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Report: Royal Blue Success for TN May Be Undermined

October 15, 2007

Lafollette, TN – A story with a happy ending for Tennessee is about to get a sequel that many locals may not be so joyful about. A round of coal mining is being considered for the Royal Blue Management Area, which was rehabilitated after previous years of mining damage to become a top recreation destination. It is also home to one of the only herds of elk in the Eastern United States.

Myke Bybee, of the Sierra Club, says those mining plans have put the Royal Blue on the group's new list of 52 most endangered scenic areas across the country.

"It's small and tucked in there. The area provides incredible habitat for white-tailed deer and wild turkey, with access to hunting, fishing, and other kinds of outdoor recreation."

The Royal Blue also includes 600 miles of hiking, biking and off-road vehicle trails that Bybee says would be intersected by mining development. Those who support the mining plans say they will only affect 5,000 of the area's 53,000 acres, and that the coal is needed to meet energy needs. However, Bybee says the Royal Blue is seen as "off-limits" by the locals who spent time and money to repair previous mining damage.

"It's a special place, and it's threatened by coal mining, and efforts to go in there and industrialize that whole area."

The full Sierra Clubreport can be found online at www.sierraclub.org.

Deborah Smith/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - TN