Mine Reclamation Practices To Optimize Reforestation

Top of the World. Overlooking the Wilds of Emily Creek. Martin Co., Kentucky

Over the years and decades, disturbances from mining, logging and other, primarily human activities have resulted in substantial changes to the forest composition in Eastern Kentucky’s Appalachian region.

Reclamation practiced in this region from the 1970s onward focused on soil retention and the establishment of grasses and legumes that grow rapidly, thrive in poor soil and establish quickly in varied climate and ecological conditions.

These plants were highly competitive and coupled with the compacted soils have inhibited the growth of trees preventing the reestablishment of forested land on many former mine sites.

In contrast to this approach, The Forest Reclamation Approach (FRA) is a scientifically-based approach for reclaiming former active coal mine land to forest under the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. The goal of the approach is to encourage the succession, or invasion, of native species from nearby areas.

Most regenerating hardwood trees grow as sprouts from well-established root systems. This type of regrowth cannot occur on reclaimed mines, because those rooting systems have been removed, therefore former mine sites lack the seed and bud banks of native forests, so the regrowth throughout too much of Appalachia’s former mine sites suffers a lack of diversity.

One of the primary initial focuses of ArP is facilitating and expediting the regrowth of hardwood forests across Appalachia. Work toward this goal is already underway, with the first rounds of mechanical and chemical invasive plant control at our pilot project, The Wilds of Emily Creek.

Through forging community and government partnerships and a tireless commitment to rejuvenating the natural beauty and robust, diverse ecology native to this region, Appalachian Renewal Project is pioneering new roads and designing novel approaches in the science and economics of mine land reclamation.