Author Harry Caudill described strip mining reclamation efforts as akin to putting lipstick on a corpse. And that was before mountaintop removal / valley fill coal mining.
How can you reclaim the Central Appalachian’s incredibly biodiverse mixed mesophytic forests (or “mitigate” for the region’s biologically-crucial headwaters streams?) You can’t.
If you don’t live in our woods, it’s hard to comprehend their richness. According to Central Appalachian edition of The Smithsonian Guides to Natural America, the Kanawha State Forest boasts “more than 1,000 species of trees and plants, including 23 types of wild orchids, within its 9,474 acres. Seven types of sunflowers, for instance, were in bloom…Fourteen trails wind for 25 miles amid various forest communities…They provide glimpses of the rich vegetation, including the fleshy little touch-me-nots, the sinewy American hornbeam, hemlocks, papaws, umbrella magnolias, witch hazels, asters, cardinal flowers, joe-pye weed, bloodroot, sycamores, sassafras and a wealth of goldenrod.”
Kanawha State Forest is typical of the Southern West Virginia mountains being annihilated by mountaintop removal coal mining. Indeed, a mountaintop removal site borders the southern edge of the forest.
These are the lands we use for gathering herbs and hunting. These are the hills that support our culture. Here are born the streams that feed the rivers millions of people rely on. All are being lost to mountaintop removal / valley fill coal mining–all in the name of “cheap” energy.
We only have estimates–and please send us study citations if you have them: According to our best available information, mountaintop removal mined coal accounts for about five percent of the coal burned for electricity in the United Sates. Repeat–the late is only an estimate and we are looking for solid information. With currently available energy efficiency and conservation measures, we could save from 20 to 30 percent of our energy usage. Mountaintop removal coal mining is unnecessary, uneconomical if you think in terms of ecosystem services and ecological economics, and immoral. What we are losing can never be reclaimed.
Please explore our photo galleries and the links in the sidebar to learn more about “reclamation.” Then join us in working to abolish mountaintop removal and steep slope mining.
OVEC is indebted to SouthWings for providing the flights that resulted in most of the low-altitude aerial photographs we have taken. SouthWings provides an invaluable service for environmentalists and policy makers. Please support SouthWings.
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