Seedlings to Restore Habitat on Minelands

A coalition of groups will contribute to a program that could dramatically alter the landscape of abandoned and disused coal mines throughout Appalachia for the benefit of declining bird populations.

The groups will plant 15,000 seedlings on a plot in Vinton County, Ohio, that will serve as a model for future partnership efforts.

"We are working with partners to identify areas to target reforestation for Ceruleans and other priority forest-dwelling birds," said Brian Smith, Ph.D., American Bird Conservancy's Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture coordinator. "At the same time, we are also identifying reclaimed mine complexes to improve habitat conditions for viable populations of open-land priority species such as Golden-winged Warblers and American Woodcock."

American Bird Conservancy is working with partners of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's "Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative" to reforest abandoned minelands in the coal region of the Appalachian Mountains.

"The project area is in Ohio's core range of the Cerulean Warbler, a species that has declined 70 percent in the past 40 years," said Kristin Westad, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist and project coordinator. "The early growth will benefit priority species such as the American Woodcock, and Prairie Warbler for several years. As the stand matures, it will provide habitat that will benefit interior forest birds such as Ceruleans by reducing edge effect and providing a buffer for mature forests."

Project partners include American Bird Conservancy, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Ohio Private Lands Office (project lead), National Wild Turkey Federation, landowner Kurt Neltner, the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, Vinton County Soil & Water Conservation District, and Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Forestry Division. American Bird Conservancy's support for this project has been provided by the Lannan Foundation and other donors.

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