BALTIMORE, MD (April 6, 2006) – Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick joined students from WestMar High School, the Center for Career & Technical Education and the Meadow Mountain Boys Camp and members of the state’s Land Reclamation Committee, the Maryland Coal Association, and the George’s Creek Watershed Association today to begin planting 2,000 trees native to regional forests and issue reforestation awards to two western Maryland coal companies. The event also marked Arbor Day 2006, coming April 28, and promotes the goals of the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative. The ARRI is a multi-state effort of the Appalachian region states and the federal Office of Surface Mining designed to promote and encourage the planting of more economically viable trees on active and abandoned mined lands.
Secretary Philbrick, the student and others met at the TD Mining Reclamation Project site about 10 minutes south of Frostburg to begin planting 2,000 trees native to regional forests. Red oak, green ash, black cherry and red maple were among the species planted.
“We are here today to transform this mined land back to a managed and productive forest,” Secretary Philbrick said. “This will enable us to continue to reap the benefits of trees as they provide us with food, wood, paper and oxygen to breathe. Increasing the tree population and restoring surface mine land makes our job easier at the Maryland Department of the Environment, especially because trees mitigate flooding, and improve air and water quality.”
The secretary also used the occasion to announce the 2005 Excellence in Reforestation Awards, recognizing the environmental contributions of two local mining firms.
Pine Mountain Coal Company in Frostburg, owned by Bob Rayner and his sons, was recognized for its alliance with the Georges Creek Watershed Association to promote the reforestation of mined land and its cooperation with MDE’s Bureau of Mines to prepare the land planted today as a Forestry Reclamation Approach demonstration plot. Pine Mountain Coal Company has been part of the Georges Creek community for 47 years. They received their first coal mining permit in 1959 and have since maintained an exemplary environmental record. They have taken part in the Maryland Bureau of Mines’ tree planting cost share program since it was enacted in 1988 and have planted tens of thousand of trees on hundreds of acres.
G & S Coal Company, of Bloomington, was given a 2005 Excellence in Reforestation Award for the actions of its Vice President, Tim Schwinabart. Recently, Schwinabart volunteered to participate in the Land Reclamation Committee’s subcommittee to review the regulatory and environmental issues regarding the use of the Forestry Reclamation Approach. Schwinabart provided an industry prospective and performed trials on his company’s active mining permits that provided the sub-committee with insight on the logistics of implementing the Forestry Reclamation Approach. He was also instrumental in developing the guidelines for the use of the Forestry Reclamation Approach. Those guidelines have been distributed to Maryland’s coal mine operators and provides them with invaluable direction that will help make the shift from traditional methods of heavy grading, compacting and thick grasses to reclaimed mine sites that provide short and long term environmental and economic benefits of a well managed forest.
“MDE fully recognizes the importance of reforestation and we appreciate the hard work and planning efforts of the reclamation and restoration committees and the two exemplary Maryland companies that we honor today,” Philbrick added. “It is a true reflection of the caring and intelligence put into creating a balance between industry and preserving our natural resources.”
Arbor Day is a nationally-celebrated observance that encourages tree planting and care. Trees provide food, wood, paper and oxygen to breathe. They stabilize soil, reduce erosion, mitigate flooding, improve air quality, water quality and provide habitat for wildlife. In Allegany and Garrett counties, with one of the largest employers being the New Page Pulp and Paper Mill, the long-term economic importance of commercially valuable trees has an even greater importance.