Drs. Theresa Burriss and Rick Roth went with 11 students to the borderlands of Virginia and Kentucky to study coal mining, coal culture, and coal mine land reclamation, and to participate as volunteers in a reclamation project on a mountaintop removal mine. The Google Earth screenshot above shows the location of our project site, near Belcher, Kentucky and only a short drive from Breaks Interstate Park where we stayed. Given it was snowing hard as we headed for the site, the drive was more exciting than we might have wished. The middle picture shows the site preparation for the planting. The site had been reclaimed under the older guidelines which required extensive compaction and planting with grasses. Using the Forest Reclamation Approach, we planted native trees after the previously compacted surface was ripped up to provide suitable growing conditions for trees. We were especially glad to be able to plant part of the area in hybrid chestnuts supplied by the American Chestnut Foundation, and hybrid American Elms as well. We look forward to revisiting the site to see the progress of these trees, which will help restore the highly biodiverse mixed mesophytic forest that once covered the region.
The replanting was organized and orchestrated by Green Forests Work (GFW), a nonprofit organization, and by the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI), a federal program of the U.S. Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation. We thank Nathan Hall of GFW and Patrick Angel of ARRI for making this opportunity available. There was no cost to students or faculty thanks for a grant from the R.U. Scholar Citizen Initiative. Thanks to GFW for the two photos.