Activists Block Mining Operations on Coal River Mountain

MARFORK, W. VA. – July 20 – Two protesters associated with the
RAMPS Campaign halted blasting on a portion of Alpha Natural Resources’
Bee Tree mountaintop removal mine on Coal River Mountain today by
ascending two trees. Catherine-Ann MacDougal, 24, and Becks Kolins, 21,
are on platforms approximately 80 feet off the ground within 300 feet of
active blasting on the mine. The banners hanging from their platforms
read “Stop Strip Mining” and “For Judy Bonds” in honor of strip mining
activist Julia “Judy” Bonds of Packsville, W.Va. who died of cancer
earlier this year. The activists demand that Alpha Natural Resources
stop strip mining on Coal River Mountain and that the West Virginia
Department of Environmental Protection prohibit future strip mining in
the Coal River Watershed.

“I feel, with the keen urgency of extinction, that Alpha Natural
Resources cannot be allowed to tear apart Coal River Mountain and allow
all those living below it to suffer for their profits. The Coal River
watershed cannot tolerate any more damage. There is no way that I can
begin to detail the comprehensive destruction that surface mining and
mountaintop removal wreak on the forest ecosystem of the southern
Appalachian mountains,” said Catherine-Ann MacDougal.

Coal River Mountain is the last major intact mountain in the
watershed, which encompasses roughly 570,000 acres in the heart of the
southern WV coalfields. Nearly a quarter of total land area in the
watershed is being mined or permitted to be mined in the future,
including over 5,000 acres of Coal River Mountain. As of January 2011,
Marfork Coal Company, a subsidiary of Alpha, has destroyed about 75
acres of Coal River Mountain on the Bee Tree permit, the only active
mountaintop removal permit on the mountain. Activists say they are
determined to prevent further strip-mining.

Elias Schewel, 27, and Junior Walk, 21, are supporting the sitters
from the base of their trees. Walk, who grew up in Eunice W.Va. at the
foot of Coal River Mountain says that he was inspired to take action, in
part, by his lifelong relationship with Judy Bonds.

“The last two families to be driven out of this holler we’re in today
were Judy Bonds and my great uncle and they both died of lung cancer.
Judy spoke often about how hard it was to leave, but black water spill
after black water spill, the blasting dust clouds, and fears for the
health of her family forced her out. Packsville is gone. We’re not just
losing our clean air and clean water. We’re losing our communities, our
history, and our culture.”

Judy Bonds’ fears of the health impacts from coal operations have
been increasingly backed up by research from WVU. A recent public health
study found a correlation between residence in a mountaintop removal
area and higher rates of birth defects, even accounting for other
socio-economic factors(i). Public health research has linked residence
in coal-impacted regions to increased rates of cancer, kidney disease,
and some chronic illnesses, confirming long-held community

“Those who are drinking tainted water, breathing coal dust, and
watching the mountains fall around them don’t need a scientific study to
tell them what’s wrong,” noted MacDougal. Fellow tree sitter Becks
Kolins remembers their first visit to the home of a Coal River Valley
resident last year.

“He showed me his yearbook and pointed out everyone that had gotten
cancer. The only teachers that hadn’t gotten cancer had made a point of
not drinking the water.”

Lisa Henderson, Judy Bonds’ daughter and Coal River Valley resident, sees this action as a continuation of her mother’s work.

“I hope that today’s actions serve as a symbol that the struggle to
live peacefully and pollution-free in the Coal River Valley did not end
when my mother’s life did. My mother and I often compared the fight to
survive here on Coal River to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. I
am sure that generations from now, our children will look back on this
movement also and the actions of the people involved, and ask the
question of their elders, ‘Whose side were you on?’”

i M. Ahern, M. Hendryx, J. Conley, E. Fedorko, A. Ducatman, and K.
Zullig, “The association between mountaintop mining and birth defects
among live births in central Appalachia, 1996-2003” Environmental
Research in press, 2011
ii N.P. Hitt, M. Hendryx, “Ecological integrity of streams related to
human cancer mortality rates.” Ecohealth. 2010 Aug;7(1):91-104.
iii M. Ahern, M. Hendryx, ““Relations between Health Indicators and
Residential Proximity to Coal Mining in West Virginia.” American Journal
of Public Health, 2008.

