However, in the speedy pursuit of what might be gained by an unimpeded pursuit of profit — monetary or otherwise — we all-too-often overlook what may be destroyed in the process. The destruction of Belview would have also been the destruction of the irreplaceable views from the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) in the Roan Highlands. It would have been the destruction of the silence and solitude of the mountains that millions actively pursue each year, instead replaced with the constant churning of rock, the rumble of heavy-duty excavation equipment, and the deafening explosions of dynamite. It would have been the destruction of a way of life for “mountain people” like Ollie Cox, Ashley Cook, and so many others whose heritage rested on the rounded summits and time-worn valleys of the Southern Appalachians.
Perhaps worst of all, it would have contributed to the destruction of the idea that, no matter what the economical benefit may be, some places deserve to be preserved and protected from the ever-growing societal pressure to be valued only in terms of dollars.
The mountain people of Avery County, outdoor enthusiasts, and A.T. lovers across the country knew exactly what was at stake: not just a pristine view of undisturbed Appalachian mountainsides for close to 100 miles, but also the sense that any place previously thought as untouchable, as heritage — as home — could still be taken from them by the highest bidder.
“In legal terms, Paul Brown’s crusher might as well have been going in next to Yellowstone, or Yosemite,” Leutze said in regards to the proximity of the Putnam Gravel Mine to the A.T., the fact that ultimately led to the protection of Belview Mountain and its surrounding lands. However, it took years of legal work, bureaucratic maneuvering, and, most importantly, constant pressure from tens of thousands of individuals to ensure that these lands were protected.
This has become the norm in conservation issues as more and more dollars are funneled toward lessening the protection of lands and the experiences that define them in favor of development projects.