Alexander Asks U.S. Interior Secretary Salazar to Begin Review of Bredesen Request to Save Northern Cumberland Plateau Ridgelines

Posted on November 19, 2010

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) yesterday met in his office with U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Office of Surface Mining Director Joseph Pizarchik to ask that the U.S. Department of the Interior move to the official review of Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen’s petition regarding the Northern Cumberland Plateau. The Governor requested that the Department deem “ridgelines on lands with public interest on the Northern Cumberland Plateau unsuitable for coal surface mining” in order to protect and preserve the ridgelines’ “important cultural, recreational and scientific resources,” such as hunting, hiking, wildlife viewing, and other outdoor recreational activities – all of which the petition says mining would disturb. 

Senator Alexander told Secretary Salazar: “The Great Smoky Mountains and other conservation areas and national parks in Tennessee have not only preserved pristine parts of the Great American Outdoors, but they bring millions of people to visit them every year and hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs to the state. The governor’s request is not only a good way to save our mountaintops and preserve these areas for the future but is also a good way to create new jobs in an area of our state that urgently needs them.”

The governor’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 (Anderson, Campbell, Morgan and Scott counties), protecting 67,000 acres along a 1,200-foot corridor of Upper Cumberland-area ridge tops.

Alexander asked Secretary Salazar to deem Governor Bredesen’s request as “administratively complete,” which means that the Department of Interior would then be able to begin a comprehensive review that would include a study of the area involved, consultation with all landowners in the area, environmental impact statements, and ultimately a decision on the merits of the actual request to prohibit surface mining on a portion of the ridge tops.

On October 27, Senator Alexander sent the following letter to Secretary Salazar in support of Governor Bredesen’s petition:


The Honorable Ken Salazar


U.S. Department of Interior

1849 C Street, N.W.

Washington D.C. 20240


Dear Secretary Salazar,

I am writing to support Governor Bredesen and the State of Tennessee’s Lands Unsuitable for Mining petition filed on October 1, 2010 with the U.S. Department of Interior, Office of Surface Mining.  This petition requests that the Office of Surface Mining determine ridgelines on lands with public interest on the Northern Cumberland Plateau unsuitable for coal surface mining.

Millions of visitors spend tens of millions of dollars in Tennessee every year to enjoy the natural beauty of our mountains – a beauty that Tennesseans treasure and makes us proud to live here.  If approved, this petition will protect a 1,200 foot ridge-top corridor encompassing approximately 67,000 acres thereby ensuring that the beauty of our mountains and our streams will continue to be protected for Tennesseans and our visitors.  This area is also home to diverse habitats and wildlife, some of which are considered rare or threatened. 

Destroying ridgelines in the Cumberland Mountains without considering the long-term environmental and economic implications threatens our mountain heritage.  I support this petition, and I ask that the Department of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining make the correct determination so that this petition may advance in the process of protecting these lands in Tennessee.




Lamar Alexander

United States Senator


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