Posts Tagged ‘Virginia’

Great News for Clean Water in Virginia!

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - posted by eric

A two-headed trout deformed by selenium pollution.

Last week a federal judge upheld a previous decision requiring a Virginia coal company to get a permit for their discharges of toxic selenium.

Selenium is a mineral that is extremely toxic to fish and other aquatic life at very low levels. It is commonly discharged from many coal mines and coal ash ponds. Even in small amounts, selenium causes deformities, reproductive failure and even death in fish and birds. Even though its toxic effects and prevalence in coal mine discharges are well known, this is the first mine in Virginia that will be required to monitor and obtain a permit for its selenium discharges.

Water testing done by Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) revealed that A&G Coal Corporation’s Kelly Branch Surface Mine was discharging selenium in toxic amounts. So in 2012, Appalachian Voices, SAMS and the Sierra Club, represented by Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed suit against A&G for illegal discharges of selenium.

EPA is currently revising their national standards for selenium. If implemented, their new draft standards will make it more difficult for citizens groups protect streams they care about through legal actions like this one.

A&G Coal Company is owned by billionaire, frequent political campaign contributor and coal baron James Justice.

Last year, a federal judge ruled in our favor and ordered A&G to begin daily selenium monitoring and to apply for a permit from the Commonwealth of Virginia to cover its selenium discharges. A&G appealed that decision with the support of a number of industry groups including the National Mining Association, the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance, the Virginia Mining Association, the Virginia Mining Issues Group, the American Petroleum Institute and several others. That appeal failed last week.

A&G claimed that their current water discharge permit provided them a “permit shield.” Basically, since they were meeting the terms of their current permit, they were shielded from any liability for other water pollution not included in that permit.

In his decision federal district judge James P. Jones disagreed. The decision states that the validity of a “permit shield” is a two-prong test, requiring that a permittee disclose the presence of the pollutant in its permit application, and that the state agency considers that pollutant. If you fail one prong then you lose the shield. In this case A&G never disclosed the presence of selenium in their permit application, and there is no evidence that Virginia considered selenium pollution, so the company failed both parts of the test. The decision concludes:

To allow the [permit shield] defense in these circumstances would tear a large hole in the [Clean Water Act], whose purpose it is to protect the waters of Appalachia and the nation and their healthfulness, wildlife, and natural beauty.

Community Impacts of Controversial Coalfields Expressway Project 
in Va. to Receive Thorough Review

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014 - posted by cat


Jane Branham, Southern Appalachia Mountain Stewards,, (276) 565-6167 

Deborah Murray, Southern Environmental Law Center,, (434) 977-4090 

Marley Green, Sierra Club,, (276) 639-6169 

Adam Beitman, Sierra Club,, (202) 675-2385 

Kate Rooth, Appalachian Voices,, (434) 293-6373

Appalachia, VA — The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has announced that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will be required to conduct a full environmental review for a controversial 26-mile section of the Coalfields Expressway that would run through Wise, Dickenson, and Buchanan counties in southwest Virginia. Community groups in southwest Virginia and conservation organizations applaud the decision.

VDOT fundamentally changed the route and the nature of this section of the Coalfields Expressway when it partnered with coal companies to allow mountaintop removal mining as part of the project and failed to prepare a comprehensive analysis of its impacts on the community. The environmental study that FHWA is requiring must evaluate the public health and environmental harms of the proposal and examine a full suite of alternatives.

More than 85,000 citizens sent comments to VDOT and FHWA expressing their concerns about the harm that mountaintop removal mining associated with this project would have on drinking water, community health, and quality of life. Local citizens are also worried that the altered route would eliminate the economic benefits promised to the community because it would bypass local businesses, and the associated impacts from mining would detract from a growing tourism industry.

Three federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, also urged FHWA and VDOT to prepare a comprehensive analysis that considers alternatives and evaluates the social, economic and environmental impacts of the mountaintop removal mining which is integral to the project.

