Refusing defeat, activist groups including the Sierra Club, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Friends of Blair Mountain, West Virginia Labor History Association and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, continue their work to protect Blair Mountain Battlefield in Logan County from mountaintop removal.
(Scroll down for a video about the historic significance of the site).
On Thursday, November 29, 2012, activists filed an appeal to challenge an October 2,2012 ruling in a U.S. District court in Washington D.C. that declined to address the groups’ claims that Blair Mountain Battlefield – the site of the largest civil insurrection in the United States since the Civil War – was unlawfully removed from the National Register of Historic Places and denied their efforts to list the battlefield back in the National Register. In December 2009, the National Park Service de-listed the 1600-acre battlefield because property owners objected. These activist groups sued to have that status restored in October, but they lost the court challenge after it was ruled that the groups lacked legal standing and that there was insufficient proof an imminent threat of coal mining at the site.
The October court decision ignored abundant evidence that coal mining companies, including Missouri-based Arch Coal Company, have been applying for permits to strip mine mountains in Boone and Logan Counties in southwestern West Virginia.
Having the 1921 battlefield listed in the National Register of Historic Places does not protect or preserve the site for perpetuity. Once properties are listed in the National Register, any federally-proposed work, permitting or monies cannot be issued until the proposed project undergoes a Section 106 Review Process. Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, federal agencies must consider the effect of their actions on historic properties, consult with concerned parties and provide interested individuals and groups, as well as the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) the opportunity to comment on proposed actions. When it is determined that these proposed projects will harm historic properties – as in the strip mining permits at Blair Mountain – Section 106 review usually ends with a legally-binding agreement that establishes how the Federal agency will address the adverse effects. In the few cases where this does not occur, and the ACHP issues advisory comments, the head of the Federal agency must consider the comments in making a final decision.
Section 106 is a very important tool for historic preservationists, and it gives us a chance to work with businesses and government agencies and create a cooperative agreement.
For more information on the details of Section 106, visit http://www.nps.gov/hps/treasures/manual/citizensguide_106.pdf.