Thomas Poe Cooper Building
730 Rose Street
Lexington KY 40546-0073
Contact Information
Address Thomas Poe Cooper Building
730 Rose Street
Lexington, KY 40546 0073
Phone (859) 421-9222
Contact Name Kylie Schmidt
Web and Social Media
Freshly ripped project site in Breathitt Co, KY
At A Glance
IRS Ruling Year 2013
Other ways to donate, support, or volunteer

There are many ways to get involved with GFW's mission:

  • Volunteer at one of our planting events throughout Appalachia in the spring. Check out our website for volunteer opportunities.
  • Owners of surface mined lands in Appalachia can discuss possible reforestation opportunities with GFW. Visit our website to learn more.
  • In-kind donations in the form of seedlings, heavy equipment work, volunteer supplies (food, water, etc.), and more can be made. Contact us to learn more.
  • Subscribe to our newsletter.
  • Select GFW as your charitable organization on AmazonSmile, Humble Bundle, and in the Kroger Community Rewards Program.
  • Financial assistance can be made online or by sending a check to the following address:
Green Forests Work
Thomas Poe Cooper Building
730 Rose Street
Lexington, KY 40546-0073
Financial Summary
Revenue vs Expenses - All Years
Expense Breakdown - Recent Year
Mission Statement
Green Forests Work's mission is to re-establish healthy and productive forests on formerly mined lands in Appalachia. Reforesting these unproductive sites will create a renewable and sustainable multi-use resource that will provide economic opportunities while improving ecosystem services.
Background Statement

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.

Impact Statement

 Recent Accomplishments

  • Since its inception in 2009, Green Forests Work (GFW), with the help of partners and volunteers, has planted over 1.8 million trees on legacy mines throughout Appalachia.
  • We have recently partnered with Coal Country Beeworks to increase our pollinator education and outreach and improve our planting prescriptions to make them more pollinator-friendly.
  • In 2016, we converted 386 acres from unproductive grass-/shrub-land back to young, native forests. In doing so, we improved the air quality, water quality, provided habitat for threatened species, and provided economic benefits for local communities in Appalachia.
  • In 2016, we engaged over 2,000 volunteers and over 200 partners, planting nearly 250,000 trees.
  • GFW, along with the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture, received funding from the Regional Conservation Partnership Program to reforest 1,000 acres across Appalachia over the next five years, allowing GFW to increase its staff and hire a reforestation coordinator. 

2016 Goals

  • Build awareness of GFW and the importance of the work that we are doing throughout Appalachia.
  • Fundraise in a manner that promotes the long term financial stability of GFW.
  • Expand our geographic range to mining areas outside of Appalachia.
  • Apply for additional funding through initiatives such as RECLAIM and POWER.
  • Be on track to successfully implement Regional Conservation Partnership Program grant.


Needs Statement

Our biggest need is finances.

It costs approximately $1,500 on average to reforest an acre of formerly surface mined land in Appalachia. This cost includes ripping the highly compacted land so that it may support tree establishment, eliminating invasive and/or exotic species that have colonized these sites, and planting trees.
However, this cost does not include our employees time and travel invested into the project. In order to reforest the nearly one million acres of surface mined land throughout Appalachia, we need to grow our organization. At our average annual reforestation rate (375 acres), it will take us over 2,500 years to reforest all the surface mind land in Appalachia alone!
Service Categories
Secondary Organization Category Environment / Environmental Education
Tertiary Organization Category Employment / Employment Preparation & Procurement
Geographic Areas Served
West Virginia
Green Forests Work primarily serves all Appalachian states with surface mined lands in need of reforestation. We have recently started to expand our range to include other surface mined lands outside of Appalachia. 
Impact Questions
GoalsHelpWhat is the organization aiming to accomplish? This is the organization's ultimate goal for intended impact.

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 most advanced generation of potentially blight-resistant American chestnuts; (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. 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, as the forestry industry has traditionally been a multi-billion dollar industry in this area. 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. 

StrategiesHelpWhat are the organization's strategies for its stated long-term goals?

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.

CapabilitiesHelpWhat are the organization’s capabilities for doing this? What resources, capacities, and connections support its progress towards long-term goals?

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.


  • The Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI)- ARRI was created in 2004 in an effort to address the problems associated with reforestation of surface mines. ARRI is a cooperative effort between the states of the Appalachian region, the federal Office of Surface Mining, and other partners, designed to encourage restoration of high-quality forests on reclaimed coal mines in the eastern US.
  • The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF)- The goal of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) is to restore the American chestnut (Castanea dentata) to its native range within the woodlands of the eastern US. Using scientific research and a breeding program developed by its founders, TACF has developed a potentially blight-resistant species American chestnut that they call Restoration Chestnut 1.0. Green Forests Work (GFW) and TACF work hand in hand through joint plantings, preparing the sites by applying ARRI’s Forestry Reclamation Approach. As part of the restoration process, the American chestnut, one of the fastest-growing native hardwoods in North America, is being planted with other high-value hardwood tree species on mined lands in the Appalachian coal fields.


