Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stand with me for Appalachia

I'm writing to you as a volunteer and donor for the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation. My personal experience with the atrocities of surface mining strengthened my commitment to the organization. Everyone that wants to fight the injustices being committed in the name of profit should join me in becoming an active donor:

Your donations will help cover the cost of our On The Road Again Program. Larry, myself, and many other coalfield residents will travel the country in 2011 to educate others about the process known as mountain top removal and also what actions they can take to end this practice.

As a West Virginia native and a resident of the coalfields for most of my life, I know first-hand the detrimental effects the coal industry has had on our communities and our environment. Both of my grandfathers were coal miners, and both died from complications of black lung. I am not against coal miners but I am against big corporations that come into our state, exploit our people, destroy our environment, then leave with profits without being held accountable for the mess they leave behind.

In the early 2000's I experienced that destruction first hand. Blasting on a mountaintop removal coal mine began within a quarter-mile of my home. The noise was constant and everything was covered in dust all the time. My house would shake, knocking pictures from the walls, and rocks would fly into the yard where my children played. In 2005, while deployed with the military, I received a call from my father saying my house was off of its foundation and that the foundation was severely damaged.

Before all this happened we didn't like mountaintop removal but it was just something we accepted as part of living in WV. After the coal company blatantly denied responsibility for the destruction of my home, I began to realize, "This is what is happening to all my family and neighbors, and it's not right."

So I made a choice to actively fight the process, and quickly joined the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation. Mr. Larry Gibson has been an inspiration to me, and this organization is an integral part of ending mountaintop removal. I support it not only with my time but by being an active donor, and I hope you will join me:

Thanks for standing with us!


Marilyn Mullens

Keeper of the Mountains Foundation Volunteer

P.S. If you can't donate, but you do use Facebook, please set up a Holiday Wish to help fund our work.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Connecting the Dots in Ecuador

"All the companies gave us was contamination, sickness, and death. Strange diseases that we never knew before. People are dying of cancer and that's why the Cofan People are continuing to fight against Chevron in this lawsuit."

- Cofan Leader

"Keeper of the Mountains" Larry Gibson and Board Member Bill DePaulo are currently in their Third Day of traveling through Ecuador. They are traveling with Amazon Watch to lean from, educate, and connect with community leaders who are fighting for justice in their communities, much as we are in ours. Indigenous Nations in the Ecuadorian Rain Forest have been poisoned by the massive oil drilling operations that Texaco, now Chevron, undertook to profit from their people.

Bill DePaulo is writing of his and Larry's time in Ecuador and had this to say,

"Day 1 was primarily in Quito and no one could describe it as strenuous. common if interesting tourist stuff in many respects But distinguished by the fact that Ecuador has taken extraordinary steps at preservation of it's cultural and architectural heritage

Second day we flew over the Andes to Lagos Agrio, the town Texaco built in the jingle out of nothing for oil exploration. Plus we went to Texacos first drill sites.

Later in the day we crossed Rio Aqua Rico to meet with leaders of the small indigenous group Cofan who are plaintiffs in the multiple billion dollar lawsuit against Chevron/Texaco over oil spills at more than 900 pits they created at 350 drill sites from 1964 to 1990.

The leader who spoke to us lost two small children after they drank water from local streams polluted by Texaco.

Today we went to one of the more dramatic open pit sites that shows the grossly negligent manner in which Texaco operated. Dumping raw waste water from drill sites into open pits designed too overflow into fresh water streams and pollute the water table, animal and fish life.

We are headed to a local clinic that treats victims, young and old, of oil pollution

Tomorrow we go to the Yasuni National Forest, one of the biologically diverse sites on earth, threatened by oil exploration."

Friday, December 3, 2010

Don Blankenship is DONE

From his start with A.T. Massey Coal, Don Blankenship has been breaking the union and poisoning peoples' water.  Through the years he has been the face of the coal industry and political corruption in West Virginia.  His coal company has been the culprit of everything from disregarding worker safety to destroying our mountains to poisoning our people.  He has been the visible head of corporate greed in our state for far too long, and now he's done.

