in legislative efforts by conservation groups across the region to restrict those management practices.In 1975 a West Virginia citizens’ group filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to enjoin the Forest Service from clearcutting mountain forests, the most common technique for harvesting timber on public lands. Their lawsuit halted logging in the mountain region for many months, ultimately leading to the passage of the National Forest Management Act, in 1976. Although there has been considerable legislation passed at the federal level regarding the protection and management of public lands in Appalachia, environmental legislation regarding the protection of privately held lands has been less than uniform. In the coalfields, where individual states were historically responsible for regulating coal-mining practices, regulatory agencies and their statutes remained woefully inadequate. In the 1960s, Kentucky residents Jink Ray and Widow Combs chose to sit in front of company bulldozers in order to stop the destruction of their homes...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780821444283
Related ISBN
9780821419809
MARC Record
OCLC
774956303
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-11
Language
English
Open Access
No
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