Climb to the top of Barton Bench, on a high Cheat Mountain ridge near Durbin, West Virginia, and you’ll see long rows of what appear to be crude trenches, dotted with young spruce trees. It’s the latest effort supported by the Central Appalachian Red Spruce Initiative, a partnership launched by the Conservancy and partners that is working to restore West Virginia’s red spruce habitat.
The trenches were dug by bulldozers dragging hooks through soil that had been heavily compacted as part of strip mining recla¬mation. Tightly packed soil doesn’t encourage trees, but ripping trenches has been effective elsewhere at reforesting old mine lands.
Rarely has this technique been used above 4,000 feet, however. This project, which also includes re-created, required the efforts of numerous public agencies and was funded by grants from Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, the Arbor Day Foundation and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.