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Creative Efforts to Reforest Old Surface Mines

PHOTO: Baled poultry litter. Photo by White River Fertilizer Supply.
PHOTO: Baled poultry litter. Photo by White River Fertilizer Supply.
September 28, 2012

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – With a little help from some chickens, old surface mine sites in Appalachia could translate to new jobs for vets who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Nathan Hall, reforestation coordinator for Green Forests Work says his group has been working on a shovel-ready project to use veterans to help reforest those former mine operations.

"We could be putting a lot of people back to work, not only restoring the environment of the area where they're from, but also helping to create sort of a base for future economic development."

Another project just getting underway would take poultry litter from farms in eastern West Virginia and western Virginia, and use it to restore the old mine sites. Troy Truax, vice-president of Delta Development Group, explains the litter is used to rebuild the topsoil.

"There's a good soil medium created, the organic matter, shavings and other things in the poultry litter, to revegetate those types of mine lands."

Not unlike the new trees they're planting on some of these lands, adds Hall, these concepts are still taking root.

"We're just now starting, as an organization, to figure out how do we actually turn this from just a good idea for the environment into a really viable option for the economic future of the region."

A bipartisan bill working its way through Congress may help put the vets to work doing the reforestation. It would provide $1 billion to help employ the nation's 720,000 unemployed veterans.

Dan Heyman/Jerry Oster, Public News Service - WV