Elk NetworkElk Thriving on Strip-Mined Land

General | April 23, 2019

Strip mining is an ugly process. In essence, it shaves off the upper layers of hills and mountains leaving an ugly landscape behind. However, when restored and reseeded with native vegetation, it becomes prime habitat for a myriad of bird and animal life.

“We started making more open areas that had a lot of autumn olive and locust, and seeding them with orchard grasses and clovers,” Leon Boyd, chair of the Southwestern Virginia Coalfields Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, told Yes!Magazine. “The number of white-tailed deer and black bear and turkey we see come in and utilize those food sources is amazing. That’s what’s got the wildlife biologists so excited.”

Also excited are elk which thrive on former strip mining land across the central Appalachia region.

“Restoration into meadows creates opportunities for elk on the landscape, but also for these less common or rare birds that need that habitat to take advantage of it,” David Kalb, Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries biologist, told Yes!Magazine. “A whole host of amphibian species that need small vernal pools can take advantage of the small ponds and wallows that elk create.”

RMEF provided funding and volunteer manpower in helping return wild elk to their historic Virginia range as well as habitat work since then.

(Photo source: Leon Boyd)