“This decision is good news for the people of southwestern Virginia,” said Jane Branham, vice president of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards. “We are pleased that FHWA and VDOT will take a hard look at the irresponsible and destructive mining practices that have already hurt our communities and that would be part of this ill-conceived strip mine/highway proposal.”

“We look forward to seeing a thorough review of the environmental consequences of this project, including an analysis of a range of highway alternatives that do not depend on mountaintop removal coal mining,” said Deborah Murray, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The decision-makers must keep in mind the original purpose and need of the project –serving the local communities.”

“VDOT now has the opportunity to take a fresh, honest look at this project,” said Marley Green, a Wise County resident and Sierra Club organizer in Virginia. “We have the chance to figure out the best ways to improve transportation access and diversify our struggling mountain economy.”

“The decision made by Federal Highways is a critical one. Mountaintop removal coal mining has had a devastating impact on communities in southwest Virginia, and now the state will be required to examine this road fully before spending our tax dollars on a deal that only helps coal companies rather than the community,” said Kate Rooth, campaign director with Appalachian Voices. “Now, local business owners, landowners, and citizens whose clean drinking water would be impacted can help VDOT design a project to truly benefit Central Appalachia.”

>> Click here for more background


About Southern Appalachia Mountain Stewards: Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) is an organization of concerned community members and their allies who are working to stop the destruction of our communities by surface coal mining, to improve the quality of life in our area, and to help rebuild sustainable communities.

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 about 60 legal and policy 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.

About Sierra Club: The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters nationwide. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation.

About Appalachian Voices: Appalachian Voices is an award-winning, environmental non-profit committed to protecting the natural resources of central and southern Appalachia, focusing on reducing coal’s impact on the region and advancing our vision for a cleaner energy future. Founded in 1997, we are headquartered in Boone, N.C. with offices in Charlottesville, Va.; Knoxville, Tn. and Washington, D.C.

Your comments needed to chart Virginia’s energy future

Friday, June 13th, 2014 - posted by hannah
Help ensure Virginia's upcoming Energy Plan makes clean energy like solar power a priority.

Help ensure Virginia’s upcoming Energy Plan makes clean energy like solar power a priority.

This month Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order to create an energy council tasked with assisting in the development of a comprehensive energy strategy for Virginia. In his announcement, the governor stressed the need for an aggressive analysis that puts Virginia in the position of being a leader in “new energy technologies.”

The results of this analysis will be compiled in the Virginia Energy Plan, a document that state law mandates be rewritten every four years and is due October 1. For those of us who would like to see robust investment in efficiency, wind and solar power as part of those new energy technologies, the task before us clear: make sure the Energy Council hears from us at every opportunity.

Gov. McAuliffe ran on a clean energy jobs platform, and now is the time to make sure that those same ideas are reflected in the plan as it will set the tone on energy policy for the rest of his term. Now is a critical moment to seize that opportunity.

The Energy Council is hosting listening sessions across the state to collect input from citizens on the Energy Plan. The format of these sessions will begin with a 15-minute informational presentation by an expert on a particular topic related to the plan. Citizens will then have time to comment, taking up to three minutes each. Arrive early to sign up to reserve your place on the speakers list.

The schedule for the sessions is:

Public involvement will be critical in making sure that the upcoming Energy Plan guides Virginia away from a dependence on fossil fuel and toward a cleaner energy economy.

Can’t make it to any of these session in person? Send in your comment on Virginia’s energy direction here!

Science-backed lawsuits protect clean water in Central Appalachia

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014 - posted by Sarah Caldwell

A citizen’s photo of sediment from George’s Fork entering the South Fork Pound River

On Thursday, June 5, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia ruled that high levels of conductivity in water discharged from mountaintop removal mines are harmful to West Virginia streams.

The Sierra Club issued a press release that calls the ruling a “landmark decision” and quotes the district court’s decision that, “Losing diversity in aquatic life, as sensitive species are extirpated and only pollution-tolerant species survive, is akin to the canary in a coal mine. These West Virginia streams … were once thriving aquatic ecosystems.”

