Tennessee Governor's Petition Could Stop Mountaintop Mining on State Owned Lands

The Southern Environmental Law Center and the National Parks Conservation Association today applaud Governor Phil Bredesen and the state of Tennessee for petitioning to limit surface mining  on state-owned lands in the North Cumberland Plateau, which would eliminate the threat of mountaintop removal coal mining in these critical watersheds and ridgelines. Today's petition, filed with the federal Office of Surface  Mining within the Department of Interior, calls for the agency to initiate a study and public dialogue on the suitability of these areas for surface mining. 

This is the first time that a state government has submitted a petition to OSM to set aside ridgelines, thus protecting them from mountaintop removal mining.

View the governor's press release and a copy of the petition here.

The historic petition proposes the protection of more than 500 miles of ridgeline in the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Areas and the Emory River Tracts Conservation Easements, much of which is upstream from the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.  Surface coal mining in this area destroys forests, wildlife habitat and scenic views, and contributes to substantial water quality degradation, threatening aquatic life, including more than 13 federally threatened or endangered aquatic species found in the Big South Fork River. Pollution from resource extraction, including expanding surface coal mining, is impacting water quality in the Park.

The federally managed Big South Fork area and connected state lands offer a broad range of recreational opportunities, including camping, whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting and fishing. In a 2005 report by the National Park Service, these recreational activities represented a $10-$16 million economic benefit annually to the region.  According to a recent report by the University of Tennessee, every dollar invested in state parks generates approximately $17 dollars of economic benefit to nearby communities.

Don Barger, Southeast Regional Director for the National Parks Conservation Association, said: "The Governor's petition seeks to balance coal extraction with conservation. Clearly in the future we will be burning less coal. This petition requests that the same future includes these ridgelines intact for recreation and tourism they will provide for future generations of Tennesseans."

Deborah Murray, Senior Attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said: "This is really good news for Tennesseans and those who enjoy the outstanding natural heritage of this part of the state, and who rely on clean water for their drinking water, fishing, or other uses.  Governor Bredesen has consistently demonstrated his commitment to protecting Tennessee's environment. We strongly support his action today to protect the ridgelines and put these public lands off-limits to destructive mining practices such as mountaintop removal mining."


About the Southern Environmental Law Center
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of 40 legal experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.

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About the National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting our national parks. With 325,000 members and supporters, NPCA is the largest independent, membership organization dedicated to protecting the natural, cultural, and historic treasures of our National Park System. Our mission is to protect and enhance our national parks today for our children and grandchildren tomorrow.


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