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 Wildlife Conservation within Appalachian Coal Fields

Coal mining has been an important industry through the Appalachians over the past 100 years.  While having an important economic impact to the region, it has also altered the environment.  Recently, the Appalachian coal industry has been transformed in the past five years by market forces and regulatory pressures. Surface mining has declined dramatically and might stay at lower levels than historically seen. Therefore, the annual amount of forest clearing for mining has declined and will probably stay lower for quite some time. The conservation challenges posed by forest loss or fragmented habitats caused by new mines are fewer. This presentation will provide an overview of the current status and projected future of the coal industry in the Appalachians, and what challenges and opportunities this will present for wildlife conservation.
Presentation by David Ledford, President of Appalachian Wildlife Foundation

 Effects of Marcellus Shale Gas Development on Forest Birds

The Appalachian shale play, which includes the Marcellus shale formation, is an important source of natural gas but also underlies much of the remaining large areas of extensive contiguous forest within the eastern United States. In the last decade, unconventional drilling for natural gas from the Marcellus-Utica shale has increased exponentially in the central Appalachians, a heavily forested region that contains important breeding habitat for many neotropical migratory songbirds, including several species of conservation concern. This presentation for the AMJV Community will focus on recent research that evaluated potential impacts of new shale gas development on forest habitat and breeding songbirds - with a focus on studies conducted in Pennsylvania and West Virginia on effects to bird communities and a study researching long-term impacts to Louisiana Waterthrush demography. Early results from such studies suggest that shale gas development has the potential to fragment regional forests and alter avian communities, and that efforts to minimize new development in core forests will reduce negative impacts to forest dependent species.
Presentation by Margaret Brittingham, Professor of Wildlife Resources at Penn State University; Laura Farwell, Graduate Research Assistant at West Virginia University; and Mack Frantz, Graduate Research Assistant at West Virginia University

 Tools and Resources for Addressing Energy Development in the Appalachians

The Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture and partners have been working to assess various energy development technologies to determine potential impacts on birds and other wildlife from expanded extraction. One of those partners, the Appalachian Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC), has funded several projects and developed tools and resources to used in this effort. This presentation highlighted the results and tools from several of these projects, including:

  • Assessing Future Energy Development across the Appalachians
  • Ecosystem Benefits and Risk Site and Online Resources 
  • Preview of the LCC’s new online learning platform
Presentation by Jessica Rhodes, GIS Analyst and Data Manager, Appalachian LCC