Blair Mountain Removed from National Register of Historic Places; Sierra Club Takes Action
November 29, 2012
On November 29, a coalition of historic preservation, labor history and environmental protection organizations filed an appeal in federal court in a renewed effort to restore West Virginia's Blair Mountain Battlefield to the National Register of Historic Places. The appeal challenges the October 2012 ruling by a U.S. district court that found that the groups lacked standing to challenge the National Park Services’ decision to remove the battlefield from the National Register.
Residents of the area support the coalition’s appeal as it serves to protect one of the most important areas of our county’s history. “I've lived in Blair for over 50 years, it is my home and the mountain is my back yard,” said longtime resident of Blair West Virginia, Carlos Gore. “For our sake, and the sake of our history, the battlefield needs to be preserved so that future generations can understand what happened here and why it's so important to be remembered.
Groups involved in this appeal are the Sierra Club, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Friends of Blair Mountain, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, the West Virginia Labor History Association and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
For more information, click here.
October 1, 2012
On October 1, a federal district court in Washington, D.C. dismissed the lawsuit brought by a group of national and local organizations that sought to restore Blair Mountain to the National Register of Historic Places. The lawsuit alleged that the decision by the National Park Service to delist Blair Mountain—the site of a famous 1921 battle in Logan County, West Virginia, involving 10,000 coal miners and law enforcement officials clashing over the miners’ right to unionize—was arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to the agency’s own regulations. The groups bringing the suit were Sierra Club, Friends of Blair Mountain, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Labor History Association, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.
The court concluded – erroneously, in our view – that the groups lacked standing to bring the case, finding that there is no imminent threat of mining at the site despite existing and pending permits that authorize mining on and around the battlefield.
“We believe the judge is wrong and there is a real and imminent threat of Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal or others companies destroying Blair Mountain. We will continue to watch out for and defend this historic site and the legacy of those who died standing up for the rights of hard working miners,” stated Regina Hendrix, of the West Virginia Sierra Club Chapter, in response to the decision.
The Battle for Blair Mountain is a central event in labor history in the United States and certainly one of the best known of the many labor struggles in West Virginia. The actual site of the battle is a key part of all Americans’ history.
August 4, 2011
On August 4, a broad coalition of community, environmental and historic preservation groups filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia challenging the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s rejection of the groups’ petition to declare Blair Mountain Battlefield as unsuitable for surface coal mining.
Last month, DEP sent a letter rejecting the group’s petition as “frivolous”. The petition sought to protect the site of the largest civil uprising in America since the Civil War from surface coal mining. Now the groups will ask the court to force the DEP to accept the petition as complete because it fulfilled all legal requirements, and to conduct a legally required public hearing before issuing a decision on the petition’s merits.
The lawsuit was filed by Sierra Club, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Friends of Blair Mountain, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the West Virginia Labor History Association and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.
June 2, 2011
On June 2, 2011, Sierra Club and its coalfield allies petitioned the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to designate the Blair Mountain Battlefield as unsuitable for surface coal mining. As the site of the largest civil uprising since the Civil War, Blair Mountain Battlefield is of national historic and archaeological significance. Surface mining activities would cause irreparable damage to the site by removing and destroying the topsoil, causing water pollution, erosion, and flooding, destroying forests and creating blasting and dust impacts. Mining activities would also adversely impact the surrounding environment and communities. The groups are calling on the state to protect the historic site from the threats of destructive surface coal mining.
Sierra Club is joined by Friends of Blair Mountain, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Labor History Association, and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy in the petition.
Photo courtesy Dr. Harvard Ayers.
March 29, 2011
On June 6, 2011, labor union members, environmental activists, archaeologists, history buffs, and others plan to commence a 5-day march to bring greater attention to the historic significance of Blair Mountain and the devastating impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining. Marchers will start in Marmet, West Virginia, walking 10 miles a day along the same route that union miners took on their historic march in 1921. To culminate the event, a large rally will be held in the town of Blair on June 11, followed by the final march to the crest of Blair Mountain.
