Restoring the forest

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Collecting Balsam Fir Cones in Canaan Valley

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randy_keslingbob_churnbyWest Virginia's balsam fir trees are very predictable and reliable in producing cones every five years. It was in 1991, 20 years ago, when we first collected, and in 1996 when we last collected cones from these trees, the southern-most balsam fir trees on the continent. We collect the cones, extract the seeds, and grow seedlings for our red spruce ecosystem restoration efforts, which balsam fir is a component of. Beyond ecosystem restoration, our balsam fir conservation efforts have two additional purposes; 1.) the species is in decline from an exotic insect pest called the balsam woolly adelgid, and 2.) over-population of white tailed deer have hampered natural regeneration from over-browsing.


Groups Plant Trees at Barton Bench

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Joe Pizarchik, left, director of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining, explains the importance of partnerships in restoration as Clyde Thompson, forest supervisor of the Monongahela National Forest, middle, and Jack Tribble, Greenbrier District Ranger, right, listen in.Restoration of rare West Virginia habitat takes teamwork and dedication. A multitude of agencies, nonprofit groups and volunteers gathered at Barton Bench on Cheat Mountain to help restore a portion of the state's rare red spruce-northern hardwood ecosystem by planting trees.

"This kind of cooperative energy is becoming not only more common, but necessary," says Evan Burks, partnership coordinator for the Monongahela National Forest.

The Barton Bench area refers to a 90-acre parcel of land mined for coal in the 1970s prior to becoming part of the National Forest system. This tract is a portion of the 40,856 acres acquired by the U.S. Forest Service in the late 1980s that has become known as the Mower Tract. The reclamation techniques employed by the coal operators left the area in a less than desirable condition. To ensure stability, soils were heavily compacted, and all disturbances were sowed with aggressive, non-native grass species. After several decades, the area was still covered by only a dense grass mat which has inhibited native species from becoming established. This seemingly permanent condition is referred to as "arrested succession" and can be reversed with human intervention.

The ultimate goal of Barton Bench ecological restoration project is total naturalization. In the short term, the project will provide early successional habitat for wildlife species. In the long-term, restoration will lead to healthy watershed conditions and native red spruce-northern hardwood ecosystem within the project area.

The project kicked off when The Wes-Mon-Ty Resource Conservation and Development Project Inc. and the Monongahela National Forest received a $5,000 Stage I grant and $12,000 Stage II grant through the 2010 FOCUS West Virginia Brownfields program to address barriers to revitalization of Barton Bench Ecological Project Area and plan for marketing implementation.


Volunteers Spruce Up Forests

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DAVIS, W.Va. -- More than 500,000 acres of red spruce forest once shaded the slopes of West Virginia's higher mountains, providing a cool, moist climate for the creatures living under its canopy.


Old Mine Site is Brought Back to Life

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Mine ReclamationCHEAT 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.


Dancing with the river: a profile of painter and environmental activist Ruth Blackwell Rogers

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Dancing with the Shavers Fork Headwaters

Ruth Blackwell Rogers describes her painting and environmental activism as “all one thing.”

“My paintings have always been trying to make visible in some way… that everything’s connected. The spirits of the trees, the highland bogs, the beavers, the river are all alive. And if we are aware of it, we know we are all dancing together,” she said.

Blackwell Rogers says her spiritual connection to the natural world has been “innate” in her since she was a child. She clarified her beliefs by studying Contemporary Core Shamanism at the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.


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Who are we?

This website has been established and is being managed by the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy to support the work of the Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative (CASRI).

CASRI is a partnership of diverse interests with a common goal of restoring historic red spruce-northern hardwood ecosystems across the high elevation landscapes of Central Appalachia. It is comprised of private, state, federal, and non-governmental organizations who share a recognition of the importance of this ecosystem.

Contact Us

For more information, and volunteer opportunities, please contact :

Julie Fosbender

Partnership coordinator

US Forest Service

Monongahela National Forest

P: 304-636-1800

f: 304-637-0582