The ruling comes at a pivotal time for citizen action groups engaging in litigation under the Clean Water Act. The same day of the court’s ruling on conductivity, citizen groups including Appalachian Voices filed a suit in Virginia arguing that four mines owned by Red River Coal Company had failed to comply with a state-imposed Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) plan for the South Fork Pound River.

The South Fork Pound TMDL stipulates the level of total dissolved solids (TDS) and total suspended solids (TSS) the river can tolerate, while still protecting aquatic life. Mines that discharge into the South Fork Pound watershed are given waste load allocations (WLAs) for their contribution of TDS and TSS. Our case against Red River Coal argues that data from company water monitoring indicates that they have exceeded WLAs for the South Fork Pound River.

At a first glance, these two cases seem to be only distantly related, but with a closer look and some basic science, it becomes clear that they are actually incredibly similar.

Conductivity is the measurement of the ability of a material to conduct electricity. In the case of water, the more positive and negative ions in the water, the more conductive it becomes. TDS measures the concentrations of dissolved ions in the water, so the higher the TDS, the higher the water’s electrical conductivity.

When water has been discharged from a surface mine, it often runs through valley fills and other areas where heavy metals have been disturbed. Dr. Anthony Timpano of the Virginia Water Research Center authored a paper that explores the effects of high levels of TDS on aquatic life. Timpano states that streams impacted by coal pollution can often have a TDS greater than 2000 mg/L. A normal stream should have a TDS of less than 200 mg/L. Ions that typically contribute to high TDS levels include calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate and sulfate. Sulfate has been shown to have deadly effects on aquatic life.

Another theme present in both of these cases is the lack of state oversight and enforcement for water pollution violations in coal-impacted communities. These lawsuits were filed by citizen groups that advocate for clean water in areas where industry is often favored over local communities. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and Virginia’s Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy failed to hold Alex Energy, Elk Run Coal Company, and Red River Coal Company accountable. Instead, citizens have stepped up to the job.

Appalachian Voices’ Water Quality Specialist Eric Chance hits the nail on the head, saying, “Unfortunately, it takes lawsuits like this one to get the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy to do its job and enforce existing laws that were created to protect the health of people and streams.”

Groups Seek Protection of Virginia Waterways from Mining Pollution

Thursday, June 5th, 2014 - posted by eric

Red River Coal Co. Violating “Last Line of Defense” Clean Water Act Protections

Eric Chance, Appalachian Voices, 828-262-1500
Sean Sarah, Sierra Club, 202-548-4589
Matt Hepler, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, 540-871-1564

Big Stone Gap, VA –Citizen and environmental groups today filed suit in federal court over illegal water pollution from four mines in Southwest Virginia owned by the Red River Coal Company. Virginia regulators previously determined that the South Fork Pound River, which receives the pollution from the mines, does not adequately support aquatic life. To protect the streams, Virginia imposed a “Total Maximum Daily Load” (TMDL) for mining pollutants that harm aquatic life, including total dissolved solids and total suspended solids.

Appalachian Voices, Sierra Club and Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards filed the case in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. The groups found that Red River is violating its permit conditions that require compliance with the state TMDL.

“These mountain streams in southwest Virginia were once known for their purity and served as a habitat for diverse species of aquatic life, but mining pollution’s changed that,” said Jane Branham of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards. “It is shameful that citizens must take action to address this issue, but with the failure of the Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy to oversee and enforce laws that protect our waterways, we are left with no other choice.”

“Every coal mine in Virginia has to get a permit that limits the amount of pollution it can release, but still many streams below these mines are unsafe to fish and swim in,” said Eric Chance, water quality specialist for Appalachian Voices. “Sometimes it takes lawsuits like this one to get the state Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy to do its job and enforce existing laws that were created to protect the health of people and streams.”

“This case highlights the failure of state regulators to stop the damaging pollution from mountaintop removal mines in our state, even after they’ve recognized the harm that pollution is causing,” said Glen Besa, Virginia Director of the Sierra Club. “Coal companies cannot police themselves and the Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy is no help, so we feel compelled to take action in order to protect our precious streams and rivers from mining pollution.”

