Julia Bonds, 58, mountaintop mining opponent

By Tim Huber
Associated Press / January 7, 2011

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia environmental activist Julia “Judy’’ Bonds, 58, who garnered national attention for her homespun opposition to mountaintop removal coal mining, has died, the environmental group Coal River Mountain Watch said Tuesday.

Mrs. Bonds died Monday evening at a hospital, Coal River Mountain Watch codirector Vernon Haltom said. Mrs. Bond, the group’s director, had cancer.

A descendant of generations of West Virginia coal miners, Mrs. Bonds became known as a passionate and fearless opponent of mountaintop removal mining that she blamed for devastating the environment and the lives of coalfield residents.

In 2003, Mrs. Bonds won the $150,000 Goldman Environmental Prize for her activism.

“The thing about Judy, she never backed down from anything,’’ Haltom said, recalling a story about Mrs. Bonds chasing away a bear while armed only with her grandson’s track shoe. “That’s the kind of courage she had and the kind of courage that she needed to stand up to great odds with only her courage and conviction to back her up.’’

After winning the national Goldman prize, Mrs. Bonds said her activism arose from the day her grandson stood in the stream her family had enjoyed for six generations with his little fists full of dead fish — and dead fish floating all around.

She said: “ ‘What’s wrong with these fish?’ he asked. That day I knew that if I didn’t do something, that would be the future of our children.’’