MVP Protesters: Day 900 & One

Feb 22, 2021

It’s day 901 of the Mountain Valley gas pipeline protest. Tree sitters have been perched above its path and authorities are making plans to remove them. There are now just two remaining tree sitters, who say they will continue to refuse to come down from the treetops.

Sunday marked 900 days of protesters living in trees above a section of the Mountain Valley Gas Pipeline near Elliston. Officials have made it known they will try to extract them, perhaps in coming weeks.  The protesters say they’ll have to physically remove them from the ‘tree sits.’ One protester goes by the trail name Acre.

“When the tree sits first, got put here, no one thought that they were going to last this long. And so, there was maybe a question of like, well, okay, does it make sense to go up a tree? If it only lasts a week? What if it lasts two weeks? Like how long is the value was before it makes sense to come down? Right? But every day that the pipeline isn't built is another day that this stand of woods gets to be here.”

Acre is charging his phone with a solar panel for our phone call. These past few weeks have been some of the coldest in a long time, but Acre says plenty of other protesters against fossil fuel have done the same for what they believe in, and he’s down for what’s to come; philosophical about the whole experience of being up there for more than two years.

“Honestly, up here in the tree canopy, there's sort of its own ecosystem and its own world. And it's really beautiful watching the weather unfold, watching things thaw and freeze over again. The wrens and the flying squirrels come and visit our tree sits.”

Exactly the kind of environment, the protestors are desperately trying to protect.

“When the tree sits first, got put here, no one thought that they were going to last this long. And so, there was maybe a question of like, well, okay, does it make sense to go up a tree? If it only lasts a week? What if it lasts two weeks? Like how long is the value was before it makes sense to come down? Right? But every day that the pipeline isn't built is another day that this stand of woods gets to be here.”

Acre says they never thought they’d be living in the threes for nine hundred and one days and counting.

“And in a lot of ways it is a conflict, right? So, in a way, I'm kind of excited for closure, if that makes any sense. There will be more fights. There will always be more fights to keep this pipeline from happening, but, extraction and the ‘showdown,’ so to speak, is sort of an inevitability and sort of something that we understood going into this."

Alan Graf is President of the southwestern Virginia Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. His group sends observers to the pipeline site to document what happens there.

“When are we going to get the message that we can't just wait in a 10, 20 years, we're still putting in pipelines that are destroying the habitats of species that are ruining the streams in Virginia, and eventually going to carry fossil fuels, which are going to continue to warm the earth. The young people get it, the ones who are putting their lives on the line get it.”

In the five years since planning began for the 3-hundred-mile natural gas pipeline to traverse Virginia, Graf says, things have changed. The state, the country and the world are now looking to renewable energy to power the future.