Stand Up That Mountain

June 13, 2012

ImageTwo years after Jay Leutze earned his law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1990, he made a decision. Rather than pursue a hectic career in the city, Leutze packed his bags and moved into his family’s summer cabin in Western North Carolina’s remote Appalachians.

Leutze spent eight years hiking, fishing and writing. His life of quiet deliberation came to an end when he got a call from a 14-year-old neighbor, Ashley Cook, and her aunt Ollie. A mining company had set up shop behind their house and was planning to “tear down the mountain.” Leutze was the only lawyer around. Was the mining operation legal? Could it be stopped? Would Leutze help?

That phone call launched a fierce legal battle over the fate of Belview Mountain that would last almost five years, rally a small army of activists and climb to the state’s highest court. In the end, Leutze and a grassroots coalition of conservation organizations would set groundbreaking legal precedent concerning revocation of mining permits.

“Stand Up That Mountain” is the story of that struggle, and it isn’t just a good book in a progressive, environmental, eat-your-vegetables kind of way. It’s a good book, period. Leutze’s style of literary reportage is in the tradition of narrative nonfiction like Jonathan Harr’s “A Civil Action,” all the way back to Truman Capote’s classic “In Cold Blood.”

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