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Environmental groups, Beam Suntory organize reforestation effort on former mine site in Hazard

A volunteer plants a sapling into the ground.
Mike Wilkinson/Mike Wilkinson, wilkinsonvisual.
The Nature Conservancy
A volunteer plants a sapling into the ground.

A team including environmental nonprofits The Nature Conservancy, Green Forests Work and beverage company Beam Suntory are working to reforest a former surface mine site near Hazard.

Around 75 volunteers from Beam Suntory are planting 7,000 trees across a 10-acre piece of land.

Danna Baxley is The Nature Conservancy’s Kentucky Director of Conservation. She says the reforestation work has economic benefits.

“There are other mutual interests as well in terms of agricultural supply chains, obviously, clean water,” Baxley said. “So there's just a lot of common ground between the bourbon industry's interests and the nonprofit interests.”

It’s also a project that will help give Appalachian wildlife more space to move around.

“The Appalachian corridor is probably the most important migration corridor for wildlife in all of North America,” Baxley said. “So it's really important that animal populations can adjust the range and move north and south. That's just a kind of a highway for wildlife.”

The planting is the first phase of a larger project to reforest 152 acres of land. A previous effort called the Cumberland Forest Project saw the group plant around 50,000 trees on a 76-acre site in Knox County.

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Shepherd joined WEKU in June 2023 as a staff reporter. He most recently worked for West Virginia Public Broadcasting as General Assignment Reporter. In that role, he collected interviews and captured photos in the northern region of West Virginia. Shepherd holds a master’s degree in Digital Marketing Communication and a bachelor’s in music from West Virginia University.
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