RAMPS Campaign Vows to Continue Fighting to Save the Mountain
MARFORK, W.Va.—Catherine-Ann MacDougal is descending her oak tree on Coal River Mountain that she has lived in for the past month in protest of strip mining, and police have been notified. MacDougal, an activist with the RAMPS Campaign, had been in the oak tree on Alpha Natural Resources’ Bee Tree permit since July 20; until August 2, she had been joined by fellow RAMPS activist Becks Kolins. Their tree-sit, the longest in West Virginia history, effectively halted blasting on the Bee Tree hollow portion of the site, aside from a small blast released on the third day of the tree-sit.
“The reality of limited resources now necessitates my descent but this is not the last they will see of us. I plan to remain here and fight for this mountain for years to come,” said MacDougal.
The Bee Tree permit is the largest active strip mining permit on Coal River Mountain and is currently up for renewal. At a public hearing held last week by the W.Va. Department of Environmental Protection, about 50 residents showed up to ask questions and submit comments. Many discussed their concern over the health impacts of mountaintop removal, blasting near the Brushy Fork Impoundment, and the destruction of the mountains where they and their families had traditionally hunted, fished, and gathered wild plants.
MacDougal explains that the apparent ineffectiveness of other strategies…
Today marks the end of the third week of the tree-sit on Coal River Mountain. Catherine-Ann remains in her oak tree in good spirits and with no plans to come down.
As Catherine-Ann stops blasting in Bee Tree hollow, locals are gearing up for the permit hearing this evening on the renewal of the Bee Tree permit – and on the proposed new Collins Fork permit on Coal River Mountain. Despite community concerns over blasting damage, water pollution, increased cancer rates in the community, and destruction of their local mountain, the DEP is still planning to allow strip mining on Coal River Mountain.
But we know that sending letters to a corrupt agency like the DEP will not be enough to stop strip mining. In the words of Judy Bonds, we must “fight harder,” and direct action is one piece of that struggle. We greatly appreciate all the people who have expressed their support for the tree sit. Please consider supporting RAMPS through donations – which will help us operate our base camp and provide support to Catherine-Ann. We also welcome folks to come and join us in the mountains of West Virginia! If you’re interested in coming to help support this action or future actions, please get in touch with us! http://rampscampaign.org
Becks and Catherine-Ann have been in their trees for a full week and one day now. They have weathered severe heat, thunderstorms, and biting insects, but they remain resolute and in high spirits. They are determined to remain in the trees for as long as they can. They have succeeded in halting most work and blasting on the portion of the Bee Tree strip mine within Bee Tree hollow. Little work has continued on other parts of the site, and only one small blast was set off this past week – on Friday afternoon. The 12-hole blast occurred approximately 2010 feet from the sitters, which is outside of the MSHA required 1500 foot blast evacuation radius for strip mine workers.
Today was another hot and humid day on Coal River Mountain. The tree sitters remained in good spirits. During the day 2 baby bears visited near the trees, which was a highlight for Becks and Catherine-Ann.
In the late afternoon, security approached the trees to inform the sitters that a blast was about to go off on the BeeTree permit, but not immediately next to the sitters’ location. After the relatively “small” blast the security returned to the site again. The sitters were not harmed in any way and were not able to witness the blast. We will be in communication with Alpha to ensure that the safety of the sitters is maintained, and we are monitoring the situation. The sitters are still halting blasting and work in the immediate area of the tree-sit. Aside from this blast, there has been no work done on the mine site today.
Check out the video uploaded today with interviews from both tree sitters, and Eli and Junior, as well as of the flyover of the area that took place on the first day of the tree sit.
As night approaches there may be a storm headed for the tree sit, we hope the sitters will stay safe and dry overnight. Thanks for your continued support, and check back frequently for more updates. Also, don’t forget to follow RAMPSWV on Twitter!
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.
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 www.rampscampaign.org.
Written by Huntington, WV Event Planner Natalie Vanderpool
ANNUAL MOUNTAIN KEEPERS MUSIC FESTIVAL CELEBRATES WEST VIRGINA’S FREEDOM
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.
Realizing that we ought to model independence from coal, camp will be off the grid this year!
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:
air and water monitoring
administrative and legal avenues to stop MTR
direct action and civil resistance
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!
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 www.mjsb.org 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 www.mountainjustice.org
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
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.”