RESTORING SUSTAINABLE FORESTS ON APPALACHIAN MINED LANDS FOR WOOD PRODUCTS, RENEWABLE ENERGY, CARBON SEQUESTRATION, AND OTHER ECOSYSTEM SERVICES Page: 6 of 28
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Public Law 95-87 mandates that mined land be reclaimed in a fashion that renders the land
at least as productive after mining as it was before (Torbert et al. 1995). Research has shown
that restored forests on mined lands can be equally as or more productive than the native forests
removed by mining (Burger and Zipper 2002). Given that most land surface-mined for coal in
the Appalachians was originally forested, forestry is a logical land use for most of the reclaimed
mined land in the region (Torbert and Burger 1990). However, since implementation of the
SMCRA, fewer forests are being restored in the eastern and Midwestern coalfield regions
(Burger et al. 1998). In several states, most notably Virginia, the majority of mined land is now
being restored to forests. Over eighty percent of Virginia's mined land has been reclaimed to
forested post-mining land uses since 1991. However, region-wide, the majority of mined land
that was originally forested is not being reclaimed in a way that favors tree establishment, timber
production, carbon sequestration, and long-term forest productivity (Torbert and Burger 1990).
We believe that these reclaimed mined lands are producing timber and sequestering carbon
at rates far below their potential for reasons that include poor mine soil quality, inadequate
stocking of trees, lack of reforestation incentives, and regulatory disincentives for planting trees
on previously forested land (Boyce 1999, Burger and Maxey 1998). A number of these
problems can be ameliorated simply through intensive silvicultural management. Through
established site preparation techniques such as ripping, weed control, fertilizing, and liming, the
quality of a given site can be improved. Other management and silvicultural techniques such as
site-species matching, correct planting techniques, employing optimal planting densities, post-
planting weed control, and thinning can also improve normal development of forest stands, and
improve timber production and carbon sequestration.
Similar to the much-debated topic of converting agricultural land to forests, the conversion
of reclaimed mined lands to forests carries with it many economic implications. The primary
difference between converting agricultural lands to forests and converting reclaimed mined lands
to forests is the absence of any obvious extrinsic opportunity cost in the latter scenario; this, of
course, assumes that the reclaimed mined land has been abandoned and is not being utilized for
any economically beneficial purpose.
A fair amount of research has been conducted regarding the amounts and values of timber
produced on reclaimed mined lands. The effect that a carbon market may have on decisions
pertaining to the reclamation of mined lands has also been researched. According to previous
research, it appears that mined lands are capable of sequestering carbon and producing harvest
volumes of equal or greater magnitude to similar non-mined lands. This fact alone, however,
does not render afforestation of mined lands economically profitable or feasible in all cases.
There is a lack of research pertaining specifically to the conversion of reclaimed mined lands
from their current uses to forests and the economic implications of such a land use conversion.
Furthermore, the potential for an incentive scheme aimed at promoting the conversion of
reclaimed mined lands to forests has yet to be explored in depth.
This study ultimately addresses the potential for increasing carbon sequestration on surface-
mined land. The overall research objective of this study is to determine the economic feasibility of
carbon sequestration through converting reclaimed mined lands to forests using high-value tree
species, and to demonstrate the economic and decision-making implications of an incentive
scheme on such a land use conversion.
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Burger, James A.; Galbraith, J.; Fox, T.; Amacher, G.; Sullivan, J. & Zipper, C. RESTORING SUSTAINABLE FORESTS ON APPALACHIAN MINED LANDS FOR WOOD PRODUCTS, RENEWABLE ENERGY, CARBON SEQUESTRATION, AND OTHER ECOSYSTEM SERVICES, report, November 29, 2004; United States. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc780576/m1/6/: accessed April 23, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.