Researchers at Stephen F. Austin State University’s Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture are working with the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to augment the science and success of mine reclamation in the western Gulf Coast region of the U.S.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Texas was the country’s sixth largest coal producing state in 2013, generating more than 42,000 tons of lignite coal. Surface mining, in which heavy machinery is used to remove layers of earth to access the resource, is the primary technique used in the state.
While the excavated layers of a functioning mine may stand in sharp contrast to the landscape prior to operation, the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1977 mandates that mined land be reclaimed and restored to its original use or to a use of higher value. In many areas across the eastern U.S., as well as in Texas, this translates to reforestation.
“We’re studying a technique called the forestry reclamation approach,” said Jeremy Stovall, associate professor of forestry in SFA’s Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture.
Stovall explained that prior to the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act there were major issues with land stabilization, especially in the Appalachian Mountains where improperly stabilized slopes resulted in landslides. Though the passage of the 1977 act remediated this issue, it also produced unintended consequences.
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