KY Arrow Darter Faces Potential Extinction-3 Days Left To Help

Consider the Arrow Darter

by Tom Sexton
Cumberland Chapter, Sierra Club

Prior to a few weeks ago, I had never heard of the Arrow Darter; however, over the past few weeks, I believe I’ve learned the reason for my lack of Arrow Darter awareness: its numbers are quickly dwindling.

Kentucky Arrow Darter

Kentucky Arrow Darter
Courtesy of Center for Biological Diversity

The colorful little fish matures to around four-to-five inches, and is native only to a small swath of the Appalachians, where it is found exclusively in the drainages of the Upper Cumberland, and Upper Kentucky rivers of Kentucky and part of Tennessee.

The great Kentucky writer, Fenton Johnson, once wisely observed, that, “the prejudice of the fortunate against the ill-favored is among the oldest in the race,” and while Mr. Johnson was referring to the ways in which the haves wield an inordinate amount of influence over the lives of the have-nots, and often times abuse that power, it’s also applicable to the powerless little Arrow Darter’s plight in the face of Big Coal, and their profit-driven ways.

This diminutive little beauty, who once had a home in more than 70 streams but unfortunately today dwells in just over 30, now faces the very real possibility of extinction, if no rule is passed, prohibiting extractive practices near their habitats.

Now, many no doubt will probably say “Hey—this is just a fish, why should we care that much?” But like biologist Tiarra Curry of the Center for Biological Diversity said when it was announced that the Arrow Darter could potentially be listed as a threatened species: “all plants and animals play an important role in the environment, and we don’t necessarily know what that role is. But they’re all there for some reason, and we have a responsibility to protect them.”

The comment period leading up to the decision on whether to list the Arrow Darter as threatened under the Endangered Species Act will be active until December 7.

Let’s all make a final push this last week to get comments in, and help the Arrow Darters keep what little habitat they have left. You can submit your comment for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service directly through Sierra Club here.

For more information, feel free to contact Tom Sexton, our East Kentucky Organizer by phone at (606) 548-1113, or by email at:

Posted in Coal, Endangered Species, Health, InTheNews, Mining, Mountain Top Removal, Water, Wildlands | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Important Hearing on Stream Protection Rules in Lexington this Thursday – 9/3

We Need Stronger Stream Protection Rules Now!

Short Creek, located in Pulaski County, KY - photo by Chuck Summers

Short Creek, Pulaski County, KY
Photo by Chuck Summers

by Tom Sexton
Cumberland Chapter, Sierra Club

Over the next few weeks, the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement (OSMRE) will be holding hearings in six cities—Big Stone Gap, VA; Charleston, WV; Denver, CO; Lexington, KY; St. Louis, MO; and Pittsburgh, PA—in an effort to solicit public input concerning their recently released updates to the Stream Protection Rule (SPR).

While the new rule does have some redeeming qualities (we were, for example, pleased to find out that there will be baseline requirements for data monitoring in addition to the new rule’s addressing of conductivity and selenium as markers of water quality) there is still serious work to be done to get it right.

So, in order to better protect the environment, as well as the health of the people of Appalachia and other affected regions, we’ve crafted a four-part message we’d like to send to the OSMRE at the September 3rd hearing in Lexington:


  • Now is the time to fully protect America’s waterways from destructive mining practices. To date, more than a thousand miles of Appalachian rivers and streams have been destroyed. We can and must do better.
  • Citizens from across the country should have the right to take mining companies to the courts when their local waterways are in danger from destructive mining practices.
  • The laws protecting our communities and natural spaces from mining pollution should be clear, enforceable and put the burden for cleaning up a mine’s mess on the company that owns it.
  • Our clean water protections should protect all American waterways equally from the dangers of mine pollution and destructive mining practices. From the smallest ephemeral stream to the widest river, each has a critical role to play in sustaining our ecological biodiversity.


  • Citizen enforcement of federal pollution protections is the strongest way to ensure that our waterways are protected.
  • The best protection our rivers lakes and streams can get is when we test pollution at its source, directly near an outfall or valley fill. The strongest data we can gather will lead to the strongest protections for communities and ecosystems harmed by mining pollution.
  • The science is clear, stream restoration is the only proven way to ensure that harmed waterways return to their natural state.


  • The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) must make sure that these water quality standards are enforceable under the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) so citizens can engage in meaningful legal action to ensure the protections are met, and when they are not, mining companies are held accountable.
  • The Office of Surface mining must require pollution monitoring directly at valley fills, mining outfalls and other locations directly connected to mining operations.
  • OSM must ensure stronger protections are possibly by adjusting its definition of “material damage” so that it falls in line with the Clean Water Act, in order to ensure the strongest shield against mining damage and pollution.
  • OSM must ensure that streams are properly restored and not let mining companies continue the entirely ineffective process of building completely new “streams” instead.


