LEXINGTON, Ky. — A group promoting reforestation in Appalachia is seeking more than $422 million to plant trees on mountains that were cleared or leveled for surface mining, a program that could have a far-reaching impact on the region’s economy and environment.
Leaders of the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, or ARRI, are seeking federal stimulus money to plant 125 million trees in Central Appalachia. The goal is to return trees to hundreds of thousands of acres where they once stood but which coal companies reclaimed, or repurposed, as grassland after surface mining over the past three decades.
The plan could boost the economy in one of the nation’s chronically poor areas, with supporters saying it could provide an estimated 2,000 jobs for forestry technicians, tree-planters, bulldozer operators and others. And they say the project would provide benefits for decades.
Converting large blocks of Appalachian forest to grassland while reclaiming mountaintop mines eliminated habitat for some species. But reforesting large areas would re-create the natural habitat as nearly as possible, according to scientists involved in the initiative.
It also could improve water quality in streams, reduce the potential for flooding, absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and lay the foundation for an expanded wood-products economy, supporters say.
They hope the Obama administration will see the proposal as a chance to accomplish two goals at once with federal stimulus money: putting people to work and improving the environment. Read the full articles from Richmond Times Dispatch here