It is hard to make a desert in a place that receives sixty inches
of rain each year. But after decades of copper mining, all that
remained of the old hardwood forests in the Ducktown Mining
District of the Southern Appalachian Mountains was a fifty-square
mile barren expanse of heavily gullied red hills--a landscape
created by sulfur dioxide smoke from copper smelting and
destructive logging practices. In Ducktown Smoke
Maysilles examines this environmental disaster, one of the worst
the South has experienced, and its impact on environmental law and
Beginning in 1896, the widening destruction wrought in Tennessee,
Georgia, and North Carolina by Ducktown copper mining spawned
hundreds of private lawsuits, culminating in Georgia v.
Tennessee Copper Co.
, the U.S. Supreme Court's first air
pollution case. In its 1907 decision, the Court recognized for the
first time the sovereign right of individual states to protect
their natural resources from transborder pollution, a foundational
opinion in the formation of American environmental law. Maysilles
reveals how the Supreme Court case brought together the disparate
forces of agrarian populism, industrial logging, and the forest
conservation movement to set a legal precedent that remains
relevant in environmental law today.