Support Team - Junior and Elias
Stop Strip Mining!

RAMPS (Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival) is a
non-violent direct action campaign based in southern West Virginia
dedicated to ending all forms of strip-mining in Appalachia. Ongoing
updates about this action will be available at

July 2-3, 2011: Mountain Keepers Festival, Stanley Heirs Park, Kayford Mountain, WV

Untitled Document

Mountain Keepers Music Festival

Written by Huntington, WV Event Planner Natalie Vanderpool


On Saturday, July 2nd and Sunday, July 3rd, the annual Mountain Keepers Music Festival will be held at Kayford Mountain’s Stanley Heirs Park. The two day event will feature then local and regional musicians playing a variety of bluegrass, gospel, country and old time music, as well as poetry, and pot-luck meals. This is a free concert that will celebrate Appalachian life and attendees are encouraged to bring a covered dish.

The purpose of the concert, according to local citizen activist Larry Gibson, is to “bring family and friends together for a weekend of celebrating West Virginia’s heritage and freedom.” July 2 and 3 will see people from all walks of life, bound by their common love of our mountains and people. This will be a safe festival as festival organizers will have trained security present and all are invited to peacefully enjoy this Festival.

The festival will feature many emerging artists who celebrate their homes and heritage. Legendary and Award Winning West Virginia musicians Michael & Carrie Kline will be singing old time West Virginia folk songs and ballads. Crystal Good, 2004 Winner of the Governor’s Innovative Artist Award, of the Affrilachian Poets will also perform her unique poetry. Kate Long, winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association Song of the Year award, will be singing her Appalachian Styled music.  Ben Sollee, a renowned celloist who defies convention by mixing in a soulful voice which earned him a place in National Public Radio’s list of Top Ten Unknown Artists in 2007, will be performing on Saturday evening. Following Ben Sollee will be the popular Charleston Rock n’ Roll band Almost Adam as well as “Old Style Rhythm & Blues, Gospel Soul & Country Funk” band The Carpenter Ants.

Attendees are encouraged to camp out on Saturday night as more musicians will be performing casually around the campfire. Sunday afternoon will kick off with a gospel service and followed by the musical acts of Jane Branham singing Virginia Mountain Music and Country Roots Musician John Lilly. The annual pot-luck meal will also be held on Sunday.

Please Invite Friends to our Facebook Event
While this is a free festival, we are asking you to chip in with a donation to help us cover the cost of maintaining Stanley Heirs Park on Kayford Mountain and put on this Festival.
Saturday’s Schedule: 
1:00 PM = Festival Welcome

1:15 – 2:15 = Michael Carrie Kline

2:15 – 2:30 = Crystal Good

2:30 – 3:30 = Kate Long

3:30 – 3:45 = Crystal Good and/or Another Affrilachian Poet

3:45 – 4:15 = Carpenter Ants

4:15 – 4:30 = Speaker

4:30 – 5:30 = Ben Sollee

5:30 – 7:00 = Almost Adam

7:00 – Dark = Carpenter Ants

Sunday’s Schedule:

11 AM = Preacher

11:30 – 12:30 = Jane Branham

12:30 – Close = John Lilly

Thursday, June 9 at 7pm: THE LAST MOUNTAIN, Nashville TN

Environmental attorney and documentary participant Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and director Bill Haney will be in attendance opening night screening Thursday, June 9 at 7pm.

Also featuring special guests Kathy Mattea and Justin Townes Earle.

Proceeds from this screening will benefit United Mountain Defense and SOCM.

The Belcourt Theatre
2102 Belcourt Avenue – Nashville TN 37212
Box Office: (615) 383-9140
Main Office: (615) 846-3150

More info

May 20 – 27: Mountain Justice training camp 2011!

