The Athens Messenger, Sun, Oct 05, 2003 10:11 PM 

Environmental groups to appeal Dysart go-ahead

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by Jen Strawn 

The Ohio Division of Mineral Resourceís decision to permit an Alledonia-based company to mine beneath a forest in eastern Ohio does not surprise area environmental groups.

Despite the permitís limitations, both Dysart Defenders and Buckeye Forestry Council two Athens-based groups ó will appeal the permit that was issued Friday.

Dysart Defenders will appeal it and it is very imperative that Ohio University also appeals, said Chad Kister, coordinator for Dysart Defenders.

The university, which owns the old-growth forest in Belmont County, has yet to decide whether it will appeal, said John Burns, OU director of legal affairs. A team of experts will look over the permit carefully before reaching a decision on whether OU will appeal. The decision will be made within 30 days, which is the deadline for filing an appeal.

Dysart Defenders will also seek an injunction in an effort to halt mining while the organization appeals the permit, Kister said. If OU chooses to appeal, the injunction might be easier to receive, he said.

The permit allows Ohio Valley Coal, which owns the mineral rights, to mine beneath portions of Dysart Woods.

According to an Associated Press article, the oldest portions of the forest are mostly off-limits. Only 14 acres of the designated old-growth area will be touched. Those acres will be used for connective corridors that bring fresh air to miners and allow movement between different areas of the mine.

Mining techniques, such as long-wall mining, that could disrupt the forest and cause subsidence also are prohibited by the permit, according to the AP article.

Subsidence is an earthquake-like effect that causes the ground to settle, causing damage above, Kister said. Another concern environmentalists have is the potential damage to the forestís water supply.

Although Buckeye Forest Council could not discuss any specifics on how the mining might harm the forest, Susan Heitker, executive coordinator, said the council is appealing mainly because it fears the trees might not be able to recover from any damage the forest sustains due to the mining beneath the surface. 

Dysart Woods is one of Ohioís last remaining old-growth forests, and itís the stateís responsibility to ensure that it is protected,Ē she said.