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How Surface Mine Sites in Kentucky Could Mean Jobs for Veterans

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Monday, September 24, 2012   

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Old surface mine sites in Appalachia could translate to new jobs for Kentuckians 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 areas of 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."

Hall says that when surface mining is completed in an area, the ground is bulldozed, compacted and then planted with seed and fertilizer. Grass can grow there, but trees can't.

"Nor can they outcompete the vegetation that's there, and your native hardwood trees, your oaks, your hickories, black cherry, things like that, they really just can't even get a foothold to survive in those kind of conditions."

Hall adds that, not unlike the new trees they're planting on some of these lands, the jobs for vets concept is 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 it all happen. It would provide a billion dollars to help put many of the nation's 720,000 unemployed veterans to work.

The coal industry itself has been helping to develop large-scale projects where native trees are grown in areas largely stripped down to bedrock by surface mining.



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