New Life For Mountaintop Removal Land in Kentucky
FRANKFORT, Ky. - From the deep trenches where mountaintop removal mining once took place in Kentucky, trees will take root by the end of the weekend. Over a two-day period, this Saturday and next, close to 145,000 trees are being planted in Pike County on 220 acres of land in the Pikeville area.
Mary Miller, who helped organize the event for the Sierra Club, says it's a way to reclaim lands once used for coal mining.
"People just feel good; planting trees and thinking that this, in the future, might lead to sustainable timber, and in the meantime, begin to bring some wildlife back to our mountains."
The decisions about where to plant trees are based on the availability of accessible land, she explains.
"People who allowed the coal companies to strip-mine or do mountaintop removal on their properties, were left with these acres and acres of this grass. So, we approached private owners; they allowed us to come in and plant trees."
Miller says in Pikeville, the blueprint for how the land will be used in the future is also helping to dictate what will go into the ground.
"We're using more low-story trees and shrubbery because they want to attract birds, and they see it as a way to provide not only food for wildlife, but also allow hunting."
After getting its start in the next two weekends, the Pikeville project will continue over the next three years.
According to Miller, the effort represents a small area of nearly a million acres of surface-mined land that could be replenished in Kentucky.
The American Chestnut Foundation is donating thousands of trees for the reforestation effort, which it says are disease-resistant and may fare better than some other species.