  • Strong Stream Protections Rules will go a long way to begin repairing the damage done by mining companies through long-wall, mountaintop removal and other highly destructive forms of this practice.
  • Our rivers and streams form part of our national heritage, contributing to local economies and forming the foundation of many communities. Protecting them fully isn’t only good ecology, it’s good policy.
  • Citizens should always have a voice in protecting their local waterways. A strong Stream Protection Rule will ensure that concerned folks will have the ability to hold polluters accountable for years to come.

If you, or somebody you know is interested in letting their voice be heard for the protection of our streams, please join us next Thursday, September 3, in Lexington for the second of six SPR hearings.  If you can attend – let us know – RSVP here!

For more information, feel free to contact Tom Sexton, our East Kentucky Organizer by phone at (606) 548-1113, or by email at:

Hope to see you out on 9/3!

Posted in Health, InTheNews, Legislation, Mining, Water, Wildlands | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Whitesburg, KY second Municipality in nation to pass resolution of support for POWER+

City of Whitesburg, Overlook from Town Hill Trail (c) Mark W Kidd

City of Whitesburg, Overlook from Town Hill Trail
Photo by: Mark W Kidd

by Tom Sexton
Cumberland Chapter, Sierra Club

This week, the City of Whitesburg became the first municipality in the state of Kentucky, and the second in the nation to pass a resolution of support for the White House’s POWER Plus Plan (POWER+).

The plan, which is part of the new proposed federal budget calls for more than a billion dollars of the existing $2.5 billion dollar Abandoned Mine Land fund (AML fund) to be disbursed in the coal-producing regions of Appalachia over the next five years in installments of over $200 million a year.

Following the vote, which passed unopposed, Whitesburg Mayor James Craft praised the plan as “a necessary step forward in getting people in our community back to work, especially those affected by the decline of the coal industry.

Mayor Craft’s sentiment was echoed by Eric Dixon of Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, who, along with Kendall Bilbrey formerly of the Alliance for Appalachia and currently of STAY-project, recently co-authored an exhaustive policy analysis of the Abandoned Mine Land Program (a summary of which can be found here):

It’s great to see how enthusiastic the Whitesburg City Council was for this initiative. We believe it would immediately create jobs for laid off miners reclaiming abandoned mines and would provide communities with the funds to create sustainable job opportunities in recreation, agriculture, and renewable energy to name just a few possibilities.

Former Whitesburg City Councilman and Sierra Club Organizer, Tom Sexton, who collaborated with allies from Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Appalshop, Appalachian Voices and Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center in bringing the resolution before the council hopes that its passage will help put the necessary pressure on Rep. Hal Rogers, and Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to vote in favor of the plan.

“I believe the message that Whitesburg and, hopefully soon, other Eastern Kentucky communities will be sending in – publicly supporting POWER Plus – will put Rogers, Paul, and McConnell to a decision when it comes time to vote: does their loyalty lie with real coal miners and their communities, or just the industry?

Posted in Climate Change, Coal, Energy, InTheNews, Land Stewardship, Mining, Mountain Top Removal, Renewable Energy, Surface Mining | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Encyclical Letter LAUDATO SI’ – Pope Francis Addresses Climate Change

Pope Francis 2015

Pope Francis
“Now, faced as we are
with global environmental deterioration,
I wish to address
every person living on this planet.”

This past Thursday, Pope Francis appealed to “every person living on this planet” to come together to tackle climate change.

Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others,” he said.

Climate change is one of the defining moral and ethical issues of our time. The poor, and those living in developing countries, are the most at risk for increased flooding, food insecurity, and climate conflict.

In December, world leaders will meet in Paris at the U.N. Climate Summit, tasked with reaching an agreement to cut global carbon emissions. Help us build grassroots momentum for climate action at this Summit:
Sign the petition, calling on world leaders to reach a meaningful climate agreement in Paris.

At the end of the 82-page encyclical letter, LAUDATO SI’, meaning “Praise Be,” Pope Francis offered 2 prayers: “A prayer for our earth,” and “A Christian prayer in union with creation,” explaining: 

“The first, we can share with all who believe in a God who is the all-powerful Creator, while in the other we Christians ask for inspiration to take up the commitment to creation set before us by the Gospel of Jesus.”

A prayer for our earth
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.
A Christian prayer in union with creation
Father, we praise you with all your creatures.
They came forth from your all-powerful hand;
they are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love.
Praise be to you!

Son of God, Jesus,
through you all things were made.
You were formed in the womb of Mary our Mother,
you became part of this earth,
and you gazed upon this world with human eyes.
Today you are alive in every creature
in your risen glory.
Praise be to you!

Holy Spirit, by your light
you guide this world towards the Father’s love
and accompany creation as it groans in travail.
You also dwell in our hearts
and you inspire us to do what is good.
Praise be to you!

Triune Lord, wondrous community of infinite love,
teach us to contemplate you
in the beauty of the universe,
for all things speak of you.
Awaken our praise and thankfulness
for every being that you have made.
Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined
to everything that is.

God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you!

Posted in Climate Change, Energy, InTheNews | Tagged , | Leave a comment