This is the first in a series of periodic profiles of programs and activities that seek to protect, enrich and restore the natural resources of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge region.
The damage to the ecosystems of the central Appalachian region from coal mining and the absence too often of successful reclamation has long been a blight on much of the Appalachian region. However, that is beginning to change, thanks to a new venture in West Virginia.
Appalachian Headwaters is a 501(c)(3) organization begun in 2016 to develop sustainable economic opportunities while restoring damaged ecosystems in central Appalachia. Specifically, the organization is working to restore productive native hardwood forests and improve water quality on former surface mine sites in the region. Its Appalachian Beekeeping Collective and Native Plant Horticulture Initiative programs focus on teaching and supporting people in our region as they learn to participate in growth industries. It is also working to help displaced or underemployed workers to earn income while repairing our natural environment. A new program started last year is Camp Waldo, a summer camp for youth located in Summers County, WV on the banks of the Greenbrier River.
- Beekeeping – Appalachian Headwaters is committed to using natural beekeeping techniques that are bee-friendly and free from synthetic pesticides and antibiotics.
Each year, it trains and supports a class of new beekeepers as they learn the art, science, and business of beekeeping. Through the fall and winter, a series of programs introduce beginners to the skills and knowledge required for successful beekeeping. A class of trainee beekeepers is then selected from the pool of people who attended the classes. In late spring, the new partners are provided with strong hives of overwintered bees and the equipment necessary for their hives to thrive. Headwaters provides these materials on a sliding scale based on household income. Many of the members receive their materials for free, while others have their portion of the cost deducted from honey sales later in the season.
- Native Plant Restoration – Appalachian Headwaters is developing the Appalachian Native Plant Horticultural Initiative to train workers to collect and grow high-demand, low-supply, pollinator-friendly native plants. The program will serve the growing restoration and non-timber forest product industries in Appalachia and sell plants to the expanding mid-Atlantic native landscaping market. The Initiative will train Appalachian workers to fill this gap in the marketplace. Headwaters will provide the training, tools and staff to support trainees, helping to establish a strong native plant industry in central Appalachia.
- Restoring Forests and Streams – Appalachian Headwaters is working with leading scientists to re-establish productive native hardwood forests and to restore water quality on former mountaintop removal mines and other large-scale surface mine sites in our region. The program will cultivate commercially viable forests composed of native hardwoods and non-timber forest products on what are currently severely degraded ecosystems. The projects are intended to improve impaired mountain streams so they can again support native aquatic life, helping the region’s recreation and tourism industry. Without intervention, hundreds of thousands of acres in Appalachia will be unable to support native vegetation and wildlife for generations to come
- Camp Waldo – Starting in 2019, Appalachian Headwaters began operating Camp Waldo, an overnight youth summer camp program focused on science, nature, arts, and adventure.
The camp offers traditional summer camp activities, such a swimming, canoeing camping, art, music, hiking, soccer and other games. But campers also enjoy some unique activities, such as beekeeping, vegetable gardening, native plant propagation, astronomy, reading and writing stories, ecology, theater and time in a science lab. The camp’s goal is to give youth in the region a fun experience in learning and to help them become more self-reliant.
For more information about Appalachian Headwaters and its programs, visit its website at https://appheadwaters.org/.