Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Four groups file suit to block forest land swap

By Roger Alford
The Associated Press

PIKEVILLE, Ky. - Environmentalists will ask a judge to stop the U.S. Forest Service from trading a section of the Daniel Boone National Forest to a coal company for mining.

Kentucky Heartwood and three other environmental groups filed suit Friday in U.S. District Court in Pikeville, saying if the swap is permitted, the coal company will decapitate an eastern Kentucky mountain to remove the coal.

"We're going to court because we believe that the Forest Service shouldn't be in the business of handing over public lands to coal companies so that this destruction can continue," said Perrin de Jong, spokesman for Kentucky Heartwood, a Lexington-based group that works to protect federal forests in the state.

The land swap, approved by the Forest Service in December, would give Leslie Resources 91 acres of land in Leslie and Perry counties in exchange for a 98-acre tract in Owsley County.

Leslie Resources has acknowledged it plans to mine the property about a mile upstream from Buckhorn Lake. That lake made headlines last year when it became clogged with tons of garbage that floated in from illegal dumps during spring floods. .

Also joining the suit were Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, the Western Land Exchange Project in Washington state, and the Resource Stewardship Council in Indiana.

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