Southwest Virginia Environmental Movement Loses Two Leaders

By Willie Dodson

In August, Southwest Virginia lost two environmental leaders who leave behind legacies of service to the land and people of Appalachia.

Vivian Owens of Haysi, Va., was a founding board member and longtime super-volunteer for the Friends of the Russell Fork, a local organization dedicated to protecting the river. Owens worked with community members and AmeriCorps volunteers to monitor the health of the river and identify and remove sewage straight pipes and other sources of pollution in the Russell Fork and its tributaries.

Tim Mullins of Pound, Va., served on the board of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards for many years. Mullins’ contributions of time, energy and talent — notably his art and photography — helped SAMS win an eight-year campaign to defeat a more than 1,200-acre mountaintop removal coal mining permit on Ison Rock Ridge in Wise County, Va.

“He loved the Appalachian Mountains and all of God’s creation and worked diligently to protect them from those who destroy them for profit,” longtime friend Jane Branham wrote after Mullins passed. “He was a man full of courage … he learned to fly, traveled the world, embraced his gay identity in the face of conflict and violence committed against him and was always a voice for others who could not speak out.”

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