Putting Forests Back

This reclaimed mine site in central PA will be among the first to be reforested by TACF and Partners

TACF was very fortunate to receive a large grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to plant chestnuts and other quality hardwoods on reclaimed or recently mined lands in PA, WV, OH, KY, and VA.  There will be 12 reforestation plantings totaling 360 acres.

A reclaimed mine site is often covered with grass that is not particularly wildlife friendly.  Trees tend to take over the site very, very slowly, if at all, due to the heavily compacted soil that results when the site is “restored” with heavy equipment so that it looks smooth and nice.  This is done because the mining company is required to do it.  Truth is, nature is actually rough and rocky and certainly not smashed down by 10-ton bulldozers.  The Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI), part of the Office of Surface Mining, is working to change the way that mined sites are restored after mining.  They promote very rough grading, or simply dumping the original soils back on the site and not smoothing it at all and then planting trees.  The weather will eventually take care of leveling out the terrain.  Trees grow extremely well on these rough soils, which have plenty of space for roots to find their way and pockets for moisture to be contained. 

Scientists and foresters from TACF and ARRI recently visited several potential sites for kicking off the restoration efforts.  One of the more intriguing sites is owned by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in central PA.  This site has been reclaimed by heavy bulldozing and is primarily grass.  Some trees, mostly aspen, are creeping out from the surrounding forests along the edges of the minelands, but for the most part, no trees are making it there.  If selected, soil “ripping” will be required.  A bulldozer and very heavy hook attached to the back end are used to rip deep into the soil to break up the compacted soil and make it more tree-friendly.  The folks at ARRI have used this technique to successfully reforest mine sites many times. 

Along with great partners like the Western PA Conservancy, we hope to get many volunteers from TACF and local communities involved in planting and monitoring these sites.  Stay tuned for more info on when and where you can get involved.