Current plans to mine the mountain not only threaten to irreparably harm the local environment and waterways, they also threaten to destroy one of the most significant heritage sites in Appalachia. Mining Blair Mountain would dishonor the memory of the miners who sacrificed their lives for the right to collectively bargain.
“The March on Blair Mountain: Appalachia’s Rising” commemorates the 90th anniversary of the 1921 miners’ march, and is a joint project of the Friends of Blair Mountain and Appalachia Rising. For more information, please visit: www.friendsofblairmountain.org.
September 9, 2010
On September 9, Sierra Club and its allies filed a legal challenge to reverse the decision by the National Park Service to remove Blair Mountain – the setting of the largest armed labor conflict in U.S. history – from the National Register of Historic Places. Sierra Club, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Friends of Blair Mountain and the West Virginia Labor History Association filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Washington, D.C., alleging that the decision to delist the historic site was contrary to the Park Service’s own regulations.
The Park Service originally listed the site in March 2009, after the majority of property owners within the vicinity voted in favor of the listing. Shortly after, the Park Service, responding to pressure from coal operators eager to mine the area, recounted the votes and conveniently found that a slim majority objected to preserving the site. The Park Service used the recalculated list of votes as a basis for removing the site from the National Register, despite objections from Sierra Club and it allies and evidence that the list included significant errors. In so doing, the Park Service violated its own regulations.
Also in September, West Virginia state officials announced plans to renominate the Blair Mountain site for a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
Photo courtesy Dr. Harvard Ayers.
July 15, 2010
Sierra Club, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition have learned from local sources that archeological sites on Blair Mountain - the setting of the largest armed labor conflict in U.S. history - are being destroyed. Archeologists provided proof that localized, but highly detrimental disturbances have occurred at five locations in the southern part of Blair Mountain. Topsoil has been removed and trees uprooted, most likely from bulldozing within the past three to six months. Since archeological evidence of the battle lies in the upper layers of topsoil, even the slightest disturbance will destroy both known and potentially significant sites on the battlefield. The source of the bulldozers is unknown.
These recent disturbances only increase the urgency of the efforts of Sierra Club and its allies to get Blair Mountain relisted on the National Register of Historic Places. The groups sent a petition to the Park Service in early July, contending that the decision to remove the site from the National Register violated National Park Service regulations.
January 1, 2010
On December 30, 2009, the Interior Department’s National Park Service removed Blair Mountain - the site of the largest armed labor conflict in U.S. History - from the National Register of Historic Places. The Department delisted the site after the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office – responding to requests from coal operators eager to mine the area – recounted the votes of property owners within the vicinity and conveniently found that a slim majority objected to preserving the site. The figures don’t seem to add up, however, as two of the alleged objectors appear to be deceased, and several votes from property owners in favor of preservation were misplaced.
The historic site is now eligible for listing, a designation that carries fewer protections than actual listing on the National Register. As a result, the Blair Mountain site still faces the threat of being strip-mined. Sierra Club, along with its allies, has been working for almost two decades to get Blair Mountain listed, and will continue its efforts to ensure the site is protected.
April 2, 2009
Sierra Club achieved a monumental victory in late March when Blair Mountain was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Blair Mountain was the site of the largest armed labor conflict in U.S. history; in 1921, armed union coal miners marched to the mountain to confront the Logan County sheriff and other coal industry minions who were trying to prevent the United Mine Worker organization from accessing nonunion coal mines. Sierra Club and its allies have been working since the 1990s to get Blair Mountain on the National Register in response to a proposal by nonunion Massey Energy to strip-mine the mountain.
Just a week after the site was added, officials in Governor Manchin’s administration moved to remove Blair Mountain from the National Register. In order to have Blair Mountain listed on the Register, the majority of property owners within the boundaries of the site needed to approve its listing. The State Historic Preservation Office recently announced that it initially failed to count all of the votes opposing the listing and erred in adding the site to the Register. The State has issued no proof to confirm this assertion, and Sierra Club and its allies will work diligently to ensure that this sacred site remains protected.
