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Friday, March 6, 2009

Tree-Planting Project Has Threefold Purpose

HAYSI, Va. – Strip miners and environmentalists are working with schoolchildren to make the world a better place – by planting chestnut trees.

In what once would have been an unlikely collaboration, three very different projects converged in the tree-planting project Thursday on Splashdam Strip. The tiny chestnut trees they placed in the ground are hope threefold: to reforest surface-mind land; to revive a tree that once dominated the forest; and to help youth of the coalfield region build a solid future on their heritage.

Devin Gibson and Matt Blansett, who attend Clintwood High School in Dickenson County, have a stake in all three.

Both work part-time at Paramont Coal’s Deep Mine 26. Both said their grandparents told them about the chestnut forests that once dominated the region. And both see the work they did Thursday as part of a foundation for their futures.

Mining “puts food on the table; you’ve got to work around here,” said Matt, 17. “Mining’s going to go on. We have to power the country, … but also, when you tear things up you’ve got to go and fix them … and that’s what everyone is doing today.”

They were among more than 90 teens from Dickenson County’s three high schools – Clintwood, Haysi and Ervinton – who helped to plant about 2,000 hardwood seedlings on the strip Thursday. About 100 of those trees were American Chestnuts, which no longer populate the region’s forests due to a devastating blight in the early 20th century.

“It’s going to bring future jobs,” Devin, 17, said of the project. “The mines are not going to last forever … but the American Chestnut was a huge tree and such a beautiful tree, and maybe people in the city would like to come here and experience that.”

Read on

The painting is by Byun Shi Ji

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