I am honored to be writing you for the first time as executive director of Appalachian Voices.
I still remember my excitement when I first learned about Appalachian Voices 12 years ago after a day of climbing at West Virginia’s Seneca Rocks. Relaxing in town after descending from the knife-edge summit, I was elated from the climb and the beautiful view from the top: a bucolic patchwork of fields and woodlots in the river valley surrounded by lushly forested mountains stretching as far as the eye could see. It was in this state of mind that I picked up my first copy of The Appalachian Voice newspaper.
Here was a celebration of the Appalachian Mountains and our connection to them – from fishing to kayaking, homesteading to hunting – that resonated deeply with my experience. But it was something more that really drew me in.
Appalachian Voices was about our shared responsibility for this natural heritage: bringing people together to address the monumental environmental threats to the region, from mountaintop removal coal mining to water and air pollution. I soon became a member, and even while I was away at UCLA law school, I closely tracked Appalachian Voices’ work. When I returned, I was proud to join the team and open our Virginia office.
I am still inspired every day by that shared connection and commitment. My wife, Heather — who was my climbing partner that day at Seneca Rocks — and I now have three young children, and my view naturally reaches farther than before. I’m devoted to a future when kids throughout Appalachia can swim in clean creeks, drink pure water and breathe healthy air, and still have mountain peaks to climb.
We’ve made tremendous progress, but important work lies ahead.
We must continue fighting the companies that are pushing the true costs of coal off on our communities, while we also secure real solutions to help our region prosper with sustainable energy sources and jobs that respect our natural heritage. We are engaged in nothing short of a fundamental shift that starts with a positive vision and a sense of shared responsibility for stewardship of this region we all love.
For the mountains,
PS: Over the next several months, I will share more details about our work and my vision for what lies ahead for Appalachian Voices and the region. (Read more about Tom’s background here)