TMDLs are essentially the last line of defense against mountaintop removal mining pollution. Mountaintop removal mines generate high levels of total dissolved solids, which is often measured as conductivity. The Environmental Protection Agency has conducted scientific studies that found high levels of conductivity, dissolved solids, and sulfates are a primary cause of water quality impairments” downstream from valley fills and other mining operations.

The three groups filing today’s suit are represented by Isak Howell, Joe Lovett and Ben Luckett of Appalachian Mountain Advocates.


Virginians applaud new federal carbon pollution protections

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 - posted by cat

Business, health, farming, and national security leaders praise Environmental Protection Agency for protecting state

virginia-voicesRepresentatives of Virginia business, national security, health and agricultural sectors joined environmental advocates this week in praising the newly announced carbon pollution limits for existing power plants as necessary public health and security safeguards, and a beneficial economic driver.

The new EPA guidelines give states the flexibility to implement strategies that can increase energy efficiency and improve resiliency while reducing this harmful air pollutant. The local leaders called on Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to lead a robust and inclusive process for developing a bold state plan to implement the new standards in Virginia.

David Belote, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, Virginia Beach:
“Anyone looking for a job in Virginia today wants to be in a growth industry. Reducing carbon pollution and growing our clean energy sector unlocks the doors to the new opportunities that Virginia’s businesses and workers have been looking for. Promoting clean energy and climate security isn’t a ‘war’ on anybody – it’s unleashing innovators and entrepreneurs to profit while improving the planet and the lives of its people.”

Dr. Anthony Smith, CEO of Secure Futures, Staunton:
“The proposed new carbon pollution standards represent a big step toward moving Virginia’s economy to cleaner fuel sources. “Retiring old and inefficient coal-fired power plants with solar and wind power will give more Virginians access to 21st century energy jobs, and the ability to enjoy healthier air and water.”

Dr. Christine Llewellyn, physician and radiologist, Williamsburg:
“We know that climate change is already occurring, but we also know that we still have time to prevent the most severe impacts if we act now to reduce carbon emissions. Policies such as the EPA’s proposed carbon pollution standards are an essential first step towards protecting the future for our children and grandchildren. These policies will not only reduce dangerous carbon pollution, but will also have other major health benefits.”

Tenley Weaver, owner and operator of Good Food – Good People, Floyd:
“When weather extremes get more uncertain, your regional food security is even more at risk. Climate disruption heaps costs on the shoulders of our farmers and threatens to put some of them out of business. The EPA’s initiative to limit carbon pollution is an essential step toward addressing the global warming crisis and its impacts, especially on organically grown local food crops.”

Clinch Water Revival: Ecotourism on the River

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 - posted by Carvan

By Kimber Ray

No one could fail to notice Clinch River Adventures. Just off the banks of the Clinch River, this tubing, canoeing and kayaking outfitter is housed in a bright red caboose with the town’s name, St. Paul, painted on the side. But the colorful building is far from the most prominent attribute people have been noticing about local resident Terri Anne Funk’s business. Instead, the main conversation has revolved around her operation’s remarkable success.

A summer day spent floating down the Clinch River carries visitors past historic mountain towns, rare aquatic wildlife and an abundance of natural beauty. Photo by Patsy Ingles.

A summer day spent floating down the Clinch River carries visitors past historic mountain towns, rare aquatic wildlife and an abundance of natural beauty. Photo by Patsy Ingles

Funk grew up in the area and always loved to go out on the river — just not the Clinch River. Instead, she would leave town and go somewhere else — somewhere more seasoned to tourism. But about two years ago as she was returning to Saint Paul with her husband, she saw a van stacked with tubes. “Hey,” she said, with her hometown in mind, “not a bad idea.”

Business flourished once Clinch River Adventures opened last summer. Although only operating for about 30 days that season, Funk’s fledgling enterprise filled an opening much larger than anyone in the community had expected. Despite the region’s acclaimed biodiversity, Funk is the only outfitter in her area who operates from a business building and offers tubing. By the season’s close, even with days after days of rain, Funk had hosted more than 800 people from 14 states and three countries.

