Restoring the forest

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Return of the Red Spruce

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Red Spruce Trees

Walking into a red spruce forest can be described as nothing less than enchanting. The thick canopy shades moss-covered rocks that litter the cool, moist forest floor, while providing habitat for a multitude of rare plants and animals. The smell of evergreen needles and sap fills the air, as a Blackburnian warbler sings above. Nearby, a cold mountain stream filled with native brook trout bubbles.

These rare West Virginia forests not only give us refuge on a sunny hike but provide us with a glimpse of West Virginia's natural history. Virgin red spruce once covered more than 500,000 acres of the mountain landscape here. Unfortunately, aside from Gaudineer Knob and a few other small, isolated stands, most of the red spruce across West Virginia was eliminated during the logging era of the late nineteenth through early twentieth centuries.


Sprucing up the Monongahela

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CHEAT BRIDGE, W.Va. -- Except for its elevation -- high enough to produce snow this week -- a reclaimed surface mine on the upper slopes of Cheat Mountain's 4,429-foot Barton Knob is not much different from scores of other former mine sites scattered across West Virginia.

"After this area was mined in the early 1980s, the coal company did what it was supposed to," according to regulations and practices in effect at the time, said Shane Jones, an ecologist for the Monongahela National Forest. "It did a good job of keeping the soil on the ground by reclaiming this site to grassland."


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.

But as railroad-borne logging crews worked their way into the state's highlands in the early 20th century, the days became numbered for this nearly unbroken expanse of virgin evergreen forest.

Red spruce was prized for its clear, knotless, straight-grained wood, used in everything from construction beams to soundboards for pianos and the support ribs of the Wright Brothers' first airplanes.


Restoring forests in West Virginia's high country

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Red spruce trees grow on and near the spine of WV’s tallest mountains. These forests are home to endangered species, migrating birds and rare plants. According to historical accounts, WV’s mountains used to have more of these evergreen forests.

Red spruce trees grow on and near the spine of West Virginia’s tallest mountains. These forests are home to endangered species, migrating birds and rare plants. According to historical accounts, West Virginia’s mountains used to have more of these evergreen forests. Now, a group of federal and state agencies and volunteer organizations want to restore the red spruce forests.

Several inches of fresh snow blankets the red spruce forest atop Cabin Mountain in Canaan Valley. You have to crane your neck back to see the tops of the oldest red spruce trees in this forest. Their offspring surrounds us and look like Christmas trees flocked with snow. Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge biologist Ken Sturm says this natural red spruce forest is what the restoration project hopes to recreate.

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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