Funding to Restore Forests on Degraded Mined Land Areas

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and the USDA Forest Service – State and Private Forestry (USFS) announced today $678,000 in grants to support forest restoration on old, degraded mined lands at sites in Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. State foresters from those states, or their designated partners, will receive grants through the Appalachian Forest Renewal Initiative, a new partnership between NFWF and the USDA Forest Service. These six grants will provide a 1:1 match in additional funds and in-kind support resulting in an overall $1.35 million investment in forest restoration on priority sites for enhancement and protection of biodiversity.

“We are pleased to be able to support these critical efforts to re-forest legacy mine lands so that they can once again provide habitat for the rich diversity of fish and wildlife that are native to the Appalachian range,” said Jeff Trandahl, NFWF President and CEO.

The Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture is a key partner in the initiative, with staff helping to design program guidelines and grant recipients encouraged to use AMJV Best Management Practice documents for Cerulean and Golden-winged Warblers to guide restoration efforts. Other key partners include the State Foresters of the affected states, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, and The American Chestnut Foundation. Also, the initiative will engage non-traditional stakeholders like county governments, planning district commissions, economic development councils, water utilities, the mining community partners (coal and gas companies, forest landowner groups), and more.

Established in August 2013, the goal of the Appalachian Forest Renewal Initiative is to restore forest habitat on small- to medium-sized project areas across the coal mining region of Appalachia. Targeted sites include a mixture of existing forest, quality streams, and previously mined land, adjacent to biologically rich protected Federal, state, or NGO lands. Projects will integrate practices that include stream restoration, timber/fuels management using the latest forest management bird conservation BMPs to improve both cerulean and golden-winged warbler habitat, tree planting using a modified version of the Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA) that is designed for unused surface mined lands, invasive plants management, etc., to accomplish multiple ecological/habitat enhancement objectives.

“This initiative is unique and exciting because it accomplishes integrated forest management work in a coordinated way, across a landscape that includes many states and two Forest Service regions in the East,” said Tony Ferguson, Director, Northeastern Area-USDA Forest Service. “It also brings new and traditional Forest Service partners together, from both the public and private sectors.”

Outcomes will include a mixture of new forest establishment, stream restoration, and improved forest management to improve habitat for bird species and water quality on early successional and mature forest landscapes.

About the Grants:
Partner Organization: Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Objective: Implement forest management activities at Beaver Creek State Park. Project will create 5 acres of early successional habitat and 41 acres of mature forest habitat to benefit Cerulean warblers.
Award Amount: $ 80,562.87
Project Description: The Ohio Department of Natural Resources will restore forest habitat for Cerulean Warbler by targeting a mixture of existing forest, high quality streams, and previously mined land in eastern Ohio using appropriate BMPs developed by the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture. Native trees will be planted on approximately 41 acres, including sites at Harrison and Fernwood state forests. This includes 20 acres of croptree release, which will create mature forest conditions for cerulean warbler habitat in the long term more quickly than natural succession. Implement a forest management project at Beaver Creek State Forest that creates 5 acres of early successional habitat via wildlife openings. Revise the forest management plans for previously mined sites at Beaver Creek, Fernwood, Harrison, and West Blue Rock State Forests, incorporating cerulean warbler habitat BMPs. Collect the spatial and field data necessary to better manage wildlife habitat.
Project Partners: Partners include Little Beaver Creek Wild and Scenic Council, the USDI Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), and the American Chestnut Foundation.

Partner Organization: University of Kentucky Research Foundation
Objective: Re-establish hardwood forest habitat at Robinson Forest by de-compacting soil and removing invasive species. Project will restore 36 acres with native trees to improve cerulean warbler habitat.
Award Amount: $140,000
Project Description: The University of Kentucky Research Foundation will implement an invasive species removal and reforestation project at the University of Kentucky’s Robinson Forest. Activities include the control of autumn olive, soil de-compaction, and planting of native trees and shrubs on the previously mined Paul Van Booven Wildlife Management Area tract. Early successional habitat development and future mature hardwood stands will benefit several sensitive bird species that inhabit Robinson Forest, including blue-winged warbler, Kentucky warbler and the cerulean warbler. In addition, water quality work will be conducted to improve Kentucky Arrow Darter habitat on the project site.
Project Partners: Partners include Green Forests Work, the Kentucky Division of Forestry, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, and the American Chestnut Foundation.

