Research changes surface mine reclamation practices, policy

July 26, 2000

Two decades of research by a Virginia Tech forestry and soil scientist and a graduate student's research over a seven-state region have influenced current reclamation policy, guidelines, and regulations throughout the eastern and mid-western coal fields -- a forested landscape providing wood products and amenity values increasingly important to the socio-economic well-being of rural communities.

James A. Burger, professor of forestry and soil science, received the William T. Plass Award from the American Society for Surface Mining and Reclamation and Jason Rodrigue, a graduate research assistant in Virginia Tech¹s forestry department, received the Master of Science Memorial Scholarship Award from the society.

Burger researches the biology, economics, engineering, and legal procedures for restoring productive forests on thousands of acres of land disturbed by surface mining. As a result, four states in the Appalachian region have developed specific procedures or regulations based on his research, with the outcome of thousands of acres of disturbed forest land being reclaimed to productive forests for the benefit of landowners and the public at large. (See article at: www.rgs.vt.edu/resmag/resmag2000a/trees.html)

Rodrigue quantified the diversity, productivity, commercial value, and carbon-capture potential of 21 mined and reforested sites across a seven state region and a spectrum of mining history and conditions.

The Plass award is given for outstanding contributions to the teaching, research, and practice of land reclamation and ecosystem restoration. Awardees are recognized for career-length contributions made at the national and international level.

The $500 student award and plaque are given annually to an M.S. degree student having a curriculum in a scientific discipline directly related to and leading toward a profession in disturbed land reclamation and restoration. The award is meant to provide an incentive to follow a professional career that contributes to the continued improvement and knowledge of technology required to reclaim land and restore ecosystems. Rodrigue also won the highly competitive award for the best student presentation of a proceedings paper on original research. The paper was based on a portion of his thesis research.

Burger's research is sponsored by Virginia Tech¹s Powell River Project and has been funded by the U.S. Department of Interior¹s Mining and Mineral Research Institute, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and several forestry and mining companies. In addition to the scientific output of a dozen graduate student theses and dissertations and numerous scientific and technical publications related to land reclamation and reforestation, his work has led to significant applied outcomes.

Burger teaches topics on forest soils, ecology, silviculture, agroforestry, and research methods. He is a fellow of the Soil Science Society of America and a member of the Society of American Foresters and the International Union of Soil Science.
-end-
PR CONTACT: Lynn Davis
540-231-6157 davisl@vt.edu

Researcher: James Burger
jaburger@vt.edu 540-231-7680


Virginia Tech

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