It’s not too often that I get to participate in fieldwork.
As the outreach coordinator for the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture and Division of Migratory Birds, most of my time is spent working in the office with staff to develop strategic communication and outreach messages for our biological priorities.
So when I came to work recently as I usually do and opened my email, it was with delight that I not only saw some great news, I got to reflect on a remarkable day in the field I had almost 2 years ago.
It was a chilly rainy day in Storystown, Penn., and we were at the Flight 93 Memorial.
The memorial site was part of a project to reforest the previously mined and reclaimed land, as well as provide a windbreak for the memorial. The project was part of the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI), which is hard at work reestablishing native forests on former coal mining sites throughout Appalachia for the benefit of migratory bird species, including the golden-winged and cerulean warblers, birds of conservation concern.
That day, I witnessed an emotional remembrance of the tragedy and then watched as the victims’ family and friends joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, multiple partners, and dozens of volunteers to plant trees that served not only to create a beautiful memorial site but would also provide habitat for migratory birds.
It was the perfect blend of partnership, habitat restoration, and working with the community and volunteers. The beauty of the project for birds is that restoration of reclaimed mines benefit golden-winged warblers, and as the forest matures, it will in turn benefit the cerulean warbler and a multitude of wildlife that share similar habitat. Both species are high priority species for our agency’s Division of Migratory Birds.
Nearly two years after the project began, the ARRI Flight 93 Reforestation Project was awarded the Department of Interior’s prestigious Partners in Conservation Award last week. I feel proud to have been a part of a project with the families of Flight 93 and nearly 1,200 volunteers who planted over 35,000 tree seedlings.
This project serves as a beautiful memorial of a great human tragedy and is a testament to the power of partnerships for bird conservation.