March for the Ancients 1999:
A 120-mile walk from Dysart Woods to Columbus June 15-21
Reports from the front lines (much more to come by many walkers)

June 21 Statehouse speech by Chad Kister
Dina Rudick,

 I'd like to introduce to you a man named Chad Kister.  He's been involved in the battle to save Dysart Woods for quite some time.  He's going to give you the history of this struggle.

Chad Kister


 It has been quite a long struggle.

 I want everyone to try and picture what Ohio was once like 200 years ago.  When the first settlers first came across the Ohio River, Ohio was 95 percent covered with 400 and 500 year old trees, a giant a magnificent forest that spread all the way from one side of the state to the Other.  The great forest extended from the Atlantic to the Mississippi as we have heard about in elementary school, where a squirrel could travel all the way from the Atlantic to the Mississippi without setting fool on the ground.  Imagine.

 Imagine a forest where the vast heards of woodland buffalo cut 60 foot swaths through the forest yet the trees are so big and so old that the canopy never breaks.  Vast heards of elk, deer, wolf, black bear and huge flocks of Passenger Pigeon darkened the skies for hour upon hour on end.  Well, by 1959, more than 99 percent of that forest had been destroyed through logging and coal mining.  The Dysart family was about to sell of the last virgin forest of its type, Dysart Woods, to be logged, when John Kindner of St. Clairsville worked hard, raised the money and bought Dysart Woods with the Ohio chapter of the Nature Conservancy.  He had difficulty paying back the loan and Ohio University stepped in and purchased Dysart Woods in 1966.  OU signed a pledge to protect Dysart Woods in perpetuity.

 Everyone knew then as they do now that coal mining was the big threat to Dysart Woods.  The coal mining rights were sold shortly before the Nature Conservancy bought the forest.  In 1968, Dysart Woods was declared a National Natural Landmark.  On the heels of that, the first coal mining threat came in 1970.  That mining proposal was stopped.  In 1975 another coal mining threat came.  The watershed buffer zone, 4,170 acres, was drafted by Ohio University to protect Dysart Woods.  They deemed that it was necessary to protect this full watershed buffer zone if we are to protect Dysart Woods in perpetuity.  In 1984 another coal mining threat came and it was stopped.  In 1987 and 1988 longwall mining threatened Dysart Woods and people rallied behind Dysart Woods and 200 people came to public hearings.  The farmers united and got an attorney.  They fought off the coal mining threat.  Then, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources declared that the watershed buffer zone be protected from all types of mining in 1988.  You think it would have been saved.  I sure wish.

 Ohio Valley Coal Company acquired the mineral rights in a hostile takeover in 1989.  The most recent threat came in January of 1997.  We quickly mobilized.  Ohio University began to mobilize action.  Friends of Dysart Woods formed in Belmont County in 1997.  The first rally came on July 19 of 1997 when 80 people rallied for Dysart Woods.  Next we had a public hearing on August 4 where there was a 100 people and one hundred percent of those testifying spoke against mining under the watershed of Dysart Woods, against Permit 7.  Not a single person spoke in favor of permit 7.

 In November of 1997 more than 200 people braved freezing rain at the Ohio Division of Mines and Reclamations headquarters requesting that permit 7 be denied and that Dysart Woods be protected.  And yet, permit 7 has been past.  It has been appealed, but it has been past.  And that goes under the watershed buffer zone.

 Now we are dealing with permit 9, that would allow coal mining under Dysart Woods itself.  It is currently pending before the Ohio Division of Mines and Reclamations.  

 Meanwhile, a Lands Unsuitable Petition was filed to protect in perpetuity an area in and around Dysart Woods from mining forever, so we don't have to keep fighting off each one of these coal mining permits, it would be protected in perpetuity.

 Last year, 33 people walked from Athens to right hear at the Statehouse where we had a rally.  We have had more than 100 media and political events for Dysart Woods now.  There has been a petition with more than 7,000 signature that has been submitted to the Ohio Division of Mines and Reclamation requesting that the watershed buffer zone of Dysart Woods be protected from all types of mining.  And meanwhile, the Ohio Division of Mines and Reclamations in their Lands Unsuitable Petition decision allowed mining right under Dysart Woods.

 So on December 30 of last year, Dysart Defenders filed an appeal requesting that the Lands Unsuitable Petition be strengthened to block mining beneath the full watershed buffer zone and underneath Dysart Woods.  Within the last few weeks, we had an attorney John Sproat who has signed on probono to represent Dysart Defenders.

 Ohio Valley Coal Company illegally bulldozed 20 acres of land without the proper permits for a valley fill for the waste coal that they want to mine from under Dysart Woods.  They have been issued notices of violation by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Division of Mines and Reclamations.  Ohio Valley Coal Company has violated the law, and they should not be allowed to mine anywhere near Dysart Woods.  They have shown a callous disregard for Dysart Woods and the Environment and their proposed mining under Dysart Woods needs to be stopped.  The permit is currently pending.  It is up to us now.

 Walking 120 miles, we saw vast support.  Massive support.  We have another petition with more than a thousand signatures that we will submit soon to the Ohio Reclamation Commission.  And we have this petition here.  This cloth petition in addition to all the other petitions mentioned, filled with names as you can see.  All of these people.  We the people, demand the state of Ohio protect the last ancient forest Dysart Woods.  This is the people.  We've walked by the people and talked to the people.  And we have seen vast amounts of support at least 95 percent total support for protecting Dysart Woods.   It is up to us now.

 As Martin Luther King said, "There is power in numbers and there is power in unity.  As long as we keep moving like we are moving, the power structure will have to give in." We must keep moving as we have moved along the last 120 miles of the last week.  It has been hard.  It has been tough.  We have had blisters and sore legs.  But we have got to keep moving.  As Martin Luther Kin said, "Keep moving, keep climbing if you can't fly run.  If you can't run walk.  If you can't walk, crawl, but by all means keep moving."

 The passenger pigeon it died.  The last one was shot out.  The ones that covered the sky.  The last one died.  There is no more left.  Are we going to let Dysart Woods go the same way?