Mountain Justice training camp 2011!
Letcher County, Kentucky
May 20th – 27th


As the campaign to stop mountaintop removal gains national awareness, we have more and more opportunities for folks to help out. We’ve got a job for every interest, skill set and time commitment! We invite you to spend the summer working with one of our ally groups or to work with us in your hometown throughout the year!

Mountain Justice training camp is an opportunity for veteran and novice activist to build the skills and vision needed to abolish mountaintop removal and build vibrant, healthy, self-reliant communities. We ask that you attend camp with the intention of using these skills either working with allies in Appalachia or working on this issue in your hometown. The registration process will help you develop a plan for how you will use this training. Training camp is a time for training, strategizing, bonding, service and action for people living both within and outside of the coalfields, for women and men, for people of all races, for youth and elders, and anyone in between.

We invite you to come to camp and train and then join us at Heartwood’s 21st Annual Forest Council: Energy! May 27-30, 2011 at Camp Ahistadi in Southwestern Virginia. We also encourage everyone attending MJ camp 2011 to stay in Appalachia at least long enough to support the March on Blair Mountain.

March on Blair Mountain: June 5-11

To register for the march, visit our Registration Page.
If you would want to get involved with organizing, visit our Get Involved page.

For up to the minute information, visit Friends of Blair Mountain

Realizing that we ought to model independence from coal, camp will be off the grid this year!

We’re so excited to be off the grid, but for Mountain Justice, a sustainable community is more than some solar panels and rainwater barrels. It’s about the people that defend what they love, the people who work to create sustainable communities, and the nourishing relationships between them. Our focus on sustainability will mean building a strong and diverse organizing community that works on both resistance and solutions.

Trainings and Discussions

This year camp will feature themed training days. Themes will include, Community Organizing, Non-violent Direct Action, Science and SMCRA, and Alternative Economies. Check back for more information about the schedule. Some workshops being covered will include:

  • community organizing
  • air and water monitoring
  • administrative and legal avenues to stop MTR
  • media work
  • direct action and civil resistance
  • alternative economies
  • sustainable livelihoods
  • and a lot more!

Trainings will be collaborative as possible, so come open minded and willing to actively participate. If you want to facilitate a workshop, please let us know! Our hope is to continue to build a broad community to sustain, guide and nourish us as we all continue working to abolish surface mining and rebuild economically self-sufficient communities in Appalachia.

No community is sustainable without fun, dancing, bonfires and Appalachian mountain music! So bring your instruments, dancing shoes and high spirits, we’ll be celebrating the ways of life we’re fighting to preserve!

March 13 – 20, 2011: Mountain Justice Spring Break 2011

Mountain Justice Spring Break 2011
MARCH 13–20 in Northern Alabama

Register Today!

This Spring Break – Avoid the hangovers!

Learn about and take action against the destructive effects of the dirty life-cycle of coal!

Stand in solidarity with the communities in Alabama facing the ongoing destruction of strip mining and threat of toxic coal ash dumps.

Learn what you can do to affect change both in Alabama an in your hometown to bring justice to the mountains.

See Mountaintop Removal Mining, with your own eyes!

Take direct action against the dirty coal industry!

Come to Mountain Justice Spring Break and support grassroots, community led resistance to environmental injustice!

This March 13 – 20, Mountain Justice Spring Break (MJSB) will bring together coalfield residents, college students, environmentalist and concerned citizens who are interested in learning more about mountaintop removal coal mining and cultivating the skills and visions needed to build a sustainable energy future in Appalachia. Through education, community service, speakers, hiking, music, poetry, direct action and more, you will learn from and stand with Appalachian communities in the struggle to maintain our land and culture.

