Country Stars Come Out Against Mountaintop Removal

Nashville is "Music City", the home of country music -- but the heart and soul of this celebrated American musical genre lies a few hundred miles east in the Appalachian Mountains.  Yes indeed, Appalachia is where country music was born.  And more and more country stars are starting to wake up to the destruction facing the mountains that are the inspiration of their songs and the lifeblood of their livelihood.

I just returned from Nashville, where NRDC co-hosted an event with the Gibson Foundation (yes, those legendary guitars!) at the home of mega-manager Ken Levitan.  The purpose of this event was to raise awareness about mountaintop removal coal mining amongst the music industry and to recruit more artists to our campaign:

More than 100 people attended the event and heard NRDC's Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. tell how the Appalachians are being ravaged by the most destructive form of coal mining ever devised.  He explained how companies are blowing entire ridge tops to smithereens to get at the thin seams of coal below.  He spoke of the roughly 500 peaks leveled thus far, along with wide swaths of forests clearcut, miles of streams destroyed or polluted, and countless communities harmed by the hunger for this dirty fossil fuel.

With the future of America's oldest mountains at stake, NRDC called on country singers and musicians to come together with us and to say "enough is enough."  Who better to join the fight for these cherished mountains than country music stars?  These popular and influential messengers can use their platform to lend their voice, and help keep the 'country' in country music.

(Pictured left-right: Randy Travis, Dierks Bentley, Kid Rock, Big Kenny, James Otto, NRDC founder John Adams, Emmylou Harris, NRDC scientist Allen Hershkowitz, RFK Jr., Gloria Dumas, Ken Levitan, Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz and Gibson Guitar President Dave Berryman.)

Here's a great story about the event in The Tennessean.  We're talking about a star-studded lineup featuring: Emmylou Harris, Randy Travis, Ben Sollee, Big Kenny Alphin, Delbert McClinton, Dierks BentleyJames Otto, J.D. Souther, Matraca Berg, Jeff Hanna, Michelle Branch, Kid Rock, Patty Griffin, Michelle Branch, Rodney Crowell, and Glorianna.

NRDC is so grateful to Emmylou Harris, a long-time supporter of our organization, for helping us launch this campaign.  Other artists who joined early-on and have been crucial to building momentum include: Sheryl Crow, who unfortunately couldn't join us in Nashville this time; Kathy Mattea, who has been very visible and vocal against this reckless mining which has ravaged her native West Virginia; and Big Kenny Alphin, who visited the region with us last year to view the destruction and since then has become a tireless advocate against mountaintop removal.

As a result of this successful event, we expect to enlist many more stars to our Music Saves Mountains campaign, all of whom will be counted on to educate their fans and carry the message against mountaintop removal to people and policy-makers all over the country. 

This rogue mining may be devastating the Appalachian region but these mountains belong to all Americans -- and the damage inflicted there affects each and every one of us.  Mountaintop removal coal mining is a national shame -- a purple mountain tragedy -- and together with the country music industry we hope to generate broad public support that can spur the political will to finally put a stop to it. 

Many mountains, one voice: It is time to save the Appalachians from mountaintop removal coal mining.  Music Saves Mountains just may mark the swan song for this horrendous crime against not just nature but a crucial component of our American heritage.

The custom Gibson guitars created as a fundraising tool for this campaign feature an image of Coal River Mountain generously provided by NRDC's good friend and fabulous photographer, J Henry Fair.