Funk’s business isn’t the only thing flourishing in Saint Paul — the whole town has been cultivating itself as a hub for regional ecotourism. The riverside Matthews Park, where Funk’s caboose is located, is being redesigned to include native plant gardens, walking trails, a river pier and interpretative murals. Just outside of Clinch River Adventures, a food vendor will be selling barbeque from his local farm. Already the park boasts new playground equipment and a skatepark, and is directly connected to the picturesque Bluebell Island Trail.

In addition to her work on the featured Bluebell Island Trail and improving regional water quality, local wonderwoman Lou Ann Wallace was also a founder of the town’s open-air farmers market, which began in 2009. “But because this side of the river is coal country,” Wallace says, “there aren’t a lot of farms here. I had to convince farmers from outside coal country to come in, that they would be successful here.”

A local couple sells root vegetables at the Clinch River Farmers Market in Saint Paul, Va. The market opened in 2009 and also hosts live music, clogging and cooking demonstrations. Photo by Erin Savage

A local couple sells root vegetables at the Clinch River Farmers Market in Saint Paul, Va. The market opened in 2009 and also hosts live music, clogging and cooking demonstrations. Photo by Erin Savage

Five years later, the farmers market is thriving. Vendors only sell products sourced from southwest Virginia, and there’s live music, workshops on topics such as clogging, gardening and cooking, and free coffee and baked goods from the community. Just down the street is Saint Paul’s first hotel, Saint Paul Suites and Cottages, a collection of newly opened rentals that locals have justly boasted ought to be featured in Southern Living magazine.

Expanding Business

This summer, Funk plans to extend Clinch River Adventures’ season by opening a month earlier, on May 30, and also offering Thursday hours. Last year, 90 percent of her patrons were tubers. But considering that she started off with 50 tubes, four kayaks and two canoes, the percentage isn’t a surprise. Funk is expanding her inventory, and that additional stock will be help because last summer tubes sold out nearly every weekend.

With a long, calm stretch to gently float down the Clinch, and just a few small rapids to stir things up, it’s not surprising that tubing is such a popular activity. Walter Smith, a biology professor at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, says the river’s attractive features are likely related to the lack of major dams on the Clinch until after it reaches Tennessee. “People don’t need to portage around dams so it’s good for paddling,” he says. “And there are fewer disturbances taking away habitats so it’s good for wildlife diversity.”

Funk expects that many new visitors will take advantage of those special features this summer after she unveils her latest experiment: waterproof iPads, clipped onto kayaks, that provide a virtual audio tour of the river. The content will be narrated by a professional storyteller, and music from Empty String Bottle Band — a local bluegrass group — will play during the interlude.

The iPad links to a custom-made GoogleEarth map and, since most of the river is Wi-Fi accessible, the map will use GPS technology to highlight nearby points of interest. Tour topics include flora and fauna, natural features and ecology, and the impact and history of coal mining in the region. There will also be logistical information such as locations for public river access points, hiking trails convenient to the river, nearby communities and where to eat or stay.

As far as Funk is aware, the map, designed by a student-led citizen science initiative at UVA-Wise, may mark the Clinch as the first river apart from the Amazon to attempt a virtual tour guide project. While the tour will ultimately be offered publicly and to small business owners across the region, a trial run is being conducted with Clinch River Adventures.

“At first, people were coming for the state parks and federal park, then checking out the rest of the area,” says Funk. “Now, people are coming to this area for what we’re doing.”

More Than a Market

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 - posted by Carvan

By Megan Northcote

Families with young children particularly enjoy special event days at the Chattanooga Market, which offer sample tastings of seasonal produce, such as strawberries. Photo courtesy of Chattanooga Farmers Market.