Don Blankenship will retire on December 30th, 2010.  In the same year that the people of West Virginia have won a new Marsh Fork Elementary and are winning regulation of the coal industry - we will see the retirement of the most visible coal baron in the state.  He has surrendered to angry workers and residents and is leaving his seat in the company. 

We must remember, that as bad as Don Blankenship is, the problem is deeper than any one man.  We will start 2011 another step ahead of where we started 2010, but we will still have mountains being stripped, communities with poisoned water, workers working in unsafe conditions and a need for coalfield communities to decide our own future.  We will start 2011 with another victory under our belts, and with a need to keep fighting the coal industry for justice.  We must keep growing and we must continue gaining power.

Be proud and celebrate, but for heaven's sake, keep organizing.  Please donate to keep us organizing and winning victories like this.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Contact the EPA by December 1st

Last April, the Environmental Protection Agency took a bold step toward cutting back mountaintop removal when it issued draft guidelines to reduce the practice of "valley fills" -- which bury streams and poison Appalachia's water sources -- unless they meet a high standard. The guidelines were just one of a series of draft rules issued that day designed to reduce the impact of mountaintop removal coal mining.

Can you join me by contacting the EPA in support of their rules to protect clean water?

Coal is killing the people of the Appalachian coalfields. Just the same as if you pick up a pistol and shoot your neighbor, people are dying for coal company profits. Me and my fellow Appalachians have been saying this for years that we deserve justice for everybody in the Appalachian coalfields.

Now, there are finally people listening in the EPA. While they are not going nearly far enough to protect the Appalachian people, they are starting and we must back them up. Big Coal is doing what they always do and is putting the money made off the backs of the Appalachian people into fighting new rules that would protect us.

We are somebody, all of us are somebody. Just because Big Coal has Big Money doesn't mean a thing if we come together and act. Now it's our turn to be heard and we've got to raise our voices.

Submitting a comment takes just a few moments. Please, act now: Tell the EPA to stand firm on limiting mountaintop removal coal mining.

Thank you for standing with me,

Larry Gibson
Keeper of the Mountains Foundation

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Help Tell the Story of Coal Industry Crimes by Contributing to Low Coal

Filmmakers Mari-Lynn Evans and Jordan Freeman have stood alongside coalfield residents and Larry Gibson for years to amplify the voices crying out from the the effects of the coal industry - from Mountaintop Removal to unsafe mines to poisoned water supplies. They have just put out a new film Low Coal which sheds new light on the coal industry, please help them get their film off the ground and help amplify the voices of coalfield residents.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Risking Arrest to Plant on a Mountaintop Removal Site

Written by Morgan Goodwin and Cross-Posted from

Today 44 volunteer 'reclamation workers' (activists) illegally marched onto a supposedly reclaimed mine site to plant trees. Why? Because the 'reclamation' efforts done by the mining company resulted in a barren hillside with sparse grass and baking sun - a far cry from the lush and diverse forest destroyed in the process.

After negotiating with the police and planting all the trees, all 44 were allowed to leave the site without repurcussions.

The fight over mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia revolves around jobs. Even though the highly mechinized practice has drastically reduced the number of people employed in the mining industry, the proponents of mining say that West Virginia is poor and needs the jobs. Opponents say healthy and prosperous economies can be created in the area if only the destructive and poisionsous processes of the coal companies are stopped and the natual wealth is not destroyed.

John Johnson, forester and environmentalist said, “The coal industry does not attempt to return the landscape to its previous biodiversity – leaving it up to the citizens to reclaim it themselves. Fixing the ruined landscape will provide long term jobs for those put out of work by the abolition of mountaintop removal.”

At 12:30 on Sunday, October 25th, hundreds of people rallied at Stanley Heirs Park, adjacent to Larry Gibson's home on Kayford Mountain. Statesman Ken Hechler and Kayford Mountainkeeper Larry Gibson, along with two miners from Colombia lead the march to the mine site, with participants aged 18 to 96 years old.

Lifelong Coal River Valley resident Junior Walk says, “Coal companies sure as hell aren’t going to take it upon themselves to do something about it – some one’s got to do it.”