WHAT? Mountain Justice Spring Break 2011

WHEN? March 13 – 20, 2010 (come for a few days, or the whole week)

WHERE? Hawkwind Earth Renewal Cooperative and Healing Arts Center, located in northeast Alabama

HOW? Visit  to register today! Registration is based on a sliding scale donation of $50 – $500


WHO? Mountain Justice Spring Break participants come from diverse backgrounds such as coalfield residents, college students, environmentalists, and other concerned citizens that care about our mountains. Participants share a common goal to halt mountaintop removal (MTR) and destructive coal mining. Learn all about MTR and Mountain Justice at


We are happy to be working with the fine folks at Alabama River’s Alliance and the Hurricane Creekeeper to make this year’s MJSB a success!


Campus Coordinators needed for Mountain Justice Spring Break 2011

The only way to create a just society is to bring people together for that common cause.  We need people like YOU to help bring people to MJSB.  Ready to be a campus coordinator? Please sign up to organize students from your campus or community to attend MJSB 2011 by filling out the Campus Coordinator Interest form at


RESPONSIBILITIES – As a Campus Coordinator, you’re responsible for creating a campus or community-wide effort for a great turnout. This doesn’t mean you have to do everything, you just need to make sure it happens!


  • Set a goal for your campus or community (5? 10?20?).
  • Build a team of other volunteers to help with recruitment, fundraising, transportation
  • Create a plan to hit your goal, including tabling, teach-ins, and other creative tactics like Facebook or media work.
  • Talk with the MJSB Outreach Intern and working group to give updates on progress, review your plans, and keep up the great work.



TACTICS – There are many great recruitment tactics, they are expanded in our MJSB Outreach Toolkit.


  • New Media – Facebook, Myspace, Blogs, etc.
  • Emails (listservs, professors, club leaders, etc).
  • Signs, posters, chalking, street theater – anything to increase visibility.
  • Tabling, Canvassing, and Class Raps – Build a list of interested people.
  • Phonebanking – the #1 way to get a YES.



TO SIGN UP: Fill out the Campus Coordinator Interest form at



Contact the MJSB Outreach Coordinator, Bonnie at [email protected] 865 755-0095.


For more information on mjsb, please visit .

For more information on mountaintop removal, visit or

To contact the MJSB planning team, email [email protected].  



Fourteen Kentuckians to occupy Gov. Beshear’s office over weekend protesting mountaintop removal

Press Release: Fourteen Kentuckians Will Remain in Governor’s Office Over the Weekend in Protest of Mountaintop Removal Mining

11 February 2011

Contact: Silas House/Jason Howard 606.224.1208

– At least fourteen Kentuckians have decided to remain in Gov. Steve
Beshear’s office over the weekend at the invitation of the governor

those remaining in the governor’s office include Wendell Berry, 76, the
acclaimed writer who has decried mining abuses for the past fifty
years; Beverly May, 52, a nurse practitioner from Floyd County; Mickey
McCoy, 55, former educator and mayor of Inez; Teri Blanton, 54, a
grassroots activist from Harlan County; Stanley Sturgill, 65, a former
underground coal miner of Harlan County; Rick Handshoe, 50, a retired
Kentucky State Police radio technician of Floyd County; John Hennen, 59,
a history professor at Morehead State University; and Martin Mudd, 28,
an environmental activist.

have resolved to stay while Gov. Beshear reconsiders his position on
mountaintop removal mining,” the group said in a joint statement. “As we
are just steps away from the Governor’s Mansion, we invite the governor
to join us at the Capitol—the People’s House—for more conversations
over the weekend.”

group is staying in the governor’s office in anticipation of I Love
Mountains Day on Monday, an annual rally held to draw attention to
mountaintop removal and the Stream Saver Bill, which has languished for
six years in the House Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Rep. Jim
Gooch (D-Providence), a longtime supporter of the coal industry.

invite our fellow Kentuckians to join us in solidarity on the steps of
the Capitol on Monday,” said the group. A march to the Capitol from the
Kentucky River Bridge will commence at 11:30 a.m. The rally at the
Capitol will begin at 12:15 p.m.

expressed disappointment in today’s meeting with Gov. Beshear. “There
are times when our elected officials must choose between being a leader
and being a politician. This is one of those times. We call upon Gov.
Beshear to lead by ending mountaintop removal, by beginning a sincere
public dialogue about creating sustainable jobs for our hard-working
miners, by putting the vital interests of ordinary Kentuckians above the
special interests of an abusive industry.”


