Red Spruce Ecosystem Restoration in Canaan Valley

For over 10 years we have been working on a corridor along the Blackwater River in Canaan Valley. Much of it is on the National Wildlife Refuge but important parts are on private properties that adjoin the Refuge. This year, we partnered with the Timberline Association, the homeowners group that holds common lands they call their “Conservancy.” Some of these lands are along the Blackwater River in the area of our planned corridor. Connecting the many patches of remnant spruce is the goal of this corridor and, on a landscape scale, we partner with a diverse array of public, private and corporate land owners. The Blackwater River corridor through the southern Valley is nearly complete. A final link was completed with this volunteer planting event we held April 21 & 22 celebrating Earth Day!

Blackwater River

We had a great turn out, and also, to our surprize, weather! A beautiful, somewhat cloudy day on Saturday, 80+ folks planted about 4,000 trees. The site was along the Blackwater River on the “Beall Tract,” and an equal area across the River on the “Timberline Conservancy.” We split the large group in two. The Davis & Elkins College students went to the Timberline side to work with the folks from Timberline. The WVU students,led by Jim Kotcon, from the Society of Environmental Professionals and the Student Sierra Coalition, went to the Refuge side of the River along with the rest of the group. Because there was a much larger group on the Refuge side, we finished up planting all 2500 trees by lunch (Sirianni’s Pizza and Whitegrass brownies) at 1 pm. After lunch a group of us walked to the old Timberline bridge to cross the River and helped the Timberline group. By this time it was raining, we finished up planting about 1800 trees on that side of the river leaving about 700 to plant on Sunday. Along our walk, we passed 3 stages of plantings from previous years. In one place the trees were all 4-5 feet tall, real bushy, and had a huge presence. Another place they were 3-4 feet tall from a different year’s planting. It was amazing to see the results. We have constructed a serious red spruce corridor along the Blackwater River for many miles.

Spruce SeedlingSunday was a little cooler. Russ McClain brought another group of 16 Davis & Elkins College students and a dozen or so of the WVU students came back so we had about 40 people. The volunteers on Sunday included the WV DNR”s Ecologist Elizabeth Byers, Sam Lamie, Forest Service GIS guy, and the new Forest pathologist, Danielle. We got the remaining 700 trees planted and had lunch at the Refuge Headquarters.

Thanks to Highlands Conservancy President, Cindy Ellis, for coming along Saturday, and to Marilyn Shoenfeld for organizing the Timberline portion of the project. Great cooperation, organizing and logistical work from the Wildlife Refuge Staff including the newly hired Wildlife Biologist (and acting Manager), Dawn Washington, who headed up things for the Refure both days, and long-time biologist Marquette Crocokett who handled and arranged logistics with the help of several AmeriCorps volunteers. Evan Burks, US Forest Service, helped with a lot of the planning, organizing and overall coordination as well as helping to get a lot of trees in the ground. Chip Chase, White Grass Ski Touring Center, helped plant trees, delivered Pizzas and generally entertained everyone, not to mention taking dozens of great pics. Cindy Phillips, new Visitor Service Ranger at the Refuge helped and took pics too. Ashton Berdine (TNC) brought his family to help plant trees on Saturday. Thanks to everyone!! An over-all amazing weekend.

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