CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A federal judge on Tuesday upheld a decision to remove Blair Mountain Battlefield, the scene of the largest armed confrontation in U.S. labor history, from the National Register of Historic Places.
The decision to remove Blair Mountain, initially made by the keeper of the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, was upheld Tuesday by a judge with U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
More than 90 years ago -- between Aug. 25 and Sept. 2, 1921 -- more than 10,000 union coal miners fought with armed coal company guards along the Blair Mountain Ridge near the Logan-Boone county border. It ended only after federal troops intervened.
The National Park Service added Blair Mountain to its National Register of Historic Places in March 2009. Nine months later, in December, the NPS reversed its decision after a dispute about who owns the properties on Blair Mountain.
Several labor and environmental organizations filed a lawsuit on Sept. 9, 2010, seeking to reverse the decision.
They included the Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Friends of Blair Mountain, West Virginia Labor History Association, National Trust for Historic Preservation in the United States and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.
"Restoring Blair Mountain to the National Register of Historic Places would help permanently protect this important landmark from being destroyed by the same coal industry that fought against worker's rights at its summit," said Regina Hendrix with the Sierra Club's West Virginia chapter.
The ruling, issued by U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, maintained that those groups have no legal standing because no coal companies have announced immediate plans to begin mining on Blair Mountain.
Hendrix said, "We believe the judge is wrong and there is a real and imminent threat of Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal or other companies destroying Blair Mountain.
"We will continue to watch out for, and defend, this historic site and the legacy of those who died standing up for the rights of hard working miners," she said.
Part of the legal dispute over whether to keep Blair Mountain on the National Register was whether a majority of local property owners supported the decision.
"If a majority of owners of properties within a historic district object to the property's inclusion on the National Register, 'such property shall not be included on the National Register ... until such objection is withdrawn,'" Walton wrote.