National Forest Foundation

Restoring a Red Spruce Forest in Appalachia with Green Forests Work

Restoring a Red Spruce Forest in Appalachia with Green Forests Work


We're partnering with surface mine reforestation nonprofit Green Forests Work to plant 50,000 native seedlings to help restore a red spruce ecosystem in Central Appalachia.

Located just a four hour drive west of Washington DC, the Monongahela National Forest in eastern West Virginia is one of our most biologically diverse National Forests. The forest is home to a variety of fish and wildlife, in addition to several federally listed species, including eight bird species, the West Virginia northern flying squirrel and the Cheat Mountain salamander.

Red spruce dominated forests were once found across West Virginia, but widespread logging in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and later surface mining took a heavy toll on the region, significantly reducing the extent of native forest. The legacy of extraction also left the area’s watersheds damaged and soils compacted and eroded.

Red spruce seedlings (Photo: Green Forests Work)

Within the Monongahela, there is a stretch of land known as the Mower Tract, located within the Allegheny Mountains. Little natural regeneration has occurred on the section and the compacted soils contribute to sedimentation in the watershed. That’s why we’re partnering with the Appalachian nonprofit Green Forests Work to help restore the Mower Tract and increase the extent of the red spruce-northern hardwood ecosystem. The NFF will provide funding to plant 50,000 native seedlings, including red spruce and various hardwood species, across 100 acres of the Mower Tract on the Monongahela. The seedlings will be planted in the spring of 2019 and monitored as they take root and establish during the summer months.

Planting on the Mower Tract will improve wildlife habitat for species such as Northern goshawks and black bears. It will also help restore watersheds and enhance fish habitat for species like native eastern brook trout by reducing erosion and sediment runoff and providing shade and woody debris. Additionally, reforestation will offer local communities recreational opportunities that promote the enjoyment of the National Forest while supporting the regional economy.

Local middle school students planting red spruce seedlings (Photo: Green Forests Work)

The Mower Tract reforestation project is part of an NFF partnership with Green Forests Work, which works with the USDA Forest Service and other federal, state and regional partners to re-establish healthy and productive forests on formerly mined lands in Appalachia.

Header photo by Green Forests Work