Partner Organization: Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Objective: Implement reforestation of abandoned mine lands and stream buffers for golden-winged and cerulean warblers and brook trout. Project will restore 238 acres, including invasives removal and tree planting.
Award Amount: $125,000
Project Description: The Maryland Department of Natural Resources will strategically expand tree planting on 18 acres of abandoned mine lands and brook trout priority watersheds to augment water quality and bird habitat. Develop an early successional habitat plan for 993,000 acres in Western Maryland, building off core habitats on State Forests, Wildlife Management Areas, and other State and private lands. Develop Forest Stewardship Plans for 1,500 acres on key Wildlife Management Areas.
Implement forest practices on 100 acres to expand suitable forest habitat for cerulean and golden-winged warbler habitat. Control invasive species on 220 acres in key warbler habitat.
Project Partners: Partners include MDE Abandoned Mine Land Division, the USDI Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), American Chestnut Foundation, and the Western Maryland Resource Conservation and Development Council.

Partner Organization: University of Tennessee
Objective: Re-forest reclaimed mine lands in eastern Tennessee to improve wildlife habitat value and stream health. Project will provide early successional habitat for Cerulean warbler and habitat for mussels.
Award Amount: $140,000
Project Description: The University of Tennessee will reforest previously reclaimed mine land that has poor value due to compacted soils and a prevalence of non-native species. Forest reclamation work will occur on two sites in eastern Tennessee, one adjacent to Cumberland Gap National Historic Park and the other adjacent to a Wildlife Management Area. Sites will be ripped to alleviate soil compaction and invasive species treated with herbicide. Native overstory and understory trees will be planted to provide early successional habitat for golden-winged warbler, and later, contiguous forest for cerulean warbler. Native mussels will be relocated into adjacent, formerly impacted streams. Project outcomes will include the rehabilitation of 30 acres to hardwood forest that includes American chestnut, an improvement in adjacent aquatic habitat, a dataset on the species composition of early successional habitat, and training in habitat restoration for students.
Project Partners: Partners include the University of Tennessee, the Tennessee Division of Forestry, Green Forests Work, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, and the American Chestnut Foundation.

Partner Organization: Virginia Department of Forestry
Objective: Restore and improve forest and early successional habitat through a forest reclamation approach. Project will result in 31 acres of reforestation and 28 acres of hardwood forest stand improvement.
Award Amount: $67,045.40
Project Description: The Virginia Department of Forestry will restore lands previously reclaimed from coal mining activities to mature and early successional forest. The region is part of the Cumberland Mountains and is historically one of the most heavily forested areas of Virginia. Reforestation techniques have advanced significantly using the Forest Reclamation Approach (FRA) and there are significant areas that were reclaimed to meadow and grass habitat that are in need of further restoration. Many of these areas are dominated by invasive species that are retarding natural forest succession. Additionally, many upland forests in the region have seen repeated high-grading, and are in need of silvicultural treatments to improve them. Three properties, which are state or locally-owned lands, will assure continuity of ownership. Two of the sites are excellent public demonstration areas. Project will result in 31 acres of reforestation, 28 acres of hardwood forest stand improvement, and 2 acres of fuels management.
Project Partners: Partners include the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, American Chestnut Foundation, and Green Forests Work.

Partner Organization: West Virginia Division of Forestry
Objective: Restore fifty acres of mixed mesophytic forest and wildlife habitat on previously mined lands at a Boy Scout camp in West Virginia. Project will plant American Chestnuts and improve water quality.
Award Amount: $125,000
Project Description: The West Virginia Division of Forestry, using the Forest Reclamation Approach, will restore fifty acres of mixed mesophytic forests and associated wildlife habitat on lands affected by surface coal mining in southern West Virginia, specifically at the Summit Bechtel Reserve. The Boy Scouts of America will use the property as an outdoor classroom to demonstrate the ability to restore native forests on degraded mined lands currently in a state of arrested natural succession.Two hundred and fifty American Chestnuts will be planted. Project will result in additional habitat for Golden-Winged Warbler, reduced surface runoff, and improved water quality from restoration of headwater streams using natural stream channel design.
Project Partners: Partners include Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, Green Forests Work, the American Chestnut Foundation, the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Mining and Reclamation.

Learn more about the Appalachian Forest Renewal Initiative at: