Front Porch Blog

Kayford Mountain Revisited

Looking out toward Kayford Mountain I was surrounded by beauty, green foliage thick with birds singing. Imagining this area before Mountaintop removal was nearly impossible with the hum of bulldozers and crashing of boulders tumbling into the valleys bellow. I open my eyes and continue to frown. You can’t look at the landscape of Kayford and smile.

The only green was behind me, the last natural refuge among hills of gray rock and waste. Even reclaimed land, void of blasting for years could only support sparse grasses and teams of grasshoppers.

I immediately felt grateful that the mountains of North Carolina have no coal and at the same time moved with empathy for the people who call these surrounding mountains home. After all, they haven’t asked for coal to be in their mountains. Of course, coal mines employ people in the area, but the number of coal miners are one-tenth of what they were only 30 years ago. And the people making the largest amounts, the corporate employees of the coal companies, reside far away and their incomes hardly affect the economy of the coal country.

Regardless, I did not feel it necessary to place fault. Throughout the trip I found myself repeating “everyone has a job to do.” The people that have fallen behind on their jobs are our policy makers, politicians that should have our best interest in mind.

This became apparent during the testimony of Donna Branham of Lenore, W.Va. Branham and her husband worked hard for a lifetime to afford the retirement home they built on the right fork of Laurel Creek. The creek provides a drinking source and lifeline for an abundant garden and trout pond. In essence, the creek allowed for a self-sufficient farm, but now mining and slurry dams threaten the Branham’s water supply.

The state issued the permit for the mine, ignoring provisions of the current law. After almost a year of discussion, the Department of Environmental Protection decided to hear the Branham’s case. Branham, her daughter Kelli and fellow townspeople provided hours of testimony for the surface mine board. Regardless of testimony from Branham and her fellow townspeople, the board allowed the permit to be issued unedited.

Only a couple days after the trip could I digest the experience of Kayford Mountain. Change can only start with yourself, but we must start holding our policy makers accountable. The Branham’s can not fight a state department alone, neither can one town. It will take a nation to end Mountaintop Removal.





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