Associated Press: Alexander: Restricting Plateau mining could aid tourism jobs

Posted on November 24, 2010

NASHVILLE — U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said today that protecting ridgelines from mining on the Northern Cumberland Plateau could lead to more jobs from tourism and recreation.

Alexander welcomed a decision by the U.S. Department of the Interior to review a petition from Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, who asked that the department deem “ridgelines on lands with public interest on the Northern Cumberland Plateau unsuitable for surface coal mining.”

Alexander, a Republican, met last week with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the Office of Surface Mining director to discuss Bredesen’s request. Salazar on Tuesday granted a comprehensive review that includes a study of the area.

Alexander said in a news release Wednesday that protecting the ridge tops will allow more opportunities for outdoor recreation and “attract job-creating tourist dollars.”

“I am pleased with Secretary Salazar’s prompt and favorable decision on Governor Bredesen’s petition,” Alexander said. “The goal here is to protect Upper Cumberland ridge tops in which Tennessee taxpayers already own an interest.”

Bredesen’s petition asks the department to prohibit surface mining within 600 feet on either side of the ridgelines in the designated state lands upstream from the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, which includes Anderson, Campbell, Morgan and Scott counties, according to Alexander’s release.

Salazar’s decision was also lauded by the environmental advocacy group Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, formerly Save Our Cumberland Mountains.

“SOCM commends Governor Bredesen for a well-crafted petition that not only has so far passed muster, but contributes toward a healthy future for people, business and the environment in Tennessee,” chairwoman Cathie Bird said in a news release. “This is an historical step that represents a turning point in coal production in Tennessee.”