Monongahela National Forest: Lambert Restoration Project


Climate-informed actions to restore spruce and spruce-hardwood forest have been implemented and are ongoing. 

Staff from the Monongahela National Forest used Forest Adaptation Resources: Climate Change Tools and Approaches for Land Managers to identify actions to enhance the longterm resiliency of high-elevation spruce ecosystems under a changing climate.

Project Area

This 2,667-acre project encompasses the Lambert Run watershed and two small adjacent watersheds. In addition to the Lambert Run Strip coal mine, the project area contains approximately 1,000 acres of legacy coal mine lands (reclaimed according to mining laws at the time). The project is located 5 miles northwest of Durbin, in Randolph County, West Virginia. The Monongahela National Forest works closely with a number of partners on this project who provide funding and collaboration, including the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, Green Forests Work, Canaan Valley Institute, The Nature Conservancy, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, USDA-NRCS Plant Materials Center, and the Central Appalachians Spruce Restoration Initiative.

Management Goals

Norway spruce (left onsite to provide coarse woody debris), and deep ripping compacted soils.

The Lambert Run Strip abandoned coal mine lands were mined in the 1970s and bought by the U.S. Forest Service in the 1980s as a portion of the 40,745-acre Mower Tract acquisition. Rehabilitation efforts in the 1970s consisted of reshaping the mined areas to a more stable condition and planting species, mostly nonnative, for erosion control. The contemporary result is large areas of heavily compacted soil with low water infiltration, where the predominant cover is aggressive grasses and Norway spruce. Grass-dominated areas remain in a condition termed "arrested succession". The Monongahela National Forest is implementing the Lambert Restoration Project to improve watershed conditions, provide wildlife habitat, and restore native red spruce-northern hardwood ecosystems on Lambert Run and adjacent lands. In May, 2014, the Monongahela National Forest worked with NIACS to carefully consider near and longterm restoration goals and demonstrate how management actions can enhance longterm resilence to climate change. 

Climate Change Impacts

According to numerous climate and process models and the Central Appalachians Forest Ecosystem Vulnerability Assessment (Butler et al. 2015), climate change impacts are expected to intensify over the next century, including:
Regional increase of roughly 2 to 8 °F in mean annual temperature, with high elevation areas projected to warm less than low elevation areas.
Depending on the model, regional decrease of roughly 1 to 4 inches in summer or fall, with more severe drying in high elevation areas.
Increased frequency of intense rain events, which is expected to increase erosion potential, especially on steep slopes and where hydrology has been altered.
Projected declines in red spruce, sugar maple, bigtooth aspen, and other native species.

Challenges and Opportunities

Red spruce is currently expanding on the landscape, recovering from past logging, acidification, and wildfire to regain an important ecological niche. Current restoration efforts are focused on restoring site ecological functions related to soil and water, and restoring native tree, shrub, and herb species. Although climate impact models project severe declines for red spruce by the end of the century, these high elevation areas provide the last remaining habitat that is cool and wet enough to support red spruce. Restoration of these sites now may increase the ability of red spruce forest to cope with future changes in climate by correcting arrested succession, reconnecting forested landscapes, and providing a greater suite of red spruce sites with the potential to serve as refugia.

Adaptation Actions

4.1. Prioritize and maintain unique sites.
4.2. Prioritize and maintain sensitive or at-risk species or communities.
Already goal to restore native red spruce and other native species, but these sites are also the most resilient
Dense Red Spruce
1.1 Reduce impacts to soils and nutrient cycling.
1.4. Reduce competition for moisture, nutrients, and light.
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
Mechanically thin red spruce
Leave thinned red spruce on site for woody material
Mixed Hardwood
1.1 Reduce impacts to soils and nutrient cycling.
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
5.3. Retain biological legacies.
Create gaps (1/10 acre)
Release existing red spruce by removal (herbicide) of midstory NHs around existing red spruce and selective cutting; and create 8 to 10 snags per acre
Leave thinned wood on site for woody material
Protect black cherry and disease-resistant beech (other northern hardwood species are not a concern at this time due to current abundance on the landscape)
Mine Bench (open and nonnative conifer plantations)
1.1 Reduce impacts to soils and nutrient cycling.
1.2. Maintain or restore hydrology.
2.2. Prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive plant species and remove existing invasive species.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
7.1. Reduce landscape fragmentation.
Plant native tree species and herbaceous species (within general area of the watershed)[general strategy here is to prioritize native species in this location, which may serve as refugia for them in the future. In the longterm, keep an eye on upward migr
Assessing/improving road stream crossings and upgrading culverts
Modify mine retention ponds to reconnect surface and groundwater. Incorporate existing infrastructure (e.g., armored ditch for storm water overflow) where it makes sense
Decommission roads that are impeding hydrologic function or repurpose roads/trails for recreation
Modify/create wetland habitat to restore natural hydrology
Add/create coarse woody material (knock trees down, mulch trees on site, bring in mulch from other sites (requires quality control check)
Remove nonnative trees mechanically (norway spruce) and herbaceous species (spotted knapweed)

Project Photos

Click to enlarge photos

Native tree species are being planted after nonnatives are removed.
Partnerships are a critical key to the success of this project.

Project Documents

Project Videos

Climate Informed Restoration in the Appalachians

Next Steps

Some areas have already been deep ripped and planted, while others are ongoing. Wetland creation and road decommissioning is also ongoing. Native species will be planted accordng to availability, with an emphasis on greater native species diversity.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Patricia

Last Updated

Thursday, June 8, 2017