May 2, 2006
Over eighty years ago on Blair Mountain in West Virginia, 10,000 coal miners rose up against armed federal troops in defense of their right to unionize. The undeclared civil war that followed lasted ten days and became known as the Battle of Blair Mountain. Today, another battle is being fought on this site of America's largest-ever labor struggle. Despite widespread efforts to preserve this valuable place as a historic site, a mountaintop removal permit is pending on land where parts of the battle occurred. Mountaintop removal blasts the earth and rock of mountaintops apart and fills valleys with debris, and in many cases completely covers streams and causes damage to neighboring homes. The Sierra Club has worked for years with local residents on a successful campaign aimed at convincing the state of West Virginia to nominate the Blair Mountain site for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. In July 2005, the state formally requested that about 1,600 acres of Blair Mountain be included on the National Register. Unfortunately, coal mining companies have now sued the state in an attempt to overturn the nomination. The Sierra Club moved to intervene in the lawsuit to help defend the state's decision, and in May 2006 a West Virginia judge granted the intervention. Local residents who support our legal action agree that the site should be protected, as mountaintop removal mining has already destroyed too much of our Appalachian cultural and environmental heritage.
Details and Documents:
Threats to Blair Mountain Historic Site Prompt Legal Appeal
November 29, 2012, Sierra Club et al. Press Release
W.Va. activists to appeal Blair Mountain ruling
November 29, 2012, NewsOK
Blair Mountain’s removal from historic places appealed
Appeal filed over Blair Mountain strip mining
November 29, 2012 by Taylor Kuykendall, Grounded
November 29, 2012 by Taylor Kuykendall, The Charleston Gazette
Blair Mountain Coalition Files Suit to Challenge Rejection of Lands Unsuitable for Mining Petition
August 4, 2011, Sierra Club et al. Press Release
Sierra Club et al. Petition to West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection
June 2, 2011
Reckless Removal of West Virginia's Historic Blair Mountain Battlefield from National Register of Historic Places Prompts Legal Challenge from Community Groups
September 9, 2010, Sierra Club et al. Press Release
Groups Alerted to Destruction on West Virginia's Historic Blair Mountain Battlefield; Mystery Behind Who is Disturbing 1921 Site of Nation's Largest Armed Labor Conflict
July 16, 2010, Sierra Club et al. Press Release
Blair Mountain Added to National Register of Historic Places
April 2, 2009, Sierra Club Press Release
W.Va. DEP refuses to label Blair Mountain unsuitable for mining, says issue settled in 1991
July 7, 2011 by Vicki Smith, Associated Press
DEP denies petition to declare Blair Mountain unsuitable for mining
July 7, 2011 by Paul J. Nyden, The Charleston Gazette
Protesters begin weeklong march to Blair Mountain
June 7, 2011 by Zack Harold, Charleston Daily Mail
Saving Blair Mountain: Hundreds March in West Virginia
June 7, 2011 by Mark Johanson, International Business Times
Hundreds to march 50 miles in battle to save W.Va.'s historic Blair Mountain from strip mining
June 6, 2011 by Vicki Smith, Associated Press
Enviros, miners to march for protection of historic W.Va. mountain
June 3, 2011 by Manuel Quinones, Greenwire
UMW weighs in on Blair Mountain's historic status
April 18, 2011 by Paul J. Nyden, The Charleston Gazette
Coal Reignites A Mighty Battle Of Labor History
March 5, 2011, National Public Radio
Cecil E. Roberts: Blair Mountatin and coal's future
February 19, 2011 by Cecil E. Roberts, The Charleston Gazette
5-day march to fight strip mine on Blair Mountain
February 15, 2011, The Associated Press
The Battle of Blair Mountain, Round Two
November 12, 2010 by Kate Sheppard, Mother Jones
Still Fighting Labor's Historic Battle of Blair Mountain
October 8, 2010 by Bruce Gellerman, National Public Radio: Living on Earth
State to reapply for historic designation at Blair Mountain
September 4, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr., The Charleston Gazette
It's official: Blair Mountain delisted
January 8, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr., The Charleston Gazette
Big Coal Defeat! Rednecks and Greens Announce Victory at Blair Mountain
March 30, 2009 by Jeff Biggers, The Huffington Post
See other "Stopping Mountaintop Removal and Other Destructive Mining" cases.