Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Editors' Pick

In Appalachian Ohio and West Virginia, activists are working to protect their ancestors' resting places from coal companies:
James Bowe, a lifelong resident of Whitesville, W.Va., knows the mountains around his home better than he knows himself. He's seen friends and family buried there, and has devoted countless hours to protecting his loved ones' resting places and the Indian burial grounds that stand alongside them. So when Bowe pulled up on his four-wheeler in early April and spotted a coal company drilling in the middle of what he says was a known, if unnamed, cemetery on White Oak Mountain, he was livid -- and determined to stop them.

Knowing how quickly surface-mining operations can scrape away any trace of a mountain's natural landscape, Bowe immediately filed a formal complaint with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. For the next three days, he waited anxiously for intervention. On the fourth day, a DEP officer arrived, but it was too late: There was nothing left of the headstones that had been there, and only a small section of border fence remained. The investigator's report said he believed "a cemetery did exist at this site," but concluded that the cemetery "was unknown to the core drilling company ... and the West Virginia DEP when this permit was issued."

Bowe was, and remains, incredulous. "I don't see how the company wouldn't have known -- there was a tombstone sitting there," he said later. "You can't miss that. When you see crosses on top of something and sandstone markers, what do you usually associate that with?"
Read on by clicking here.

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