Mower Tract Ecological Restoration
The Wes-Mon-Ty Resource Conservation and Development Project,
Appalachian Plant Materials Center, and Monongahela National Forest
have joined forces to restore watershed conditions and the native red
spruce-northern hardwood ecosystem on surface mined land on Cheat Mountain.
Through the use of native vegetation to reduce maintenance costs and increase
the probability of success a restoration project and habitat improvement project
has been implemented on the Mower Tract, which was surfacemined in the early
80s. The objective is to establish and restore native species of shrubs, trees,
and herbaceous plants to this area with a short-term goal (5-20 years) of
enhancing habitat for early successional species and a long-term goal of spruce
ecosystem restoration. The primary plant species targeted to use for long term
restoration efforts include, but are not limited to: speckled alder, bigtooth
aspen, balsam fir, and red spruce.
The Forest Service is working with partners to collect seeds or roots from
trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants native to the high elevations of West
Virginia. The Appalachian Plant
Materials Center has propagated several species including common elderberry,
yellow birch, black locust, alternate-leaved dogwood, scarlet beebalm, and bigtooth aspen. Initially, 417 1 gallon pots of beebalm and elderberry were planted
by hand with pick axes and shovels. The following planting days implemented a
Skid-Steer with an auger which allowed for deeper and larger holes for the 2
gallon aspen pots. The auger aided in a total of 246 beebalm, 195 yellow birch,
67 black locust, 18 alternative-leaved dogwood, 772 elderberry, and 501 bigtooth
aspen being planted on approximately 30 acres, for a total of 1799 native
plants. Beebalm and elderberry plants were flagged to help with follow up
observations. Each aspen was staked when needed and secured with flagging tape
to dissuade grazers until trees were established; additionally, each aspen was
flagged for follow up observations. To help establish an effective experimental
design for next spring, ten aspen trees were fitted with a 1x1 square meter
garden fabric sheet to deter sod re-growth and terra-sorb was scattered in the
bottom of 20 aspen holes.
Mower Tract wildlife habitat enhancement and ecological restoration has many
short term and long-term benefits. Primarily, native flora restoration on the
Mower Tract will greatly succor and conserve species including the Cheat
Mountain salamander, northern flying squirrel, snowshoe hare, golden eagles,
woodcock, ruffed grouse, saw whet owl and a number of pollinating animals by
providing a variety of food sources and niches. Short term benefits are already
being realized as wildlife feeding and pollination has already been observed
this summer season. In the next 40 years, a vast habitat improvement is expected
regarding natural biodiversity by establishing a vegetative community which will
proliferate itself naturally.
||Bigtooth aspen are native to the Monongahela
National Forest and grow quickly to shade out invasive grasses and
provide a food source and habitat.
||Several aspen were staked in preparation of high winds and flagged
to deter wildlife from grazing on the young tress before their roots
became established. Ten aspen were fitted with garden fabric sheets to
control the growth of invasive sod.
August News and