Although the Appalachian Mountains are often only thought of as coal country, the ecosystem as a whole is one of the richest and most biodiverse seasonal deciduous forests on earth.
In addition to the mountains boasting rich populations of freshwater mussels, a corridor for migratory birds, and more species of salamanders than any other range, Appalachia is also home to National Parks like the Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee—a park that may have as many as 100,000 species just on its own.
However, Appalachia also has a darker, decades-long history of toxic coal-mining tactics such as mountaintop removal, surface reclamation, and blasting and tunneling that had done almost irreparable damage to local ecosystems, leaving hundreds of barren and bald hills throughout eastern Kentucky and West Virginia.
These were the scenes which characterized Patrick Angel’s life and career as a coal-industry regulator through the late 20th century—but in 2003, the Kentucky native had the power of spirit to turn over a new leaf and begin working to undo years of environmental degradation that were caused by the policies he once enforced.
Now 70 years old, Angel—an ex-coal man turned sheep farmer and father-of-five—has been the driving force behind a re-greening of coal country that has given out-of-work miners a chance to undue the environmental damage that they contributed to during coal’s hay day.
For the rest of this article: https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/ex-coal-man-rallies-appalachians-to-plant-187-million-trees-on-abandoned-mines/