Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

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This news story originally provided by The Charleston Daily Mail
February 9, 2005

Reclamation' is not at all what it seems

As a grassroots citizens' group, Coal River Mountain Watch feels flattered that Walker Machinery has had to buy TV time to counter the truth we've been providing about mountaintop removal coal mining.

If citizens had the money to put into TV ads, steep slope strip mining in Appalachia would have been abolished 40 years ago. But regular citizens cannot put millions into propaganda and pretty half-truths. Instead, we must rely on the fact that the good citizens of West Virginia are wise enough to know window dressing when they see it.

On the Walker Machinery Web site, Steve Walker writes, "Most of you are aware of post-mining reclamation efforts to reshape the land into useable, productive enterprises." To suggest that valueless topsoil substitute seeded with nonnative grasses is an improvement on God's glory reeks of blasphemy.

God's creation is already productive, useful and has been for eons. It cannot be duplicated or improved by draglines and bulldozers.

To suggest that the showplace site in Walker's television commercial represents the true face of mountaintop removal slaps the face of every sensible, God-fearing Mountaineer.

As Walker challenges us to accept a pond and grassland as sufficient replacement for mountains and streams, we have a few challenges in response.

First, we challenge Walker to zoom in and show us what is under the grass in their ad, and then to zoom out to show the comparison of this site to ongoing mountaintop removal or undisturbed forest.

How many acres does this television commercial represent out of the total acreage permitted at this one particular site? Does the entire permitted acreage look the same as in the commercial?

We further challenge Walker to show us a reclaimed strip site that is flourishing with native wild ginseng, black cohosh, yellowroot, ferns, mollymoochers or ramps.

This understory is as valuable as the hardwood timber. Because the understory cannot be replaced, coal companies, the Division of Environmental Protection and Office of Surface Mining officials will not discuss its restoration on strip-mined sites.

Also, we challenge Walker to show us reclaimed mountaintop removal strip sites where native hardwoods are being commercially harvested at the rate they were before the mountain was decapitated.

If Walker claims this commercial is typical of reclamation sites, then take us to all reclaimed sites and we will be happy to report back to the public that Walker's commercial is not all propaganda.

Why do locked gates and armed guards bar access to "reclaimed" sites? As Walker Machinery and coal operators will show the public only a keyhole view of a non-typical showplace site, Coal River Mountain Watch invites you to see real mountaintop removal up close and unretouched at Kayford Mountain 30 miles south of Charleston. Contact us and we will give you directions to this site.

Only a true mountaineer knows what the full forest looks, smells, and feels like. It sure isn't that blasted rock they use to create these moonscapes.

This column was submitted by Vernon Haltom and Bo Webb, volunteers for Coal River Mountain Watch, and by Julia Bonds, organizer for the group.


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