Families with young children particularly enjoy special event days at the Chattanooga Market, which offer sample tastings of seasonal produce, such as strawberries. Photo courtesy of Chattanooga Farmers Market

Shopping for fresh, locally grown foods at farmers markets is always a refreshing way to find healthy foods while supporting the community. But in recent years, some farmers markets have transformed from grocery store alternatives to tourist destinations, featuring cooking and artisan demonstrations, hands-on healthy living activities for children, and food and farm festivals for all ages. While similarly innovative markets are popping up across the Appalachian region, these eight family-friendly markets offer a small taste of the kinds of educational entertainment that’s enticing both visitors and locals to spend a fun-filled day at the market.

Morgantown Farmers Market – W.Va.

Housed in a new pavilion, this innovative market is celebrating the opening of a grant-funded culinary station that will host healthy cooking classes and demonstrations. Youngsters can enjoy a new 10-week kids’ club called “POP” (Power of Produce), which provides each child with $2 in weekly market tokens and culminates in a healthy eating activity. Different fitness activities, including a yoga flash mob, belly dancing, and hula hooping sessions keep the grown-ups in shape too. Local musicians and nonprofit booths create a lively, atmosphere. Morgantown Market Place, 415 Spruce St. Open: May 3 – early Nov., Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. – noon. Visit: or call (304) 993-2410

Photo courtesy of Lexington Farmers Market

Photo courtesy of Lexington Farmers Market

Lexington Farmers Market – Ky.

Open since 1975, Lexington’s Saturday market in the heart of downtown features more than 60 vendors and draws more than 5,000 visitors during peak season. Each week, the Homegrown Authors series features talks and book signings by local writers. Monthly favorites include chef demonstrations led by local culinary students and an area master gardener information booth. Each week, different organizations host children’s activities, including arts and crafts and pony rides, along with live local music. Cheapside Park. Open: Saturdays, Spring-Fall, 7 a.m.-2p.m., Winter 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Visit: or call (859) 608-2655

Downtown Hickory Farmers Market – N.C.

This year, a new Thursday evening summer market, Tastin’, Tunes & Tomatoes, along with the city’s widely popular Saturday market, offers chef demonstrations as well as clogging, music and healthy food scavenger hunts for children. Wind down after the Saturday market with yoga at Union Square or grab a bite at a downtown restaurant. On June 12, Thursday’s market will host Schmoozapalooza, featuring 50 additional vendors as well as beer, wine and food sampling. Union Square, downtown Hickory. Open: April 16-Nov. 1, Saturdays, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m., Wednesdays, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m; and June 5-Aug. 28, Thursdays, 5-8 p.m. Visit: or call (828) 306-6508

Chattanooga Farmers Market – Tenn.

Now in its 13th season, Chattanooga’s bustling market has exploded into one of the biggest in the region with more than 800 vendors drawing as many as 1,300 people each Sunday. Each market is themed and includes two free music concerts, 20 food trucks and numerous chef demonstrations. During June and July, foodie festivals abound, honoring the blueberry, tomato and peach as well as the Chattanooga Street Food Festival on June 22. Beat the heat at the July 13 Ice Cream Social where $5 buys five scoops from local creameries with proceeds benefiting a community childcare center. 1829 Carter St., Open: April 27- Nov. 23. Sundays, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Visit: or call 423-648-2496

Independence Farmers Market – Va.

Almost every Friday in the summer, this southwestern Virginia market hosts family-friendly special event days. At Dairy Day on June 13, youngsters can learn how to milk a cow. In July, build a vegetable vehicle to enter in the zucchini car races, or challenge the family to a pie-eating contest at Berry Fest on July 18. Enjoy monthly fiber and beekeeping demonstrations as well as chef presentations during the first market of the month and free kids activities at every market. McKnight Park, Hwy. 21 and 58 intersection. Open: May-Oct., Friday, 9 a.m.-2p.m. Visit: or call (276) 655-4045

The Wild Ramp – W.Va.
This 125-vendor indoor farmers market in Huntington, W.Va., will more than double in size when it moves into the Old Central City Market building this summer. Staffed by volunteers, the year-round consignment market affords farmers more time for the harvest. Vendors can lead monthly classes about canning, cooking, herbal recipes, cheese making and more. Nonprofits lead various children’s activities, such as making seed bombs. In June, enjoy a grand opening celebration during Old Central City Days, featuring food, music and antiques. 555 14th St., Huntington. Open: year-round, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Visit: or call (304) 523-7267

Charlottesville City Market – Va.

