“People that grow up in places like this, seeing their environment destroyed, it stirs them, it causes people to want to get involved, and that’s why I’m here.”
Mason Adams, May 25, 2020
“Life in these mountains ain’t always been easy, so people around here take a stand when they see something they don’t agree with—and I’m one of them,” says walrus-mustached Jammie Hale in his thick southwestern Virginia mountain accent. “People that grow up in places like this, seeing their environment destroyed, it stirs them, it causes people to want to get involved, and that’s why I’m here.”
In a documentary-style video produced by Unicorn Riot, a left-wing media collective, in 2018, Hale explains his decision to join a protest movement taking on the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), a 303-mile long, nearly 42-inch-wide pipeline intended to move natural gas from the fracking fields of northern West Virginia to a terminal in southern Virginia that connects to markets and export terminals on the East Coast. Settled in among the hardwood trees on Peters Mountain, near where another (pseudonymous) activist known as Nutty has been occupying an aerial platform, he talks of his family’s 150-plus years in Giles County, Virginia, and how that history motivates him to do all he can to prevent the pipeline from crossing the Appalachian Trail.
Now in 2020, the Peters Mountain blockade no longer exists, and although many tree sits have fizzled out, a group of up to a dozen activists have been camped in a steep hollow along Yellow Finch Lane near Elliston, Virginia, for nearly a year and a half. (Hale lives nearby and visits the encampment several times each week.) It is at least partly to their credit that the Mountain Valley Pipeline remains unfinished. Its production cost has risen from a projected $3.5 billion to $5.5 billion, and the pipeline is two years behind its original timeline due to a series of regulations and litigation preventing it from crossing the Appalachian Trail and multiple rivers and waterways.