CHEAT MOUNTAIN — Arbor Day was on Friday, but volunteers were getting their hands dirty in the high elevations of Cheat Mountain throughout the weekend in a unique location.
Some 4,000-feet above sea level, more than 50 volunteers were hard at work planting trees to help restore the Red Spruce ecosystem.
“My job is to put forest back in these mine sites. We’ve partnered with the Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative and they’re trying to restore spruce in Central Appalachian, in these high elevation sites and this is an opportunity for both of our organizations to come together and restore red spruce on this old mine site,” explains Scott Eggerud, a forester with the U.S. Office of Surface Mining.
Back in the 1970s, part of the land on Cheat Mountain was mined and then reclaimed to a grassland.
In celebration of Arbor Day, volunteers were busy trying to restore the mountaintop to its original condition, by planting thousands of Red Spruce trees.
The growth of the trees will affect the entire ecosystem of the area.
“The Red Spruce ecosystem, we’re restoring it here on this particular place, but it’s really a huge ecosystem that’s across these high mountains in West Virginia,” says Thomas Minney, the Central Appalachian Program Director for the Nature Conservancy.
The area being worked on is just a fraction of almost one million acres of land that organizations are trying to reforest.
Although returning the site to its original state is unlikely.
“We’re just trying to do the best job we can with the technology available. Just like restoring these ecosystems, you can’t go back and put everything there, so our philosophy is let’s restore the major components of the ecosystem and those lesser components, if you will, will come over on their own. Eventually it will be as close to natural as we can get it. Will it ever be perfectly natural probably not?,” adds Eggerud.
“The work that we’re doing is multi-generational here. So, my boys coming out today and helping me put trees in the ground, they’re the ones that are going to be able to really measure the success of what we’re doing,” says Minney.
“One of these days, people will look back and say, ‘Somebody had to work at this.’ They won’t know who we were, but they’ll know that there’s been some work done to kind of turn this into something for our kids, grandkids, or great grandkids to enjoy,” says Clyde Thompson, who works for the Monongahela National Forest.