With more than 100 vendors, this downtown market is a bustling hub of seasonal cooking and artisan demonstrations accented by music. Chef Mark Gresge of l’etoile restaurant leads culinary workshops throughout the summer and food preservation classes later in the season. Ten community partners offer numerous children’s activities. The annual Labor Day weekend Farm Tour, sponsored by the nonprofit Market Central, is an excellent opportunity to explore more than 20 vendors’ farms by car. Corner of Water St. and South St. Open: Saturdays, April-Oct., 7 a.m. – noon, Nov.-Dec., 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. Visit: or call (434) 970-3371

Asheville City Market – N.C.

Situated in the heart of the city’s thriving local food scene, Asheville’s eclectic Charlotte St. market attracts hundreds of foodies craving monthly cooking demonstrations. Every Saturday, the Growing Minds @ Market booth hosts a nonprofit to engage children in exercise and food-related arts and crafts. A strawberry summer festival features samples of creative berry recipes, while the Market Meal Challenge in late June awards prizes to the healthiest shopper. Live local music as well as healthy living booths round out the weekly experience. 161 S. Charlotte St. Open: April 5 – Dec. 20, Saturdays, 8 a.m.- 1 p.m. Visit: or call (828) 348-0340

Progress for Tennessee Wilderness

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 - posted by Carvan

By Molly Moore

A waterfall flows through Upper Bald Wilderness Study Area, which would be protected as wilderness under the proposed bill. Photo by Bill Hodge.

A waterfall flows through Upper Bald Wilderness Study Area, which would be protected as wilderness under the proposed bill. Photo by Bill Hodge

Efforts to preserve wild lands in East Tennessee took a step forward this spring when a bill to designate nearly 20,000 acres in the Cherokee National Forest as wilderness passed the Senate Agriculture Committee.

First introduced by Tennessee Republican Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker in 2010, the Tennessee Wilderness Act would grant wilderness designation — the highest form of protection for public lands — to one new section of Cherokee National Forest and expand the boundaries of five existing wilderness areas.

“Creating and expanding these wilderness areas would have no effect on privately-owned land and will not increase costs for taxpayers,” Alexander said in a press statement.

Now that the bill has passed committee it is eligible to be heard on the Senate floor. A companion bill has not been introduced in the House of Representatives.

Virginia Land Trust Drilling Controversy Resolved

By Carvan Craft

This spring, nonprofit land trust Virginia Outdoors Foundation removed a provision allowing drilling for oil and gas on their conservation easements. Land trusts are organizations which, through contracts with landowners, aim to protect natural lands from development by placing that land into permanent conservation. Yet since 2012, the foundation has allowed landowners to maintain drilling rights on their easements.

Environmental groups including Virginia’s Piedmont Environmental Council were critical of the land trust’s drilling provision, which the group denounced as “contrary to the purpose of most easements.” The council has also noted growing concerns amongst local communities regarding the potential for hydraulic fracturing to impact water quality.

Streamside Technology in the Clinch River Valley

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 - posted by Carvan

By Kimber Ray

Although visitors are unlikely to stumble upon Saint Paul, Va., by chance, those who do might be surprised to learn that this small, rural town hosts some of the most novel trails in the country. Located along the crystal-clear waters of the Clinch River in Russell and Wise Counties, Saint Paul boasts the most publicly accessible riverfront land of all its neighboring southwest Virginia communities.

