On October 1, 2010, the state of Tennessee filed a Lands Unsuitable for Mining petition (LUMP) with the U.S. Department of Interior, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE). If upheld, the petition would be the first in the state since a LUM petition was passed to protect the Fall Creek Falls State Park and surrounding watersheds in 2000.
The Cumberland Area LUMP, signed by Governor Phil Bredesen, requests the Office of Surface Mining find ridgelines on the Northern Cumberland Plateau unsuitable for surface coal mining. Much of the property covered by the petition is part of Tennessee’s landmark 2007 “Connecting the Cumberlands” conservation initiative and is located in Anderson, Campbell, Morgan and Scott counties.
The areas covered by the petition include the Royal Blue, Sundquist and New River – also known as the Brimstone Tract Conservation Easement – units that comprise the North Cumberland Wildlife Management area. The petition area also includes the Emory River Tract Conservation Easement, which is managed by Frozen Head State Park for public use. A portion of the Cumberland Trail also traverses the property.
If approved by the Secretary of the Interior, the petition would prevent surface mining of coal for 600 feet on each side of the ridgelines in the designated area, creating a 1,200-foot ridgetop corridor encompassing approximately 67,000 acres. This area contains most of the older growth forest that exist in the area as well as a diverse array of habitats and wildlife, some of which are considered rare or threatened. The ridgelines covered in the petition include about 40 percent of the total North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area and Emory River Conservation Easement Tract.
SOCM Members Take Action
SOCM members took action by attending three public hearing meetings scheduled by OSMRE in March 2011. Several local residents told stories about murky water, land blasts and corruption of land. These stories of direct impact are clearly an integral part of the agency’s consideration process.
Providing public comment is one of the most important opportunities Tennesseans have to state their case for this important LUMP. To provide a user-friendly response option, SOCM created an online petition webpage. The site generated more than 300 comments in support of the LUMP that were presented to OSMRE in 2011.
SOCM has a long history of working to prevent destructive mining practices that harm Tennessee land and people. SOCM members won the first lands unsuitable for mining (LUM) designation in the Rock Creek Gorge area and its watersheds in 1987, making it the first LUM designation won east of the Mississippi River and the first in Tennessee. Most recently, members won a LUM to protect the Fall Creek Falls State Park and its watersheds in 2000. SOCM members will continue to support efforts to protect Tennessee land and preserve the natural beauty of the state.