Mountaintop Removal Activist Judy Bonds Dies

Opponents of mountaintop mining lost one of their most vocal and well-recognized voices when activist Julia "Judy" Bonds died of cancer on January 3. The Allegheny Front's Kara Holsopple has more on the West Virginia native's influence on anti-coal organizing in the region and on the national stage.

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INTRO: Opponents of mountaintop mining lost one of their most vocal and well-recognized voices when activist Julia "Judy" Bonds died of cancer on January 3.
The Allegheny Front's Kara Holsopple has more on the West Virginia native's influence on anti-coal organizing in the region and on the national stage.

HOLSOPPLE: Judy Bonds' activism was personal. †She she left her southern West Virginia home of Marfork Hollow, where her ancestors had lived for generations, because she was afraid she and her family would be killed by the dammed coal slush waste from a nearby coal field.

In a West Virginia Public Radio interview, Bonds explained how what she called her "hillbilly" background informed her activism:

BONDS: The celebration of life was everyday, the connection everyday to the community, and to the land. †And to the rivers and the streams. †And that's what we centered on.

HOLSOPPLE: Critics say mountaintop removal, where the tops of mountains are removed with explosives to expose the coal beneath, creates air and water pollution and potentially fatal health hazards for residents of the Appalachian mountains, where coal is the largest industry. As a coal miner's daughter, Bonds lent her credibility to the anti-mountain top removal movement, marching, organizing, lobbying, and speaking out, mostly against Massey Energy Company.

In 2003 Bonds received the international Goldman Environmental Prize, and donated more than a third of the $125,000 award to Coal River Mountain Watch, the non-profit where she was executive director.

In a tribute piece by the filmmakers of †the documentary "Coal Country," about grassroots coal organizing, Bonds said what she wanted most was to return to her home, a desire she was never able to realize. †

For the Allegheny Front, I'm Kara Holsopple.