|Cumberland Plateau from High Rock on Pine Mountain|
The idea of "virgin" implies that it is the same as it was before Europeans arrived, which it is not of course, even though it has not been commercially timbered. Natural disasters such as storm and fire change the forest. Before the 1930's the dominant tree in the forest was the American Chestnut - until the chestnut blight arrived. All the mature trees died, but small ones still grow from those old roots, until they reach the size to bear fruit. Then the chestnut blight kills them off again. So logging is not the only thing to change an old growth forest.
|Hemlock Wooly Adelgid|
Jobs and electricity and supposed to be the reasons justifying such destruction, yet I understand that much of the mining is mechanized and large numbers of jobs are not being created. When the coal seams are depleted, what happens to the jobs? They plan to just tear down another mountain. Our group was joined by Hugh Archer of Kentucky Natural Lands Trust, which fights the greedy and short-sighted companies by purchasing land at risk, particularly in the Pine Mountain corridor. It's a challenge though, to raise the money and negotiate with property owners who expect a premium over market value for their land. Much of our hike was on property saved by KNLT.
The next few posts will explore some of the diverse life forms we found on our hikes, including these bright red little newts. So come back for more...