Thursday, January 31, 2008

Taking It To The House

© By Albert A Rasch

"A September 2007 survey conducted by the Civil Society Institute found that 65% of Americans oppose the Bush Administration's proposal "to ease environmental regulations to permit wider use of 'mountain top removal' coal mining in the U.S." The study also found that 74% Americans are opposed to the expansion of MTR coal mining in general, and that 90% of Americans agree that more mining should be permitted only after the United States government has assessed its impacts on safety and the environment."

Several months ago I read a National Geographic article on the brutal practice of “mountain top removal.” I was in turns appalled and furious, to think that we would allow our own shortsightedness and greed to destroy such ecosystems as exist in the Appalachia. Showing it to my wife who read it immediately, and then our children, you could see the pain on their faces; it was almost palpable. But as with so many things, the article was soon forgotten in our everyday struggles. I wonder how many cubic yards of Appalachian Mountains have been leveled, and how many valleys filled with debris, from when I read the article until this morning.

Fast forward to yesterday. Because of Kristine’s indefatigable efforts at promoting the outdoors for everyone to use, and her astute and prescient foresight in making the Outdoor Bloggers Summit a reality, we now have a clearing house where information can be disseminated and shared. Kristine brought to our collective attention a request by Denny of The Backwoods Drifter to take a look at what was happening in his neck of the woods, so to speak.

If you have never seen mountaintop removal, you will be aghast at the level of destruction wrought by man and machines. To think that whole topographic structures are removed from the face of this earth, is almost unfathomable. But don’t take my word for it, see it here, and here, and especially the high resolution photos here.

I found the following at the ILoveMountains website. In order to simplify it for everyone I have reproduced it here. Please follow the directions below and forward this to your Representative.

Honorable (insert name)

I am writing to ask you to become a co-sponsor of the Clean Water Protection Act, H.R. 2169. This bill is critical for protecting the nation’s waters from being polluted and buried by waste created during mountaintop removal coal mining. Mountaintop removal mining involves clear-cutting native hardwood forests, blowing up entire mountaintops, and dumping millions of tons of debris into nearby streams in order to get at coal seams that lie deep beneath the surface. Already, more than 1,000 miles of Appalachian streams have been destroyed by mountaintop removal mining operations.

For 25 years, the Clean Water Act (CWA) allowed for the granting of permits to place “fill material” into waters of the United States, provided that the primary purpose of the “filling” was not for waste disposal. As such, the CWA prohibited mountaintop removal operations from using the nation’s waterways as waste disposal sites. That changed in 2002, when the Army Corps of Engineers, under the direction of the Bush administration and without congressional approval, altered its longstanding definition of “fill material” to include mining waste. This change accelerated the devastating practice of mountaintop removal coal mining and the destruction of more than 1,000 miles of Appalachian streams.

To stop this devastation of the nation’s waterways, Representatives Frank Pallone and Christopher Shays have introduced the Clean Water Protection Act—a simple piece of legislation that restores the original intent of the Clean Water Act to clarify that fill material cannot be comprised of mining waste.

Passing this legislation would protect all the nation’s rivers, streams, and lakes from being used as garbage dumps for mining waste. It would also help end the destruction of the Appalachian Mountains, home to our nation’s most diverse forests and streams, the headwaters of the drinking water supply of many eastern cities, and a unique and valuable American culture that has endured for generations.

Please join scores of other representatives who have sponsored the Clean Water Protection Act. Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

(Insert your name)

The following is probably the format I will be using when we are making our cases to our government. If someone has any suggestions as to how this can be done more efficiently, I’m all ears.

Open another tab and come back to this page. This will allow you to jump back and forth between this page and the others, making all the cutting pasting easier.

Find your nine digit zip code at the USPS Zip Code+4 finder. Cut and paste it to the Congressional Locator. This will give you your representative’s webpage. Now find his e-mail page and while you are at it, add it to your “favorites.” I use that term in its computer jargon sense.

Now cut and paste the above request to the message section of the form, adding a short personal note to the end. You can say you are a registered voter, or that you are writing on behalf of your children, or whatever you feel personalizes it. I don’t think they really read any of it; the aids just keep a score card. But if they see it’s the people that actually vote, then they might take it more seriously… maybe.

Fill out the rest of the form. I set up a separate e-mail account just for The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles so that’s the one I used. Then press the Send button.

That should do it. I actually printed the request and I am in the process of putting together a short note that directs anyone who is interested in the issue to this page so that they too can put in their note to the House of Representatives. As soon as I format it and make it look good, I’ll post it here also. I'll leave a few printed versions at my local sporting goods store, and hand some out to my friends. If we all did that, we could probably multiply our efforts a hundred-fold!

Please, if you take the time to forward the note to your Representative in congress, leave me a note. As long or short as you like, just so I can personally thank you on your site. And keep you in mind for the next project!

Again, thanks for taking the time and helping out our fellow sportsmen, and the citizens of our Nation.


Albert A Rasch

The Hunt Continues...


The Hunter's Wife said...

I think you covered this topic perfectly. Some aren't sure what to say in a letter and you made it really simple for those to write.

I plan to post on this topic Monday. I will link to you with your sample letter.

Anonymous said...


This is a wonderful idea and thank you for doing the spadework for us so that we can easily contact our legislators. That is so helpful.

I have to say, when the Founding Members first conceived the idea of the OBS, this is the sort of thing we hoped it would do. It makes me proud to have so many wonderful and passionate people, like yourself, involved in the Outdoor Bloggers Summit.

denny said...

Thank you for this - I'm elated at the awareness Blogging For Appalachia has generated.

Albert I have added a link list on the Stop MTR site called Take Action - I'm going to be adding a link to this post from there.

I just wanted to point out a lot of organizations have sign and send letters to your reps. Almost every organization on my site has some type of take action program and most of them make it quite easy for someone to do so.

Once again the people of Appalachia and the mountains thank you!

bluemountainmama said...

thanks so much for participating in this challenge and helping to spread the word. it is very encouraging to see all these bloggers getting on board!

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

I think its excellent that you're using your blog to convey this message, as Denny has pointed out on his site the mining companies advocates have long gotten away with a policy of 'divide and dismiss' claiming that the only opposition to their shamefull and short-sighted activity's was from city dwellers and outsiders with no local interest. You're calling time on that and i hope others will follow your example.
Hunters can do more to forward their cause by becoming involved in this issue, as it clearly shows the hunting community to be at the forefront of the defence of the natural world. We know that the American sportsman has done more for the environment and saved more endangered spices that PETA ever will, but the public at large wont get the message until they see hunters championing common-sense on the news media.This could well be the issue that changes public perception for good.
Fight the Power

Albert A Rasch said...

Thanks everyone,

I'm getting started way too late in the game, but better late than never!

I recruited my kids to help, and I have a local school teacher whom I will ask to help me.

More to come.

Brian Weaver said...

Thanks for making it so simple to email my Congressman. I hope Phil English gets on board with this.