To Save the Land and People

A History of Opposition to Surface Coal Mining in Appalachia

By Chad Montrie

264 pp., 6 x 9, 6 illus., 5 maps, 1 table, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5435-8
    Published: March 2003
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6263-6
    Published: November 2003
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7812-0
    Published: November 2003

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Surface coal mining has had a dramatic impact on the Appalachian economy and ecology since World War II, exacerbating the region's chronic unemployment and destroying much of its natural environment. Here, Chad Montrie examines the twentieth-century movement to outlaw surface mining in Appalachia, tracing popular opposition to the industry from its inception through the growth of a militant movement that engaged in acts of civil disobedience and industrial sabotage. Both comprehensive and comparative, To Save the Land and People chronicles the story of surface mining opposition in the whole region, from Pennsylvania to Alabama.

Though many accounts of environmental activism focus on middle-class suburbanites and emphasize national events, the campaign to abolish strip mining was primarily a movement of farmers and working people, originating at the local and state levels. Its history underscores the significant role of common people and grassroots efforts in the American environmental movement. This book also contributes to a long-running debate about American values by revealing how veneration for small, private properties has shaped the political consciousness of strip mining opponents.

About the Author

Chad Montrie is assistant professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.
For more information about Chad Montrie, visit the Author Page.


"A valuable contribution to the history of the region . . . raises interesting questions about what happened, about the role of the local, state, and national environmental groups, and about the effects of class differences among membership in these groups."--Journal of Appalachian Studies

"Montrie's study not only provides us with an excellent understanding of the history of America's strip-mining debate but offers guidance for dealing with it in the future."--Journal of American History

"An admirable study of real importance to historians of the environment and Appalachia."--Journal of Southern History

"Montrie's study of the resistance by the farmers and people directly affected by surface strip mining is an important study for environmental activism. Using a wealth of sources such as manuscript collections, oral histories, government documents, and other primary sources, he provides a thorough examination of the efforts to control surface coal mining in Appalachia by a coalition of forces."--Enterprise & Society

"Montrie's book will no doubt find a welcome spot on the shelf of many an Appalachian scholar. Anyone with broad interests in twentieth-century American environmentalism, mining history, and environmental justice also will find it a compelling read. Meticulously researched and highly readable, To Save the Land and People tells a story that needs to be heard."--Environmental History

"[Montrie] has produced a first-rate history of the campaign to abolish strip mining. . . . Well written and carefully researched, the book captures the ebb and flow of reform coalition building, and is a welcome addition to the growing literature on business and the environment."--Business History