Front Porch Blog

Ann League: Coordinating to Protect Tennessee’s Mountains

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I was born in a little South Carolina town nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. When I was five years old, my mother and I traveled to Ohio to visit her family. While there, my Uncle Bill started calling me “hillbilly.” I was very proud of that moniker and I would announce to everyone we encountered during that visit that I was a “hillbilly” from the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When I moved to East Tennessee when I was 16, I quickly fell in love with the region. It felt like home, especially the Cumberland Mountains. That love has strengthened over the years, which is why I am so excited to join Appalachian Voices to coordinate our organization’s Tennessee campaign.

In 2003, a large cross-ridge mine was permitted on Zeb Mountain in Campbell County. I was living on the mountain adjacent to Zeb Mountain at the time and could see it from my deck — it was my backyard. As the mining progressed on Zeb, I started doing weekly surveys and water testing with other community members on several of the streams coming off of the mine permit area. Month to month and year to year, I witnessed the steady degradation of those beautiful mountain streams as they were strangled by the sediment produced by the blasting on the mountaintop above.

I watched coal trucks race each other on the narrow twisting mountain highway that passed by an elementary school. I saw state and federal violations rack up, most of them concerning water quality. But too many fines were suspended for years and appealed by the coal company, so little or no payment was ever collected.

I watched my well water turn orange, and we started using bottled water to cook with and drink. I saw my windows rattle and my doors move from the massive explosive blasts used to blow apart the top of the mountain to get to a thin seam of coal. I started working to protect Tennessee’s mountains from mountaintop removal coal mining more than 10 years ago because it was personal for me.

I don’t live in Campbell County anymore, but it is still personal to me and I will continue to fight mountaintop removal because the mountains of Tennessee will always be in my heart and in my backyard.

Do you live in Tennessee and share Ann’s love of mountains? Click here to ask your representatives to co-sponsor the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act.

As a former neighbor to a mountaintop removal coal mine, Ann has a special passion for protecting the Appalachian Mountains. She served as Appalachian Voices' Tennessee Campaign Coordinator from 2013-2014 before becoming Executive Director of SOCM (Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment)


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One COMMENT
  1. Max Abner says:

    Hello Ann League,

    I know of you from your work with I love Mountains, but this was the only way I could find to contact you.

    My name is Max Abner. I am a student at Northwestern University; a son of Louisville, Kentucky; and an avid cheerleader for your organization.

    I have received a research grant this summer to follow in the footsteps of the Lomax family’s Kentucky/Appalachian voyage, and I will be recording and interviewing folk musicians (professional and amateur) to see where folk music stands in 2016, how its sound and cultural functions have changed and remained the same.

    In order to cast a wide net, I have been contacting everyone who might have any kind of lead, and I had a hunch you might be someone to talk to. Obviously it is absolutely fine if not, but do you know of any people or organizations I might want to reach out to?

    Thank you for your time! It means a lot.
    Best,
    Max Abner

    P.S.
    Aside from this inquiry for my project, I really do want you to know how important to me the fight you are fighting is. As far as I am concerned, the political war over coal is one of the most important and under-inspected issues in all of America right now. Every day I send love and good vibrations to your organization. At the moment, I am a poor student, dependent on my parents, but as I become a working, independent adult, I can assure you this is the first organization that I will be making regular contributions to.

    If there is any non-financial way I can help this summer, please let me know.

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