Andy Mahler 812-723-2430
Janet Keating at OVEC 304-522-0246 or cell 304-360-1979
Tonya Adkins 304-522-0246
Healing Mountains Slated To Be Largest Conference of Mountaintop Removal Opponents Yet;
Memorial Day Weekend Event combines 16th Annual Heartwood Forest Council and
6th annual OVEC Summit for the Mountains
RIPLEY, W. Va. – Over Memorial Day Weekend, May 26-29, mountaintop removal opponents from across the state and nation will converge for the Healing Mountains conference at the Cedar Lakes Conference Center.
Event organizers expect this to be the largest-ever conference dedicated to ending mountaintop removal/ valley fill coal mining. The event combines Heartwood’s 16th annual Forest Council with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition’s (OVEC) 6th annual Summit for the Mountains.
“Mountaintop removal mining is probably the most destructive activity in human history, second only to war,” said Heartwood event organizer Andy Mahler. “In fact the destruction of our natural heritage and the obliteration of our mountain communities would be considered an ‘Act of War’ were the damage perpetrated by a foreign power. The Forest Council/Summit will open the door wide on this dirty little secret, and help mobilize and coordinate an awakened citizenry to the need to bring an immediate halt to this tragedy.”
The conference features keynote speakers including coal sludge impoundment expert and whistleblower Jack Spadaro, campaign finance reform champion and outspoken mountaintop removal critic Granny D, and former Congressman Ken Hechler, a strong miners’ rights advocate.
“We are putting coal companies, elected officials and their state and federal lapdog regulatory agencies on notice,” said Janet Keating, co-director of OVEC. “Healing Mountains organizers expect the largest gathering ever of people intent on ending mountaintop removal. People are coming from throughout the nation to join with us and to help develop strategies to end the wholesale destruction of our homeland, the Appalachian Mountains. Beyond the extremely serious nature of this issue, this will be an inspiring and energizing weekend, a chance to reconnect with old friends, make new ones and galvanize our resolve to end mountain massacre.”
Participants can choose from a variety of workshops and strategy sessions led by people who live in the shadow of mountaintop removal operations, as well as scientific experts and activists. Presentations will cover the history, culture and geography of coal; coal’s deadly impacts at every stage of its extraction, transportation and combustion; and the importance of healthy forests and mountains, especially in times of dramatic climate change. In addition, the program includes workshops on alternative sources of energy and alternative modes of economic and community development in the mountains.
Filmmakers and authors who have works about mountaintop removal will show their documentaries or discuss their books. Film screenings will include Catherine Pancake’s Black Diamonds and Jeff Barrie’s Kilowatt Ours.
Book-sellers and environmental groups will table at the event. If the weather permits, SouthWings will offer flyovers of mountaintop removal operations so participants can view the extent of the destruction themselves. Other activities include an auction on Saturday evening to help raise funds, followed by a dance featuring live music from the Charleston-based Voodoo Katz, and a Sunday evening talent show, as well as activities for children. Organizers promise good food and plenty of opportunities for informal socializing and networking.
On Memorial Day, participants will travel to Kayford Mountain, the ancestral home of well-known mountaintop removal opponent Larry Gibson, to hold a Memorial for the Mountains. Kayford Mountain has become an island of forest practically surrounded by mountaintop removal operations. (For photos of Kayford Mountain, see www.ohvec.org/galleries/mountaintop_removal/010/index.html.)
Healing Mountains is organized and co-hosted by Heartwood and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. Co-sponsors include Coal River Mountain Watch, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Sierra Club Central Appalachian Environmental Justice Program, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Model Forest, and SouthWings. Dozens of groups, businesses and individuals are sponsoring the event.
Heartwood is an association of groups, individuals, and businesses dedicated to the health and well being of the native forest of the Central Hardwood region, and its interdependent plant, animal, and human communities. OVEC is a grassroots organizing group based in Huntington, W. Va. For more information, see www.heartwood.org/home.php and www.ohvec.org.
Links to co-sponsoring groups websites include: