Reclaiming Habitat In Monongahela National Forest

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Dozens of volunteers and several organizations came together in Pocahontas County this weekend to help reclaim and replant acres of land in the Monongahela National Forest. 13 News Anchor, Jennifer Abney had the chance to be a small part of this big effort.

Volunteers like the McKinney’s, who came all the way from Dunbar, West Virginia, rolled up their sleeves for a good cause. 

“Man has destroyed enough of it so we need to save it,” exclaimed Kandy McKinney.

“He actually heard about this from you on the news and said this is something he wanted to do,” added McKinney.

They are teaming up with ecologists like Amy Coleman with the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

“The area we’re planting today was mined in the early 1970’s for coal. And then, when it was reclaimed, it was put back to a pretty unnatural state,” stated Coleman. “A lot of these areas are covered in grass or non-native pines. So, what we’re focusing on today are planting red spruce to get that ecosystem back in these areas”

In fact, almost 300 rare species depend on the red spruce habitat and the wetlands and all that go along with that. So, by planting the red spruce and creating wetlands, they are encouraging those species to come back to this area. This is something that their neighbors at Snowshoe Resort believe is important too.

“Our new parent company, Alterra Mountain Company, a big part of their company culture is environmental stewardship and it’s a big part of what we believe as well,” said Shaw Cassell, PR Manager at Snowshoe Mountain Resort. “And, at Snowshoe, projects like this give a chance for us to get out and really get our hands dirty.”

Chris Barton is  a professor at the University of Kentucky and president of a nonprofit called Green Forests Work. His goal is to replace the American chestnut trees that were killed off by a blight a century ago.

“We have now through the American Chestnut Foundation, a tree that is fifteen parts American chestnut and one part Chinese chestnut and it has a high level of blight resistance,” Barton said. “So, today we’re planting about 700 American chestnuts that we hope are blight resistant and hopefully will allow this species to come back to its own.”

And the benefits that will come with that are important for many reasons.

“This helps clean the water quality and the air quality, said Scott Eggerud, Forester with the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. “We are restoring a very rare ecosystem and helping with endangered and threatened wildlife species and there are multiple benefits.”

Including the lessons learned by the many volunteers who were a part of this project.

“We learned that the alder likes water and can actually breathe through its bark,” said McKinney.

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