Restoration Appalachia: a Visual and Literary Analysis of Ecological Disturbance and Restoration Potentials in the Central Appalachian Coalfields

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Heil, Ellison J

Publication Date:

Appalachia follows the topographical boundary of the Appalachian Mountains which runs along the Eastern Coast of the United States. This paper focuses on the Central Appalachia subregion of West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, Southwestern Virginia, and Eastern Kentucky, as characterized by large-scale Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining operations. Indigenous nations reliant for subsistence on this region’s ecological base were, over-time, increasingly displaced by communities dependent on resource extraction-oriented companies. This transition is chronicled through historical overviews and visual aids of Timber Harvest, Underground Mining, and Surface Mining processes. These resource extraction methods are then analyzed as ecological disturbances that damage, degrade and destroy ecosystems that previously served as an ecological base for subsistence communities. Potentials for ecological restoration of Appalachian minelands are presented through relevant policy initiatives and collaborative institutions that implement the Forestry Reclamation Approach. These concepts are applied through a case study of Bishop, West Virginia, whose immediate vicinity to a mountaintop removal coal mine raises concern about public health. In furthering current reclamation practices, I propose applying community-based conservation theory from international development agencies to Appalachian coalfield communities in order to benefit the present, and future generations by i) aiding in the ecological restoration of natural resources to post-surface mined landscapes, ii) providing socioeconomic development opportunities for local communities, and iii) creating sustainable eco-tourism opportunities in the region. In conclusion, I present the creation of Uganost Cooperatives to revitalize the ecological base as a public common to communities who were historically reliant upon the land for sustenance and survival.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program