44 people walked out onto the mine site to plant 30 hemlocks, pen oak and tulip poplar trees, as well as planting chesnuts, walnuts, acorns. Some deployed a banner reading: "EPA We're Doing Your Job - Over 500 Mountains Destroyed - Reclamation Jobs Now!"

Mine security vehicles and police showed up moments later and negotiated with the activists. By 3:30pm all the trees had been planted and the protesters left the site without repurcussions. While technically tresspassing, it looks like the police didn't have the taste for arresting folks who are calling attention to what the mining companies should be doing.

To see just how agregious this shortcoming is of mining company policy towards reclamation, check out this report from NRDC earlier this year:

For years the mining industry has exploited a federal statutory provision that exempts them from restoring the land to its approximate original contour if there is a plan to develop the land for “equal or better economic use” such as “industrial, commercial, residential or public use.”

However, NRDC’s analysis – also using aerial imagery – confirms that nearly 90% of mountaintop removal sites have not been converted to economic uses.

That's right: Mining companies don’t love mountains but they love bragging about how they restore mine sites for the benefit of local communities. Our study exposes Big Coal’s broken promises by proving that post-mining economic prosperity is a big, flat lie.

John Johnson, forester and environmentalist said, “The coal industry does not attempt to return the landscape to its previous biodiversity – leaving it up to the citizens to reclaim it themselves. Fixing the ruined landscape will provide long term jobs for those put out of work by the abolition of mountaintop removal.”

Coal country politicians have largely supported the mining industry, even to the extreme detriment of American heritage, community health and the economic well being of Appalachia. In an election where Democrats and Republicans alike are rushing to bow at the altar of coal, voters in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennesee, Virginia and elsewhere are often left to regulartory agencies like the Office of Surface Mining, the EPA, state DEP agencies and Mining and Mineral Services. Just getting them to do their job enforcing existing laws (like requiring reclamation) will be a huge victory in the fight to end mountaintop removal.

Want to help?

1.Email (Roger Calhoun Head field operator of Office of Surface Mining and Reclamaiton) Ask him why people are threatened with arrest for reclaiming mine sites? Shouldn't we be paying Appalachian residents to do reclamation work, not arresting them? Send them a link to this blog, or a photo or article, and make sure they feel the heat.

2. Go to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and fill out their online form, asking the same questions.

For updates, check, follow @app_rising and @coalisfilthy, and check For more photos visit the Photobucket Album All photos taken by Jacob Mack-Boll

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Kayford Mountain, West Virginia

A Weekend of Education and Action

October 22nd-24th

Come to the coalfields of Southern West Virginia to gain skills in grassroots organizing, get trained in non-violent direct action and learn about Appalachian culture. Hear first hand from Coal River Valley residents about the devastation of mountaintop removal.

Kayford Mountain is the home of Larry Gibson, whose family has been living there since the 1700's. In 1986, coal companies began stripping Kayford Mountain, and Larry has been fighting for his land ever since. “The slow motion destruction of Kayford Mountain has been continuous – 24 hours a day, seven days a week," says Larry.

Over 500 mountains have been destroyed and over 1,000 miles of streams have been buried in valley fills. Mountaintop Removal (MTR) continues to cause irreversible damage to the environment and aquatic systems that thousands of people rely on for food, water, and homes.

Take action to end mountaintop removal, and start something better in its place. Come join us for a weekend of education and action!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Keeper of the Mountains Joins Thousands at Appalachia Rising

Larry Gibson inspiring hundreds at Voices From the Mountains

Larry Gibson Arrested with Hundreds & Hear the Voices of Supporters at Appalachia Rising (thank you Chad Stevens for the Video!)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Larry Invites You To STAND UP at Appalachia Rising

When I went to New York, I called for the rebirth of resistance, and I never thought I’d hear such a roar of people saying “Yeah, we need the rebirth of resistance.” Well yeah, we need a rebirth of resistance here to get back what the people have lost! Right now there is not enough resistance. We are natural organizers. We live in the area called the coalfields - where the union was strong. If we hadn’t organized in the beginning we would never have had anything. We can’t back up… We gotta get that grit back. That’s what we’ve got to find in people today. They’ve got it; they’ve just forgotten that they have it. Join me in resisting Mountaintop Removal at Appalachia Rising in Washington DC.
                                      - Larry Gibson

Organizers have secured fee and low budget ($20/night) housing in churches and hostels for people who can sleep on the floor or in bunks. To reserve your space, please fill out this form.

