Protecting History and Nurturing Economic Development in Benham and Lynch, Kentucky By Mary Hufford

America’s environmental laws guarantee its citizens the right to participate in public conversations about alternatives to large-scale development projects.  Yet too often, when, as citizens, we exercise this right to participate in the visioning of futures for our communities, we are labelled “activists,” accused of threatening the jobs that come with environmentally destructive forms of extraction such as clear-cutting, fracking, and mountaintop removal mining.  We have a right to engage public conversations that consider the long-term costs and benefits of alternative pathways to development. To insist that these conversations take place is nothing less than patriotic.

Citizens of Benham and Lynch, in Harlan County Kentucky, have stepped forward to hold their representatives accountable to beneficiaries, past, present, and future, of Eastern Kentucky’s world-class public trust of fragile, forested, mountain ecosystems. They have identified resources on which they are already building alternative pathways to development. These historical, cultural, and ecological resources with economic potential are likely to be greatly diminished in value by strip mining in proximity. We support the citizens’ demand for an honest and thorough look at alternatives to extreme extraction that nurture and sustain human communities throughout the Central Appalachian region. As it stands, this requirement, though set forth explicitly in Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), and the laws of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, has not been met.


Citizens of Benham and Lynch, partnering with the Kentucky Resources Council, have filed a Lands Unsuitable for Mining Petition.  If you would like to support their petition, you can write to:                                                                                                                                                                  Jeff Baird, Director, Division of Mine Permits                                                     300 Sower Boulevard, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601                                                                                The period for public comments is open until April 30, 2019.