Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
Archive list of "E"- Notes newsletters

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May 2007

MAJOR VICTORY: Corps Must Halt New Valley Fills!
Quantum Leadership: The Power of Community in Motion
OVEC Members Mourn with Virginia Tech
Clean Drinking Water at Long Last!
12 Ways to Give $$$ to OVEC to Keep Up the Fight
April 2: Rare Banner Day in US Supreme Court for the Environment
Sludge Safety Project Update - OVEC Wins!
What It Takes to Win the Fight: ORGANIZE!
Griles Grilled, Convicted Over Ties to Lobbyist
No Picnic, Mo Money
Christians for the
Mountains Night
Sludge Safety Project Leaders Reflect on Our Big Win
Voices from the Coalfields ... and Beyond
More Say No to Mine: Lenore Residents Appeal Mingo County Permit
Time For an SOS Save Our Flying Squirrels!
Activists Form Coalition to Fight MTR Abuses
OVEC Works! Thanks!
Thirteen Arrested in Struggle for New Marsh Fork Elementary School
Organizing Cabin Creek: A conversation about power, grit and why were gonna win
Army, DEP: Lets Make a Deal (with Coalfield Residents Health!)
Fight Renewed Over Streamlined Mine Permits
West Virginians Trained By Al Gore To Present on Climate Change
New Book: How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Christian?
OVEC Board Meets
in Boone County
The Time for Climate Change Solutions is NOW
OVEC Launches New Global Warming Action Page on its Website
Welcome to Carol Warren, OVECs Newest Staff Member
Cost-Effective Carbon Footprint Reducers - Things YOU Can Do
Countrys Leading Climatologist Lists 5 Steps to Prevent Catastrophic Change
Campaign Cash: Public Financing Works in Other States
The Seasonal Round of Americas Mixed Mesophytic Community Forest - A Resource for the Entire Planet
Dispelling the Myths About Fair and Clean Elections
Regional Environmental Groups Organize to Stop MTR
The Billion Dollar
Presidents Club
Editorial Comics
New Economists Have Different View
West Virginia Putting Out More CO2

For viewing the PDF version of the newsletter

Winds of Change Newsletter, May 2007     See sidebar for table of contents

The Seasonal Round of Americas Mixed Mesophytic Community Forest - A Resource for the Entire Planet

The outline is the mixed mesophytic community forest. The black area is the projected footprint of mountaintop removal mining and valley fill on that irreplaceable forest.
The outline is the mixed mesophytic community forest. The black area is the projected footprint of mountaintop removal mining and valley fill on that irreplaceable forest.  Graphic by Mary Hufford, Center for Folklore and Ethnography, University of Pennsylvania.

by Mary Hufford, Center for Folklore and Ethnography, University of Pennsylvania

The Central Appalachian mountains harbor the worlds oldest and biologically richest temperate zone hardwood forest. Spreading across the crumpled terrain of the Allegheny and Cumberland Plateaus, from northern Alabama to southeastern Ohio and southwestern Pennsylvania, the system that pioneering ecologist E. Lucy Braun called "mixed mesophytic" (medium moisture-loving) evolved over the course of a hundred million years.

Whereas most forest types are dominated by two or three canopy species, the mixed mesophytic system features nearly 80 woody species in its canopy and understory, including beech, tuliptree, basswood, American chestnut, sweet buckeye, birch, black cherry, white ash, butternut, black walnut, red mulberry, paw-paw, persimmon, four kinds of magnolia, and a variety of species of oaks, maples, hickories.

Never glaciated during the ice ages, the coves and hollows of central Appalachia sheltered this biodiversity from the freezing temperatures that extirpated species elsewhere. E. Lucy Braun theorized that the seed stock kept alive in the coves eventually replenished the forests of Eastern North America. Ecologists today reason that the coves could again protect biodiversity in a time of global warming. A widespread nickname for this system is the "Mother Forest."

The soils of this region were so productive that Native Americans regarded much of southern West Virginia as commons, and traditionally warring bands suspended hostilities during seasons of hunting, gardening, and gathering nuts, fruits, and medicinal herbs. Communities living in the region today continue to prize the gifts of forest diversity, not only as economic and subsistence resources, but as templates for patterning life.

The formula "plant corn when the oak leaves are as big as a squirrels ear," illustrates in a small way the integration of community life with the life of the forest. The environment itself stores memories, issuing the prompts to which generations of community forestry have responded.

The mixed mesophytic seasonal round is the linchpin of the community forest. Synchronizing gardening, hunting, gathering, and the marketplace, the round begins each year in mid-March with a trip to the ramp patch. Ramps, wild cousins of garlic and the first of the wild foods, are featured at spring feasts and community fundraisers.

Forest bounty is always in season: hunting turkey, greens, and morel mushrooms in spring, fishing in creeks and berry picking in summer, digging ginseng, gathering walnuts, hazelnuts, chinquapins, butternuts, paw-paws, and persimmons, hunting squirrel and deer from August until December, tapping sugar trees, and preparing to drink sassafras tea in the late winter when the need for spring tonic grows acute.

Participation in this annual round integrates disjunct parts of the landscape: knowing where the old apple orchards are is vital to hunting for morels; knowing which species of bait emerge and when along particular creeks informs the practice of fishing in major tributaries; following fruits as they ripen later at higher elevations extends the berry season; following the cycle of ripening nuts is formula for success in squirrel hunting.

Resting on the knowledge of elements of a system in relation to one another, the community forest fosters ideas about healthy forests that are less and less well-known: that healthy forests need multiple aged stands, including den trees, bee trees, and nut trees; or that depleting resources too rapidly is a form of "robbing the land."

The mixed mesophytic community forest exemplifies what anthropologist Gregory Bateson called "the thinking system," that is, the organism plus its environment. You cannot take apart the thinking system without destroying it. Violent technologies used to extract timber and fossil fuels destroy thinking systems all over the world, producing social and cultural dislocation and economic hardship.

In the Central Appalachian region, mountaintop removal mining is destroying not only mountains and their communities but forest systems that could be conserved to support local economies and societies while sustaining a carbon sink that could help to heal the planet.


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