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.

IndicatorsHelpHow will the organization know if it is making progress? What are the key qualitative and quantitative indicators against which the organization assesses its progress toward its intended impact?

GFW indicators of success currently include the following:


  • Number of trees planted
  • Acres reclaimed
  • Number of volunteers
  • Number of states served
  • Tree survival rates
  • Dollars raised
  • number donors
  • Social media outreach


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.

ProgressHelpWhat has and hasn’t been accomplished so far?

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.

Board Chair
Board Chair Dr. Christopher Barton
Company Affiliation University of Kentucky
Term Oct 2012 to Oct 2016
Board Members
Dr. Carmen Agouridis University of KentuckyVoting
Dr. Christopher Barton University of KentuckyVoting
Steve Felch Retired from US Department of the InteriorVoting
Mary Miller Community VolunteerVoting
Paul Rothman Retired from Kentucky Department for Natural ResourcesVoting
Dick Whitaker Community VolunteerVoting
Board Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 6
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 4
Female 2
Unspecified 0
Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits 0
Board Meeting Attendance % 80%
Written Board Selection Criteria? No
Written Conflict of Interest Policy? Yes
Percentage Making Monetary Contributions 40%
Percentage Making In-Kind Contributions 40%
Constituency Includes Client Representation No
Number of Full Board Meetings Annually 2
CEO/Executive Director
Executive Director Dr. Christopher Barton
Term Start Oct 2013
Full Time Staff 1
Part Time Staff 0
Volunteers 2082
Contractors 0
Retention Rate 100%
Management Reports to Board? Yes
Staff Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 2
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0 0
Staff Demographics - Gender
Male 1
Female 1
Unspecified 0
Senior Staff
Title Director of Operations

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.

Title Reforestation Coordinator
Kylie Schmidt, B.S. Natural Resources & Environmental Science, University of Kentucky
Kylie has three years of experience co-administering multi-million dollar environmental grant projects.  
Formal Evaluations
CEO Formal Evaluation No
CEO/Executive Formal Evaluation Frequency N/A
Senior Management Formal Evaluation Yes
Senior Management Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
NonManagement Formal Evaluation Yes
Non Management Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
Description Our main program is our mission: to re-establish healthy and productive forests on formerly mined lands in Appalachia.
Population Served , ,
Plans & Policies
Organization has a Fundraising Plan? Under Development
Organization has a Strategic Plan? Under Development
Management Succession Plan? Under Development
Organization Policy and Procedures Under Development
Nondiscrimination Policy No
Whistleblower Policy No
Document Destruction Policy Yes
Government Licenses
Is your organization licensed by the Government? No
Revenue vs Expenses - All Years
Expense Breakdown - Recent Year
Fiscal Year
Fiscal Year Start July 01, 2017
Fiscal Year End June 30, 2018
Projected Revenue $350,000.00
Projected Expenses $350,000.00
Spending Policy N/A
Detailed Financials
Revenue SourcesHelpThe financial analysis involves a comparison of the IRS Form 990 and the audit report (when available). Revenue from foundations and corporations may be included in individual contributions when not itemized separately.
Fiscal Year201620152014
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
Government Contributions$152,159$0$0
Individual Contributions$755,694$108,712$232,726
Investment Income, Net of Losses$997--$0
Membership Dues----$0
Special Events----$0
Revenue In-Kind----$0
Expense Allocation
Fiscal Year201620152014
Program Expense$416,337$191,876$80,478
Administration Expense$12,152$7,564$2,808
Fundraising Expense----$500
Payments to Affiliates------
Total Revenue/Total Expenses2.120.552.78
Program Expense/Total Expenses97%96%96%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue0%0%0%
Assets and Liabilities
Fiscal Year201620152014
Total Assets$538,573$58,212$148,940
Current Assets--$58,212$148,940
Long-Term Liabilities----$0
Current Liabilities----$0
Total Net Assets$538,573$58,212$148,940
Form 990s
2016 990
2015 990
2014 Form 990
Capital Campaign
Currently in a Capital Campaign? No
State Registration Yes
Address Thomas Poe Cooper Building
730 Rose Street
Lexington, KY 405460073
Primary Phone 859 421-9222
Contact Email
CEO/Executive Director Dr. Christopher Barton
Board Chair Dr. Christopher Barton
Board Chair Company Affiliation University of Kentucky