Editorial: Shield state forest, residents from mining damage
It’s a shame that out-of-state and foreign coal corporations are blasting off mountaintops around Kanawha State Forest, almost in the shadow of the golden-domed State Capitol — and that signs warn hikers to stay off some forest trails, and for shooters to vacate the forest’s gun range. This is a sad intrusion on the nature gem at Charleston’s southern edge.
Some residents are challenging permits and plans for an expansion of the decapitation. Future hearings may affect the project.
For years, a mountaintop mine has marred the little-used eastern end of Kanawha State Forest, presenting an ugly view. Now encroachment will draw nigh to the main entrance near Loudendale. Forest-lovers are understandably upset. The prospect of blasting dust disturbs Loudendale families. Findings of worsened health near mountaintop sites are ominous. Luckily, monster coal trucks won’t go through Loudendale.
The new mine is operated by a Florida firm, which is selling it to a Korean firm. So far, the owners have been cooperative.
Instead of mining within 100 feet of the state forest, they agreed to pull back 588 feet. Instead of burying a stream with a mile-long valley fill, they agreed to dump chopped-off mountaintop on depleted old mine sites. They lopped 180 acres off their original decapitation design. They promise to dredge the forest’s small lake, and pay a $700,000 special royalty to the Division of Natural Resources to build a visitor center at the public recreation asset.
Still, we hope that more protections can be assured for the popular state forest. Perhaps dense evergreens can be planted in the 588-foot buffer zone, creating a year-round green shield to hide the moonscape from forest-users. Any other possible safeguards would be welcome.
The 9,300-acre Kanawha State Forest — created by CCC workers during the Great Depression — is a longtime precious asset to the state capital region. Thousands of hikers, campers, picnickers, mountain bikers, wildflower-watchers, swimmers, wildlife-lovers and other visitors use it yearly. Kanawha Trail Club has an adjoining cabin and conducts hikes on the forest’s maze of winding trails.
The quality of life in the Charleston region is enhanced by this jewel. Protecting it should be top priority.
Ironically, just as protests against the new mine flared, Gov. Tomblin issued a commentary praising the joys of relishing nature at West Virginia’s parks and forests.
We hope this spirit prods his administration to take all possible steps to keep Kanawha State Forest valuable.