Sportsmen and Coal Industry Discuss Future Partnership


Mining companies are required to make restorations to the land after mining if finished, like this former surface mine in southern WV.  Sportsmen believe the opportunities for hunting, fishing, and wildlife will be ehanced if they can share their ideas with the industry.

The long perceived rivalry between the state’s coal industry and sportsmen recently took a step toward healing.  Members of the West Virginia Wildlife Federation and the coal industry sat down over lunch to open lines of communication. 

Wildlife Federation President Jerod Harman says the move was a realization that many of his organization’s members are also members of the coal industry.

"The majority of people who are working at the coal companies are sportsmen.  They’re members of the West Virginia Wildlife Federation and they’re members of affiliate organizations of the Wildlife Federation," said Harman. "We’re all sportsmen and we share a lot of common ground on these issues."

"Our industry has more hunters and fishermen than any industry in the world I believe," said West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney.  "They’re interest is to make sure that mountain and stream is protected where they grew up hunting and fishing.   They want to protect those to take their kids there and they’re doing this every day."

Raney, Harman, and members of the Wildlife Federation as well as Bolts Willis of the UMWA all shared some of the ideas during an informal get together in Charleston.  

"What we’re hopefully going to see out of this is better habitat for wildlife, better habitat for fish in streams, and we’ll definitely be working together to try and open up some new opportunities for sportsmen in the state," said Harman.

Under federal reclamation laws mining companies are required to perform restoration work for post mining use.  Typically the decisions on what a reclamation or remediation project entails are left to the West Virginia DNR or DEP.  Harman and his members believe sportsmen should also have a voice in those decisions.

He cites a recent example of how the idea has worked.   Typically grasses are planted on reclaimed strip jobs to simply prevent erosion.   Pennington Seed Company coordinated efforts with a central West Virginia coal producer to provide a different seed mixture.  The blend not only holds the soil, but provides a more nutritious mast source for song and game birds, turkey, and other wildlife.   

"They’re bringing ideas to us.  They’re really looking to do things with the sportsmen now," said Harman. "Our affiliate organizations have great ideas.  Whenever you combine great ideas and the funding to do it, then sportsmen are really going to benefit."

The partnership resulted in the creation of a 200-acre wetland location in southern West Virginia on a former mine site.  Harman says by working with the sportsmen, the coal industry helped create an area that will enhance breeding and feeding of waterfowl.   

In Harman’s mind, the sky is the limit on what could be done to enhance fishing and hunting opportunities with industry and sportsmen working together.

"I expect to see shooting ranges.  It wouldn’t surprise me if we don’t have more public hunting coming out of this," said Harman.  "Right now a lot of ground is getting leased up and there’s less and less opportunity for the average person to find a place to hunt."

Raney says operators are already required to spend the money on remediation.   He believes an open dialogue with those who will directly benefit the sportsmen and women of the state, many of whom are already working in the industry, will ensure the money is well spent.

"They (sportsmen) know what needs to be done.  Then you take the resources from the industry and fix the streams or work on the roads.  Some of it’s terrestrial and much of it is aquatic," said Raney. "Working with them, then you know where the needs are and you begin to fix these things."

Raney cites improvements to the Coal River over the last ten to twenty years as an example of the industry and interested private citizens working to meet a goal. 

"Although the mining has increased in that area (watershed), the water quality has improved as has the fishery," he said.


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