For a sense of scale: if you can make them out, there is a row of six motor vehicles parked along the road, just left of center.


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Note the houses just downhill from this strip site, located on the right-hand side of the photograph. Often, what remains of the hillsides obscures the extent of the devastation from holler residents. Driving along this road, one might only see trees and not what lies beyond.

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These photos were taken in October 2006 on the Roaring Branch Trail, a temperate oasis between the towns Appalachia and Big Stone Gap. they are examples of the great diversity in the appalachian mountains. The first picture is of a rare walking fern (Camptosorus rhizophyllus), one of only two species in the genus Camptosorus (the other species, C. sibiricus) grows in east Asia. When the frond tips of the walking fern touch moist ground, the fern takes root at that spot and new fronds will grow there; hence, the name walking fern (by lillie). Walking ferns live in moist, shady environments and grow in low clumps on moss and rock. According to the USDA, this unique fern is listed as endangered in Rhode Island and New Hampshire, threatened in Michigan, exploitably vulnerable in New York, and possibly extirpated in Maine. (photos by Colleen E. Cronin)

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The Jefferson National Forest, Autumn 2006. (photo by Colleen E. Cronin)


These photographs were taken at a site near Appalachia, VA. (reclaimed picture) This is a reclaimed mine site. Reclaimed sites can only support a limited variety of grasses, wildflowers, shrubs, and trees- not the lush diversity found in unmined mountainsides.

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This second image of a reclaimed surface mine site contrasts sharply with a stand of trees untouched by recent mining activity.

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In October 2006, students from James Madison University (Virginia) and Warren Wilson College (North Carolina) came to learn about surface mining in southwestern Virginia from coalfield residents. Here, two JMU students observe the destruction along Route 160 near the Kentucky border. Students and other groups are welcome to visit and experience surface mining in Virginia. For more information, contact (photo by Hannah Morgan)