Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking
Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away.”
â€” John Prine, “Paradise”
The U.S. Forest Service is considering a “land swap” that would give 384 acres of Shawnee National Forest land in Gallatin County, Southern Illinois, to a subsidiary of Peabody Energy so that it can be strip mined. I encourage you to learn the facts about this issue and join me in opposing the land swap.
American Land Holdings of Illinois, LLC, is offering to give approximately 831 acres of land spread out across 3 parcels to the Shawnee National Forest (SNF) in exchange for 384 acres of land currently held by the SNF. On paper, when you examine the U.S. Forest Service’s Proposed Action document, the land swap sounds like a pretty good deal. The SNF is gaining a significant amount of acreage, much of which is wooded and adjacent to existing SNF land. However, American Land Holdings of Illinois is a subsidiary of Peabody Energy, and their intention is to mine the land for coal. In essence, the purpose of this deal is to give Peabody free rein to strip mine on 384 acres of what is currently public land.
The proposed land swap is a terrible idea for several reasons:
- Peabody Energy has a long and sordid history of endangering workers, exploiting indigenous communities, polluting the air and water, and actively spreading misinformation about human-caused climate change. There’s a reason why John Prine wrote his famous song “Paradise” about the destructive business practices of Peabody! They’ve supposedly been making improvements to safety and taking efforts to decrease their environmental impact â€” but given their track record, they simply can’t be trusted. If we give them this land, it will be ruined, and surrounding land [and communities] will suffer the consequences.
- Land swaps should be done for the good of the forest and the public that makes use of it, not for the profit of a large private energy corporation. On paper, the Forest Service is making it look like this deal is being done for the sake of adding additional land to the SNF. The Peabody subsidiary has acquired some land that is potentially a quite valuable addition to existing wilderness areas and other natural areas, and they argue that this is the reason for the proposed action. In practice, though, the real reason for this swap is to let Peabody Energy get at some coal that is currently unavailable due to the fact that it’s on SNF land.
- The land that Peabody desires is adjacent to the Saline River. Even in the hands of a “responsible” corporation, strip mining next to a river creates additional impacts on adjacent land and the surrounding watershed. Yes, there are regulations in place to prevent such pollution, and yes, Peabody will hopefully be monitored and fined if they violate these regulations. But by then, the damage will be done
- Yes, Southern Illinois is in dire need of job opportunities, and mining this site has the potential to provide additional work for some people in Southern Illinois. But mining this site for coal would be a short-term solution for a small number of people, and it has long-term consequences for a large group of people. There are many other options that promote rather than detract from the health of local communities and global ecosystems, including but not limited to ecotourism [including the regional wine trail], renewable energy, energy efficiency, ecological farming and wildcrafting, ecological education, ecological research, and low-impact commercial activities such as outdoor recreation.
- Human-caused climate change is the most urgent ecological issue on the planet today. We are already observing the effects of climate change; our greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase; and the consequences of human-caused climate change are severe. Letting Peabody mine this coal on this land would be extremely irresponsible, turning a public resource into a private source of incredible public harm.
There are surely other reasons, too, but any one of the above reasons is enough to challenge this land swap. Together, they paint a clear picture: Peabody wants to mine the Shawnee National Forest, and it’s up to us to Stop the Swap!
One quick and easy way to speak out against this land swap and spread the word to your friend is by visiting the Credo action page about the Peabody land swap. When you sign the Credo petition, Credo will forward your comments to the Forest Service. You can also visit the U.S. Forest Service site for more information on how to comment on the ALHI-Shawnee NF Land Exchange Proposal. Even if you disagree with my perspective on this issue, I encourage you to contact them and submit your own comments. All of our voices deserve to be heard, and the more people who comment, the more seriously they will take this decision.
Reading about this proposal was a “triple whammy” for me. Number one, I’ve lived in Southern Illinois for over 15 years now, and the natural areas of this region are one of the major reasons why I call this land home. Number two, I’m very familiar with Peabody’s history of abuse toward the people and the land, and the thought of them expanding their operations here in Southern Illinois greatly concerns me. Number three, human-caused climate change is the single most important ecological issue facing the world today, and letting Peabody extract and sell large amounts of coal will only further accelerate the process.
I’ll be keeping an eye out for more news on this story as it develops. In the meantime, I encourage you to let the Forest Service know how you feel about this issue. Stop the Swap today!