For a complete list of cheap hotels, go to this website.

Getting to Washington DC

Register for Appalachia Rising here, and we will put you in touch with mobilizers in your area who will help you get to DC. Mobilizers are organizing transportation in vans, buses, and carpools from all over the US.

Voices from the Mountains, Saturday and Sunday September 26 and 27

Voices from the Mountains is a movement-building summit the weekend before of Appalachia Rising's Day of Action. While the day of action puts our movement into unified action, Voices from the Mountains lays the groundwork of future collaboration and movement growth. It will combine information sessions from experts and directly impacted people, strategy sessions to bring the movement forward, speakers, entertainment, and skill-based workshops. See the schedule on the website here.

Day of Action, Monday September 27

The Day of Action will be a march of thousands of people, taking our message directly to the White House. For individuals who choose, there will be non-violent civil disobedience. Trainings are provided over the weekend.

                  10 AM: Rally at Freedom Plaza
                  11 AM: March Begins
                  12:15 PM: March arrives at Lafayette Park, at the White House.

Build the buzz & Spread the word
We need you to come, and bring your friends, families, and co-workers to this historic event. In the final weeks before Appalachia Rising, now is the time to spread the word with all the tools we have available. Use the multimedia on the website to inspire your friends on facebook. Spread, or write blog posts like this one by Appalachia Rising organizer, Dea Goblirsch, or this one, by environmental hero Tim DeChristopher

Twitter: Follow @App_Rising on twitter. Sample tweet: Appalachia Is Rising. Join the nat'l rally to save the mtns Sept 25-27: @app_rising #apprising #stopmtr

Our friend, Mickey McCoy of Inez Kentucky summed it up perfectly. "I'd rather not travel to Washington DC. I'd rather not break the law in non-violent civil disobedience. Frankly, I'd like to work in the garden in my retirement, but when 300 million gallons of toxic coal sludge from a Massey Energy impoundment flooded Martin County, my home, I found myself in a fight for the life of my land and community, and with those stakes, you don't have a choice. The time for action is now!"

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Great Time on Labor Day Weekend + Upcoming Changing of the Leaves Festival

Larry and Carol have the first dance to Tony Rogers and Dave's "One Love" - a real touching moment

This past Labor Day Weekend on Kayford Mountain was a great time for everyone who made it out!  We want to send a HUGE thank you to musicians Aaron Scott, Paige Dalporto, Elizabeth LaPrelle, Tony Rogers of The Ahs Band & his friend Dave, and Kipp McGhee of Pavlov's Dog for coming out to donate a performance to the weekend. 

Mark your Calendars for the Changing of the Leaves Festival on Saturday, Oct. 9th and Sunday, Oct. 10th - it'll be one of the last good camping weekends before it gets cold - so come on out, hear some great music, and enjoy the leaves with friends & family.

Elizabeth LaPrelle singing the chilling "West Virginia Mine Disaster"

For the first time EVER - Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" on the banjo

Friday, September 3, 2010

Labor Day Music Festival on Kayford Mountain

Larry Gibson's inviting everyone up to Kayford Mountain for his annual Labor Day Festival on Saturday, Sept. 4th starting at Noon with Music starting at 3:30 - hope you can make it!
Schedule of Music:

3:30 --> Tony Rodgers of "The Ahs" from Hinton, WV
5:00 --> Paige Dalporto from Charleston, WV
6:00 --> Elizabeth Laprelle from Rural Retreat Virginia
7:00 --> Aaron Scott & Kipp McGee

This Labor Day Festival will feature local and regional musicians playing a variety of bluegrass, gospel, folk and old time music, as well as pot-luck meals. The headliners will be area musicians Kipp McGhee and Aaron Scott, who has opened for such major musicians as Rascal Flatts, Alison Krauss and Kenny Chesney.

