The Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative
Volunteers from the Frostburg State University Football Team help the George's Creek Watershed Association in Maryland plant trees as part of their ARRI Project
When the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act was implemented after 1978, regulators focused on improving coal mining practices. One solution involved compacting mine soils and planting grasses to prevent landslides and other dangers. As a result, grasslands became the accepted reclamation approach and forests declined across the coalfields of Appalachia. The Office of Surface Mining's Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI) is trying to change that by reforesting Appalachia. ARRI was established in 2004 to develop and advocate for a technique known as the Forestry Reclamation Approach. This would improve the soil and allow trees to take root on reclaimed mining lands.
In the Spring of 2009, the Appalachian Coal Country Team (ACCT) and ARRI partnered for the first time to successfully sponsor and organize eight tree planting events throughout the Appalachian coal region. That year, the ACCT and ARRI shared the successes of the citizens and industry volunteers that planted 27,500 tree seedlings on 36.1 acres of previously mined lands.
With the help of 2,000 volunteers, the Spring of 2010 saw even more plantings. In 2010, sixteen sites were planted in six states covering about 210 acres with 150,000 trees. Together, the ACCT and ARRI are re-establishing the former eastern hardwood forest cover and creating future economic opportunity.
The Team looks forward to 2011 as this successful partnership continues.
OSM/VISTA Nicole Tucker serving with Friends of the Russell Fork works with elementary school students to plant trees in Wise County, VA
Together, the ACCT and ARRI are working to communicate and encourage mine reforestation practices that:
- Plant more high-value hardwood trees on reclaimed coal mine lands in Appalachia
- Increase the survival rates and growth rates of planted trees
- Provide jobs for the local economy
- Lead to potential industries in solar/wind farms, carbon sequestration, biomass energy, and tourism
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OSM/VISTA Scott Fanello leads volunteers by preparing a bucket of trees for an ARRI planting in Boone County, WV
ARRI represents a coalition of government, industry, and community groups dedicated to the reforestation of abandoned mine lands in the Eastern United States. Many ACCT OSMRE/VISTAs throughout the region have partnered with ARRI to achieve successful tree planting events in their watersheds.