What do you do after the coal companies have strip mined and flattened mountains? What you’re left with is something that looks like a WalMart building site: flat, denuded of vegetation, and depleted soils.
Some of these sites are turning into solar farms, but some communities are turning these into wetlands and meadows. Reintroducing elk is restoring the soil and attracting tourists. Elk do have a downside, compacting the soil further where they bed down and eroding the slopes which could expose the toxic dirt below. But birds, bugs and amphibians are enjoying the break in the forest. These efforts could help the region transform from an extractive economy to a restorative one.