This is a free concert that will celebrate Appalachian life and attendees are encouraged to bring a covered dish. The purpose of the concert, according to local citizen activist Larry Gibson, is to “bring family and friends together for a weekend of celebrating West Virginia’s heritage and freedom." September 4th will see people from all walks of life, bound by their common love of our mountains and people.

Elizabeth & Sandy Laprelle singing at Kayford's 2008 Mountain Keepers Music Festival

Directions to Kayford Mountain

Camping is open on Saturday night - bring an instrument and we'll jam!

* If you can't make this - or have some spare time around noon before you come up to Kayford- it'd be great to check out the Blair Mountain Labor Day Event starting at noon at the Whipple Company Store in Fayette County

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hundreds Enjoy the Mountain Keepers Music Festival!

Crowds gather in the pavilion to hear thoughtful speakers and old time ballads.

Keeper of the Mountains, Larry Gibson,  with NASA Climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen (center) and former West Virginia Congressman, Ken Hechler.
Rebekah Jean, Mistress of Ceremonies
Musician Jen Osha gets a hug from Ken Hechler
This past fourth of July

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Success! Security System and Solar Panels Installed by Volunteers on Kayford Mountain!

Thank you to the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition for backing this project from the beginning, and a very special Thanks to Kevin Fooce for his time and expertise.

Blog written by flatcreek and originally posted at Appalachian Voices Front Porch Blog

This past weekend a crew of dedicated volunteers descended upon Kayford Mountain, the home of legendary anti-mountaintop removal activist Larry Gibson. The volunteers were on hand to install a much needed security system. For the past 25 years, Larry Gibson has been a leader in the fight to end the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining. Larry's land is surrounded by tens of thousands of acres of strip mines; his home has served as a safe place for citizens, members of the media, and decision makers to witness firsthand the horrors of mountaintop removal coal mining. The images captured and stories written about his destroyed homeplace have served as a catalyst for national awareness of the travesty occurring in Appalachia.

Larry is renowned for his hospitality; he his always available to show people the mountaintop removal coalmine adjacent to his land and is the host of annual parties that routinely draw hundreds of attendees.

Unfortunately, Larry’s outspoken stance on mountaintop removal, and his courageous efforts in standing up to the coal companies, has led to threats of violence and to repeated acts of vandalism to his property. This winter a campaign was launched to raise money for a security system for Larry’s home and public park. Through online donations, a drawing and the tireless efforts of volunteers, over ten thousand dollars were successfully raised to purchase Larry a state of the art security system. This weekend a crew of hardworking volunteers successfully installed the new system, just in time for Larry’s legendary 4th of July party.

Thanks to all who donated time, money and effort to make Larry’s security system a reality.

Special Thanks to:  Ohio Valley Environmental CoalitionBlessings Project, Appalachian Voices, Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy, Here's to the Long Haul, Kenny Biggs and his wife, and the hundreds of donations from Friends of the Mountains like you.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

West Virginia Artist Donates Original Sculpture to Keeper of the Mountains!

Thank you to West Virginia artist, Carter Seaton for her unique piece, Sculpting the Earth.

This is an original sculpture made with coal from Kayford Mountain, West Virginia. 

You can enter a drawing for Sculpting the Earth and support the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation.   Be sure to enter today since the drawing will close on November 1st!.  Please see details below.

 Chances to win will be given in the following amounts:
                                 $10  = 1 entry
                                 $50  = 7 entries
                                $100 = 15 entries

Please make tax-deductible checks to "Keeper of the Mountains Foundation" and mail to:  Robin Blakeman, PO Box 6753, Huntington, WV 25773

No purchase necessary to win.  For an entry, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the above address, Attn: Robin, Mountain Keeper Sculpture.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Independence Day Celebration

July 3rd, 2010 - Join us for food, live music, and fun on Kayford Mountain. For more information, call (304) 542-1134.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Success - We're installing a security system!

Thank you to everyone for your hours of work and your donations. With your help, we raised over $10,000 for security measures on Kayford Mountain, and we are installing the security cameras, solar panels and other equipment this month.
Stay tuned for pictures, a more proper thanks to the organizations and individuals who made this happen, and a final update of the project.
Thank you all.