Establishing Native Trees on Legacy Surface Mines

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Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative


More than one million acres have been surface mined for coal in Appalachia. Today, much of this land is unmanaged, unproductive, and covered with non-native plants. Establishing productive forests on such lands will aid restoration of ecosystem services provided by forests – services such as watershed protection, water quality enhancement, carbon storage and native wildlife habitat -- and will enable mined lands to produce valued products such as commercial timber. This Advisory describes practices for establishing native forest trees on lands that were surface mined for coal and reclaimed to meet legal standards, and where the mine operator no longer has any legal responsibilities (“legacy surface mines,” Photo 1). These lands often differ from their pre-mining condition with respect to topography, soils, water resource influences, and vegetation.