America's Most Endangered Mountains - Wise County, VA| 3mins
Director: Appalachian Voices | Producer: Appalachian Voices
Focus Years: 2009 | Country: United States
Wise County, Virginia was officially formed in 1856 from parts of Virginia's Lee, Russell, and Scott counties. Nestled on the Kentucky border, its one of the most beautiful counties in the Appalachian coalfields, but unfortunately is also one of hardest hit by surface coal mining. In fact, between 1950 and the present, 25 percent of Wise County's land area was devastated by mountaintop removal and other surface coal mines. Despite the large scale extraction of natural resources (both coal and timber), county residents still have many things to be proud of. Wise County boasts some of the most beautiful mountaintop vistas in Appalachia. It's home to Jefferson National Forest, which protects High Knob and Little Stoney Creek Falls. The Clinch River, Guest River, Powell River, and Russell Fork are home to rare and endangered fresh water mussels, and offer miles of free-flowing canoeing for all skill levels. The Clinch is home to more varieties of fish than any river in Virginia. Wise County also has a lively art community, with regular performances of the Trail of the Lonesome Pine Drama and shows at the Charles Harris Art Gallery. Art and river festivals attract people throughout the summer to celebrate the county's rich history and landscape. But even with so many assets, Wise County is suffering from a lack of economic diversity and the effects of mountaintop removal. Unlike the surrounding counties that don't have coal, Wise is loosing population, and has a 22 percent poverty rate. What's worse, suicide rates in Wise are DOUBLE the state average. "We have so much to share with the people who might visit us. If we could only stop blasting away our mountains and dumping them into valleys and streambeds. Mountaintop removal is destroying the land, the people, and our cultural heritage. We could make it if only our elected leaders shared our vision - one that doesn't concentrate on destruction, but instead on construction," said Kathy Selvage, a resident of Wise County, VA. To support Kathy and her community, contact Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards at (276) 565-1083 or www.samsva.org. SAMS is committed to stopping the destruction of communities by surface coal mining and to help rebuild sustainable communities.