Subsided Land is Home to Wildlife

Washington PA Observer Reporter
17 May 2012
By Scott Beveridge, Staff writer

PROSPERITY - Many people would have viewed pooling in a small Morris Township stream and nearby depressions in the ground as damages caused by longwall coal mining subsidence.

The state Game Commission and National Wild Turkey Federation saw the situation as an opportunity to improve the area's habitat with new wetlands.

"We knew this was going to happen," said Doug Dunkerley, a Game Commission regional supervisor, Wednesday while touring the 21/2-acre wetlands the commission created in 2009 following the mining at Consol Energy's Enlow Fork Mine.

"There are so many positive things that can come from this. It's a positive for everyone," Dunkerley said.

The Southpointe-based Consol hosted the tour to highlight the work it does in partnership with the commission and Turkey Federation through the Energy to Wildlife project. To date, Consol has traded, donated or enrolled nearly 60,000 acres of property in the region into the state's hunter access program, said Lynn Seay, the company's media relations director.

The Energy to Wildlife project was begun a decade ago because the Turkey Federation wanted to encourage electric companies to improve the habitats in the vegetation they manage along their rights of way along their transmission lines, said Jay Jordan, the program's coordinator. It since has expanded to seek similar opportunities on Marcellus Shale natural gas development sites and in the coal industry, where a lot of land has been impacted by industry, Jordan said.

At the wetlands along Craft Creek Road in Morris, the Game Commission received 238 surrounding acres from Consol in a trade for 55 acres elsewhere, Dunkerley said.

The company and commission knew a nearby small stream would back up some and pool after the longwall operation caused the ground to drop about 4 1/2 feet, he said. The rising creek caused the water table to rise and fill with water nearby depressions in the ground. Today, the wetlands provide an excellent breeding ground for frogs and tadpoles, as well as insects that turkeys eat, he said.

"You'll see ducks, geese, bats," Dunkerley said. "You'll see more wildlife here than you will most places."