I have strongly mixed feelings about this story (below). I suppose ultimately this is an example of putting the shattered pieces of the world back together, of tikkun olam. Of humans responding to the wounds of the world. Of making a place viable and suitable again for life in a very short time span. And yes, we cannot remake history. What happened, happened (the strip mining). I would never want this story, the experience of the land and the humans in this place, to be an excuse for strip mining. It is an example of what not to do – have an unconscious or conscious "energy policy", locally or nationally or globally – that requires strip mining in the first place. Let's try for something better. And, one must wonder what might have been accomplished by all the human energy that instead was focused on this project for so many years. An early cure for cancer? More nuanced forestry policy? I don't know! But then there is the other side of the human energy issue – no doubt this was one of the best things that happened for some of the folks who worked on the project. Hummm….How shall we understand this all?
Posted: 16 Feb 2011 12:01 AM PST
"And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County down by the Green River where Paradise lay. Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away." – John Prine, 1971
When coal and other minerals are strip mined, the land is literally turned upside down, depositing nearly sterile debris (spoils) many feet deep and destroying the previously healthy top soil. What little is left of the land is then abandoned — or at least this was the case until relatively recently. Nature, however is remarkably resilient, and over time, and with a little help, can eventually recover from many forms of abuse.
In 1951, Lester Davis purchased 85 acres (34.4 hectares) of land in southwestern Missouri, for $42.50, that had been strip mined around 1926, and which 25 years later was still nothing but spoils. He was determined to find some way to return the land to its natural beauty. Between 1951 and 1967, Davis with a few helpers, planted 101,269 trees and shrubs and sowed thousands of seeds over his land. With a total investment of less than $9,600, he planted nearly 356 different species of plants. Since the land was so rough it was all done by hand. In 1968, Mr. Davis donated the acreage to the Missouri Department of Conservation. This land is now known as the Lester R. Davis State Forest. Today, as pictured above, several ponds provide a background for towering stands of mature trees, which are a magnet for both the wildlife that now abounds and for nature lovers who can walk the miles of trails throughoutÂ theÂ park. Mr. DavisÂ showed how it could be done. In the U.S., laws in most states and jurisdictions now require mining companies to restore the mined-over land to near its original state.
Photo details: Center photo taken on March 19, 2010: Nikon D80 camera; Â½ second exposure; f22; ISO 100; 40mmÂ lens. Left and right photos taken on November 3, 2010: Nikon D80 camera; 1/10 second exposure; f16; ISO 100; 16mm lens.
- Lester R. Davis State Forest Coordinates: 37.506, -94.575