There are many ways to get involved with GFW's mission:
GFW is a proud descendant of the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI). ARRI's Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA) allowed, for the first time since the 1970's, successful forests to be planted on surface mine sites. Prior to the introduction of the FRA, extreme compaction on mine sites prevented trees from being established, causing nearly a million acres of native forests to be converted to non-native grass and shrub lands. While ARRI works with the active mining industry to implement the FRA, GFW uses a modified version of the FRA to address the reclaimed compacted mine sites where trees cannot regenerate naturally.
GFW was established in 2009 and became a 501 (c)(3) in 2013. Our organization works to reforest lands that had already been reclaimed by the mining industry using non-native species and heavy compaction. This degraded land is a valuable resource for Appalachia, and GFW has the scientific expertise to reclaim it.
Our biggest need is finances.
GFW’s goals are to coordinate and implement surface mine reforestation projects that (1) plant high-value native trees on reclaimed coal mined lands in Appalachia, including The American Chestnut Foundation's potentially blight-resistant Restoration Chestnut; (2) increase the survival rates and growth rates of planted trees through science-based land preparation techniques; and (3) expedite the establishment of forest habitat through natural succession. Dedicated GFW team members coordinate with landowners; university researchers; watershed, environmental, and conservation groups; the coal industry; and state and federal government agencies that have an interest in creating productive forestland on reclaimed mined lands. Additionally, GFW’s goals are compatible with many of its partners’ goals to provide critical new habitat for species of conservation concern that are targeted for conservation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Appalachian States.
GFW also has the ultimate goal to make a positive impact on the future economy of Appalachia. In order to make this a reality, GFW's projects need to increase in size and scale. The goal is to employ Appalachians for reforestation projects and future forest management. GFW projects also leave behind forests that have a tangible economic impact. That value is as simple as the value of the timber and complex as the ecosystem services the forest provides the area.
GFW has additional long term goals to also explore food production, through fruit and nut orchards, as well as bioenergy projects on legacy minded lands.
Decades of research science at several regional universities (UK, VT, WVU, UT, etc.) have produced a set of practices that result in high survival and growth rates of sensitive, native tree species on reclaimed Appalachian mined lands, and this research has been applied on-the-ground by Green Forests Work since 2009. The practices which enable successful mined land reforestation generally consist of the following multi-step process:
1) Control exotic vegetation (Chinese lespedeza, Russian olive, etc.) by mechanical removal, targeted herbicide use, or both;
2) Mitigate compaction by deep-ripping the ground with a 3- to 4-foot long ripping shank pulled by a large bulldozer or excavator;
3) Properly plant native, mostly hardwood tree species, including The American Chestnut Foundation's Restoration Chestnuts;
4) Perform follow-up analysis and management as necessary.
By following these steps, GFW is converting highly compromised lands back into healthy and productive native forests. Flash flooding is mitigated and downstream water quality improved because the deep-ripped ground allows for greater water infiltration and the tree seedlings’ roots take up and slowly release the moisture, as well as filter the water with their leaf litter which will eventually create organic humus and topsoil. Threatened species such as Golden Winged Warbler and Indiana Bat benefit from early successional forest cover and reduction of forest fragmentation. A resource base for future sustainable wood products industries is established, while involving the local communities with the actual work of planting the trees by engaging nearby high schools, colleges, churches, Boy Scouts, and other volunteer sources. In addition to the physical exercise and appreciation for nature generated by the volunteer events, income is generated for professional tree planters who plant the acreage not covered by volunteers and for local contractors who are hired to perform the deep ripping work.
GFW is capable of its mission because of the following:
1) Staff: GFW currently has two dedicated staff members. The skills they bring to the job are essential to the organization's success. The Director of Operations is a restoration ecologist with over 10 years of nonprofit experience. Our Reforestation Coordinator came to GFW with three years of grant management experience and is also deeply rooted in Appalachia.
2) Strategic Partnerships: We compensate for our small staff by developing strategic partnerships with organizations such as the following.
3) Access to the best forestry and reclamation science: GFW is based at the University of Kentucky’s Department of Forestry. Through its location at UK, the connection to ARRI, and the GFW Board of Directors, it is linked to Forestry and Natural Resources Departments throughout Appalachia. This wealth of scientific information informs the programmatic decisions GFW makes. GFW can also alter its reclamation approaches if research shows a better a better path to producing healthy, productive forests.
GFW indicators of success currently include the following:
GFW has project targets for each year and fundraises to achieve these goals. The board and staff would like to grow at a sustainable rate each year.
Future metrics would include number of jobs created if GFW achieves the scale necessary to be a substantial job creator in Appalachia.
GFW has planted over 1.5 million native trees and reforested over 2,500 acres of surfaced mined lands, but there are nearly 1 million acres left. GFW would like to increase its acreage year-after-year by working on larger scale projects.
In the past, GFW has worked with smaller landowners on privately and publicly held land. GFW is working on a strategy to engage larger landowners and is making progress on meeting with these entities and demonstrating the FRA process.
With more acreage to choose from, GFW can be more strategic in selecting reforestation sites so that the maximum benefit is achieved. These benefits include reducing forest fragmentation, benefiting threatened species, improving water quality, and creating sites that will be more resilient to climate change.
Fundraising is an important part of GFW’s goal to increase acreage and impact. Currently, fundraising is site specific which gives little flexibility when an ideal site emerges. GFW is working to increase outreach and less restricted fundraising efforts to allow the flexibility to move funding where it can do the most good.
GFW is working on setting up an operational structure and oversight that will ensure proper donor stewardship. A responsive and active board, knowledgeable legal counsel, and an accountant, are all working with GFW staff to set up policies that will protect the mission and the integrity of the organization while allowing the organization to work quickly and dynamically.
Michael has been involved with chestnut restoration and mined land reforestation for more than a decade. As an undergraduate and graduate at the University of Kentucky, Michael focused on linking American chestnut restoration to surface mine reclamation. From 2007-2009 Michael worked as a forester for Williams Forestry and Associates, supervising planting projects on mined lands and riparian areas across Appalachia. In 2011, he was hired by TACF to oversee a Conservation Innovation Grant that aimed to establish stands of mixed hardwood/American chestnut forest on mined lands in KY, VA, WV, OH, and PA. In 2014, Michael entered into a cost-share position working for both Green Forests Work and TACF. He is currently serving as Director of Operations for GFW. Michael resides in Indiana with his wife and two sons.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
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