MISSOULA, Mont. – Reclamation of a 135-acre abandoned mine site has been completed in Pennsylvania’s elk country, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is celebrating the accomplishment as part of a habitat conservation project that it helped initiate back in 1998.

The project reclaimed deep and surface mining areas as new grassland habitat on State Game Land 321 in West Keating Township, Clinton County, Pa.

Spoil piles, dangerous highwall cliffs and lowwall disturbances were backfilled, graded, dressed with biosolids, seeded and planted. The site drains to Little Birch Island Run and Sugar Camp Run, both tributaries of the West Branch Susquehanna River. Engineers designed the project to restore water quality, enhance recreational opportunities and revitalize degraded habitat for elk and other wildlife.

Originally known as the New Garden or Kelley Estate property, the 4,042-acre tract was purchased by RMEF in 1998. RMEF transferred 3,195 acres to the Pennsylvania Game Commission for creating State Game Land 321. RMEF transferred the other 847 acres to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for expanding Sproul State Forest.

RMEF administered a major grant for the reclamation work, which began in 2006. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection awarded a $1.35 million Growing Greener II grant to RMEF, and all but $1,600 passed through directly to the project.

“Our organization has been working for years to conserve and enhance habitat in Pennsylvania,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO, “and this project is a good example of our long-term commitment to ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat in the Keystone State. We intend to build on this longstanding relationship and success in the years ahead.”

Since 1984, RMEF grants have helped complete 216 different conservation and education projects across Pennsylvania with a combined value of more than $20 million.

RMEF partners in the recent reclamation effort included the state agencies listed above, Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation, Clinton County Conservation District, Kyler Environmental, E.M. Brown, Alder Run Engineering, Inc., and project consultant New Miles of Blue Streams. All contracts were awarded based on bids.

Wildlife food and cover specialists with the Pennsylvania Game Commission will maintain the newly restored habitat.

Unregulated coal mining practices prior to 1977 left Pennsylvania with an estimated 2,500 miles of streams polluted by acid mine drainage, 250,000 acres of un-reclaimed surface mine land, 100 million cubic feet of burning coal refuse and potential subsidence problems for hundreds of thousands of acres.

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