RELEASE: Group of Kentuckians Demand End to Mountaintop Removal Mining in Governor’s Office Sit-In

Press Release: Group of Kentuckians Demand End to Mountaintop Removal Mining in Governor’s Office Sit-In

11 February 2011

Contact: Silas House/Jason Howard 606.224.1208

FRANKFORT – A group of twenty Kentuckians has gathered at the state Capitol in an attempt to meet with Gov. Steve Beshear to discuss the issue of mountaintop removal mining. They plan to remain in his office until the governor agrees to stop the poisoning of Kentucky’s land, water, and people by mountaintop removal; or until he chooses to have the citizens physically removed.

Among the group are Wendell Berry, 76, the acclaimed writer who has decried mining abuses for the past fifty years; Beverly May, 52, a nurse practitioner from Floyd County; Erik Reece, 43, who has written extensively about the coal industry; Patty Wallace, 80, a grandmother and long-time activist from Louisa; Mickey McCoy, 55, former educator and mayor of Inez; Teri Blanton, 54, a grassroots activist from Harlan County; Stanley Sturgill, 65, a former underground coal miner of Harlan County; Rick Handshoe, 50, a retired Kentucky State Police radio technician of Floyd County; John Hennen, 59, a history professor at Morehead State University; and Martin Mudd, 28, an environmental activist.

While these Kentuckians realize they are risking arrest by refusing to leave the governor’s office, they say they have repeatedly petitioned Gov. Beshear for help, yet their pleas have been ignored. This action is a last resort to seek protections for their health, land, and water.

In a letter to Gov. Beshear, the citizens expressed their desire to communicate “respectfully and effectively” with the governor about the urgent need to stop the destruction of mountaintop removal mining. Among their requests were the following:

§  Accept a long-standing invitation to view the devastation in eastern Kentucky caused by mountaintop removal mining

§  Foster a sincere, public discussion about the urgent need for a sustainable economic transition for coal workers and mountain communities

§  Withdraw from the October 2010 lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, in which the Beshear administration partnered with the coal industry to oppose the EPA’s efforts to protect the health and water of coalfield residents

“The office of the governor must be held accountable,” they citizens explained in a joint statement. “We are once again asking Gov. Beshear for help.”


January 3rd – 24th, 2010: Come to the 2011 CGZ Winter Action Camp!

Mark your calendars for Climate Ground Zero’s second Winter Action Camp! CGZ is now accepting applications for the camp, scheduled to be held January 3rd – 24th in the coal fields of southern West Virginia. The camp will involve multiple intensive training tracks, such as action team, action media, legal support, and other skills relevant for this campaign and its future actions, as well as for your campaigns back home.

Taking part in the camp is a three-week, full-time, commitment. Participants should come prepared to work and to stay for the entire length of camp. We are looking for participants who are interested in every role of this action camp – cooks, action medics, climbers, hikers, and more. We are specifically looking for people who are interested in gaining skills and using those skills to build the movement.

A sliding-scale fee will be requested, as your food and housing will be provided. Nobody, however, will be turned away for lack of funds. All those who apply should be able to bring their own warm winter gear, as well as be comfortable living communally with forty or more people. Because of our limited training and living capacity, there will be a limited number of spaces for participants. Please mark your calendars and check back with for more detailed updates.

We hope multiple actions can emerge from this year’s camp, check out pictures from the winter treesit that came out of last year’s camp, here.

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with us at [email protected] or 304-854-1937.

Check out what happened at last year´s action camp!

You can find the application here.

We will not tolerate harassment of any kind and reserve the right to remove anyone from the camp at any time.