Newly arriving settlers to southwest Virginia during the 18th century used Cliff Trail, which during the spring is covered in Delphinium tricorne, a flowering plant commonly known as dwarf larkspur. Photo by Kimber Ray

Newly arriving settlers to southwest Virginia during the 18th century used Cliff Trail, which during the spring is covered in Delphinium tricorne, a flowering plant commonly known as dwarf larkspur. Photo by Kimber Ray

Long considered a hidden wonder of Appalachia by environmentalists and wayfaring travelers, the Clinch River is regarded by The Nature Conservancy as the number one hotspot in the United States for endangered aquatic species, including 17 varieties of federally endangered mussels. This distinction inspired a shared vision among community members and The Nature Conservancy: a network of hiking and biking trails that follow the sweeping curves of the river.

Over the past decade, this vision has evolved into an eclectic assortment of connecting trails that, for approximately nine miles, lead travelers past freshwater and hardwood forests, isolated wetlands, fertile floodplains, bald ridgetops and even the downtown streets of Saint Paul itself, suggesting that residents’ fondness for diversity extends even beyond the banks of the river.

To identify this profusion of natural wealth and navigate these winding trails, smartphone users can download the EveryTrail phone application and check out three different interpretative trail guides for the area: Bluebell Island Trail, Sugar Hill Loop and Riverside Trail. The guides were created by the Southwest Virginia Citizen Science Initiative, a student-led community effort at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.

According to Walter Smith, a biology professor at UVA-Wise and advisor for the initiative, it was only in the past two or three years that information on the area’s natural features began to be substantially documented. “People weren’t able to figure out where to go because when you asked, the directions could be ‘Oh, the trail head is out by where Jen used to live.’ There’s been a lot of stuff here for a long time, but it’s all been local.”

The yellow-winged Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and the orange-spotted Spicebrush Swallowtail are sipping nutrients from the mud in a process known as "puddling." Photo by Kimber Ray.

The yellow-winged Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and the orange-spotted Spicebrush Swallowtail are sipping nutrients from the mud in a process known as “puddling.” Photo by Kimber Ray

Now, hikers can follow their GPS to trailheads, and select map pushpins to learn about the area’s storied history of geology, ecology and coal. The newest addition to this network of trails, and a great starting point to explore all three paths, is the tremendously popular Bluebell Island Trail, which opened in summer 2013. The mile-long route travels along the Clinch River and its narrow floodplain, where rising water creates important habitats, including isolated pools of water and even washed-up debris. To a freshwater mussel, an old, half-submerged tire may seem like the perfect new home.

Lou Ann Wallace, a local leader in a variety of community and environmental initiatives, helped coordinate the creation of the Bluebell Trail through this sensitive natural area. Although she had grown up in the region, she had never explored this portion of the river, and was thrilled to discover what had long been a tucked away community treasure. “As a young girl, we always knew there was a Bluebell Island, but I didn’t know where it was or why they called it that,” Wallace says. “Now you can see the island, and see why they called it that.”

In the early blush of spring, Virginia bluebells completely cloak entire sections of the floodplain. The full splendor of the trail’s namesake fades by late April, but the mountain remains draped in color by plants such as the green-headed coneflower — a bright yellow bloom that graces the floodplains of southwest Virginia until early fall — and a variety of summer berries. Follow the trail though St. Paul’s historic downtown, and then onto the Sugar Hill Loop trail. In mid-summer, the watchful observer may note some young fledglings just starting to grow comfortable with their wings as they feed on the mountain berries.

The Sugar Hill Loop Trail soon branches off to the Riverside Trail, a relatively flat path that follows the river. Butterflies seem to enjoy the river too, sometimes gathering together to rest on its shores. If hikers can manage to part with the river, a steep climb up the grassy bald leads to panoramic mountain views and a 9-hole disc golf course.

Just a short walk further is Cliff Trail, a restored path that marks the trek of early settlers through the region. Travelers can take this trail back down the mountain, retrace the Riverside Trail, or complete the Sugar Hill Loop. Each path down, as for those up, is a pleasant surprise amongst the diversity of the Clinch River Valley.

CORRECTION: The plant covering the Cliff Trail was incorrectly identified as purple hairy vetch in the original photo caption. It is Delphinium tricorne, a flowering plant commonly known as dwarf larkspur.