Chapter: Harlan County

In Harlan County and eastern Kentucky, we have a rich culture, natural beauty, valuable resources such as mountains, forests and water, and a history worth preserving. We are a chapter of KFTC because we believe that these assets and characteristics define who we are, and in preserving and protecting them we are defending a way of life and leaving what is most special about this place for future generations.

Harlan County residents helped create KFTC, and we are one of its earliest chapters. Our local chapter was built on the dedication and struggles of many who came before us, and since 1981 we’ve continued their efforts. Through the years, we have been involved in successful campaigns to save the upper elevations of Black Mountain (Kentucky’s highest peak) from strip mining and logging, help communities win water lines and a new bridge, and so much more.

Today we are working to build new power in the mountains to protect the water and a way of life threatened by destructive mining methods, while  supporting KFTC’s broader efforts to make coal mines safer for miners, fully fund schools and keep college affordable, bring clean energy jobs to this area and expand voting rights.

Recent Activities

Great resources and videos from Appalachia's Bright Future conference now online

The Appalachia’s Bright Future conference, held in Harlan, KY April 19-22, brought together more than 200 people for conversations about shaping a just transition in eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia.

Appalachia's Bright Future

KFTC is pleased to now make available a large number of videos, presentations, notes, media coverage about the event, suggested next steps, and other documents that were shared or created during the weekend.

The collected information can be found here.

We appreciate all of the speakers, workshop presenters, artists and conference participants who shared stories and provided important information and perspectives. Even a brief review of the conference web pages makes it clear that this was a pretty extraordinary gathering and conversation.

As KFTC chairperson Sue Tallichet said during her opening remarks, “…it is difficult to envision more than a coal-based economy in our region. But I believe we have the opportunity, today, to build a diverse and healthy economy here in the mountains. Eastern Kentucky has many assets. We have a rich culture, an abundance of natural resources, and innovative, serious-minded, hard working people. Those things give us a foundation on which we can build.”

Justin Maxson, president of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, underscored the point. “…if you take anything away from what I say here today, I hope it is this: We know a lot more than we think we know. We have many more assets to build from than we often believe. And despite our many challenges, including rapid changes to our local and regional economy, there are innovative people providing hopeful examples all around us. What we need now is to knit these pieces together with a vision for Appalachian renewal and help grow them to scale.”

KFTC members and many of our allies in the region are spending time this month reflecting on the conference and developing key next steps. We encourage all KFTC members to bring your ideas and questions to the next chapter meeting in your area. You may also leave comments and questions on the conference web pages. And conference participants are invited to join a phone call on May 30th to discuss ways forward.

Together we can build Appalachia’s Bright Future.

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Reflection on Appalachia's Bright Future conference

Meta Mendel - Reyes is a member of KFTC's Steering Committee and former organizer with the United Farmworkers Union. She teaches at Berea College and is a mentor to students and community members alike. She shared this reflection on the Appalachia's Bright Future conference, held April 19-21, 2013 in Harlan, Kentucky.

"In times of transition, process really matters." - Brendan Smith, ocean farmer

A spirited plenary session is a long way from a coal miner's pitch, but they are connected. The people at the conference believe, against heavy odds, that there is a bright future for Appalachia and for that coal miner putting his faith in a dying industry. The conference on Appalachia's Bright Future envisions a transition to an economy beyond coal that can lift up the region and create a brighter future for the coal miner and environmental activist alike.

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Appeals Court agrees: permit used to bury streams with mining wastes not valid

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit today invalidated the 2007 version of the nationwide permit used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to authorize the dumping of coal mining wastes into hundreds of miles of Appalachian headwater streams.

The Corps had justified the using the National Permit (NWP 21) based on the "irrational" claim that burying streams with toxic mining wastes had no significant environmental impact.

“I’m thrilled they overturned this decision; it’s a victory for people in eastern Kentucky," said KFTC member Rick Handshoe, a party in the case whose family land in Floyd County is surrounded by mining. "People who live in eastern Kentucky deal with both the immediate and long-term cumulative impacts of mining everyday. Even when the mining is stopped and the coal company is long gone, we deal with the poisoned water and devastated land for decades afterwards.”

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Appalachia's Bright Future opening session sets tone of challenge and hopefulness

Appalachia’s Bright Future conference got off to a hopeful and challenging start Friday night as participants explored lessons learned from efforts by communities in Wales to “regenerate” after a dramatic loss of coal mining jobs.

Though coal mining is still a part of Wales’ economy, much changed when tens of thousands of jobs were lost over a span of a few years in the 1980s, said Hywel and Mair Francis.

Recovery did not come quickly or easily – and is still very much in process – they explained. But it is happening because people in the region took the initiative, relied on the assets they had in local communities and found partners outside their valleys to support new projects.

Russell Oliver & Hywel Francis“We always felt our dreams should become a reality,” said Mair Francis, a founder of Dove Workshop, a community development program in Wales. But, she added, “it was something we had to fight for ourselves.”

She described Dove as a “a bottoms-up organization – we respond to the needs of the community.” Success has come because what they’re “doing relates to what the people want in the community – good child care, good transport, good jobs.” She also noted that "what made the local struggles so different was the role of women. They did not simply support; they led."

A variety of projects have helped diversify local economies, explained Hywel, ranging from mountain biking trails to a wind farm to reclamation of toxic slag piles left by the mining and other projects to draw wealth to their region.

The history of Welsh coal mining communities is well-documented by Appalachian scholars Dr. Helen Lewis and Pat Beaver and filmmaker Tom Hansell, who also were on the opening night panel. In 1975, Lewis and others started visiting Wales. And in 1979, with Beaver's involvement, they began an exchange of Welsh and Appalachian coal miners.

Lewis said she was drawn by a similar history of industrialization based on the extraction of minerals, and experience of colonialism. She wondered, concerning both Wales and Appalachia, “How could an area that created the greatest wealth be the poorest part of the state?”

The panel’s presentation After Coal: Wales and Appalachian Mining Communities helped participants be challenged by the question, as stated by Hansell: “How do you create an economy that works for the majority of people” where there will no longer be a single major employer, a single major driver of the economy?

's Bright Future 922In her opening comments, conference co-emcee Elizabeth Sanders of Letcher County gave some guidance and set the tone for the rest of the weekend. “We know we have to work together to build it. And we all have something to bring to the table,” she said. “We come up with what’s going to work by bringing these ideas together … and creating a shared vision. That’s why I’m excited about this weekend.”

Appalachia's Bright Future continues on Saturday and Sunday at the Harlan Center.

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Carl Shoupe on Appalachia's Bright Future

KFTC member Carl Shoupe discusses our children's future and creating good jobs and healthy communities in eastern Kentucky and Appalachia.

You can join Carl at Appalachia's Bright Future, April 19-21 in Harlan, Kentucky.

For more information and to register for the conference, please visit kftc.org/abf 

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Chapter Feature:

DSC_0931"Many of us are working to create a better future for our children and grandchildren - and we've got lots of possibilities and real ideas about how to do that. We've got a bright future if we want it."

- Carl Shoupe, Benham, KY

 

Visions from Black Mountain coverVisions from Black Mountain

Residents of Benham, Lynch and Cumberland share their visions for the unique Tri-Cities area.

Regular Meetings:

We meet every other even month on the second Thursday at 6 p.m. We move our meeting locations around the county. Check the calendar!

Chapter Organizer:

Sara Estep
Whitesburg, KY 41858
606-632-0051