Front Porch Blog

Prominent Citizens Speak Up To Protect Tennessee Scenic Vistas

(Clockwise from top): Victor Ashe, Rev. Gradye Parsons, Anne Davis

Prominent Tennessee citizens are lending their voices of support to the original language of the Scenic Vistas Protection Act, a bill currently in the state legislature that is aimed to stop mountaintop removal coal mining in Tennessee.

In the state’s top daily newspaper, The Nashville Tennessean, an editorial by former long-time Knoxville mayor Victor Ashe and Southern Environmental Law Center managing attorney Anne David called for state officials to pass the Scenic Vistas bill in its original language to protect the mountain heritage of Tennessee.

“…the state Senate has an historic opportunity to permanently protect the real thing — the first state in the Union to protect its mountains from the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining — but it must take the right course of action.”

“With a strong tourism industry and our state’s irreplaceable natural heritage at stake, we should not settle for a bill that maintains the status quo just to appease the coal industry.”

Today’s paper also featured a letter by Rev. Gradye Parsons, the highest elected official in the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), titled “Mountaintop removal violates Christian faith.”

“As a son of Tennessee and as a Christian, protecting God’s Creation is not merely environmentalism to me. It is a matter of faith. The book of Genesis teaches us that when God looked out at the created world, God saw that “it was very good.” Furthermore, the psalmist tells us “the earth is Lord’s and all that is in it.” We are called by our faith to care responsibly for the world that our Creator has made, and to do justice for our neighbors. Mountaintop removal, by damaging God’s creation and the well-being of our brothers and sisters, runs contrary to our Christian obligation to each other and to our environment.”

“The Presbyterian Church (USA) has long opposed mountaintop removal. The 217th General Assembly (2006) of the PC (USA) ‘urge[d] state and federal agencies that regulate mining practices, as well as the coal companies themselves, to abandon the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining and work to meet our nation’s energy needs in a manner that is just, sustainable, and consistent with Christian values.'”

“As a Christian, I urge our Tennessee legislators to pass the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act, not in its amended and weakened form, but the original bill. This would provide important protection for the mountains of Tennessee and for God’s people who live there.”

The Scenic Vistas Protection Act was altered last week in a subcommittee meeting, and could be up for a vote as early as next Monday.

Raised on the banks of the Tennessee River, JW's work to create progress in his home state and throughout Appalachia has been featured on the Rachel Maddow Show, The Daily Kos and Grist. He served first as Appalachian Voices’ Legislative Associate and then Tennessee director until leaving to pursue a career in medicine in 2012.


  1. Betty Rose says:

    I am hoping and praying that this bill gets approved in it’s original form. My family goes back to the early pioneers of the State. My Grandpa came to Tennessee on a Steam Locomotive from Greeley Colorado. He fell in love with the scenic beauty of that land and traded his mercantile store in Greeley for 242 acres of farming land in Rhea County on the Dayton Mountain.
    I am saddened at the plans for deep coal mining on Dayton Mountain. This bill needs to be passed to stop any future plans to do mountain top removal in Tennessee. In my mind, Deep mining is just as destructive to the environment, but this bill is a start to end coal mining on our beautiful Cumberland Mountains.

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