Abstract Detail


Hufford, Mary [1].

Resilience in Lucy's Woods: The Mixed-Mesophytic Seasonal Round as a Framework for Post-Mining Restoration.

Lucy Braun was the first to posit the ecological and geological coherence of the forest system covering the Central Appalachian Plateaus, which she named “mixed mesophytic.” Braun also noted the resilience of the second growth mixed-mesophytic forest following the extraction of the virgin forest in the first decades of the 20th century. I explore the consistency of this coherence and resilience since prehistoric times in relation to cultural practices. Based on ethnographic research conducted in southern West Virginia over the past two decades, my slide-illustrated presentation explores continuities of contemporary engagement with ntfps with the prehistoric and historical record. I also consider linguistic evidence that supports theories advanced by archeologists (Munson) and environmental historians (Davis) that the mixed mesophytic forest system was shaped and influenced by Native American horticultural practices. I argue that the mixed mesophytic forest system can be seen as an indigenous landscape that appropriated settlers, who adapted European forms of commoning into a system learned from Algonquian neighbors (Estyn-Evans). The extreme forms of extraction brought by the twentieth century appropriated the agroforestry of settler populations in order to support an industrial workforce. This system, though constrained by company-imposed rules, has been resilient into the present, with the exception of communities separated from their customary sites of hunting, gathering, and gardening by mountaintop removal mining. How we define the object of restoration depends on where we locate resilience in the face of extraction. I suggest that the capacity for resilience is distributed throughout a mixed mesophytic forest thinking system endemic to the Appalachian Plateaus (Bateson). The customs of the seasonal round are the outcroppings of a thinking system of land and people, which I argue approximates what Aldo Leopold saw as the land community. I ask what are the implications for community-based ecological restoration in the Appalachian coalfields?

Related Links:
Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia
Knowing Ginseng: The Social Life of an Appalachian Root
Molly Mooching on Bradley Mountain: The Aesthetic Ecology of an Appalachian Morel

1 - Virginia Tech, Appalachian Studies Program, Religion and Culture Dept., Blacksburg, USA

mixed-mesophytic forest 
oral tradition
coalfield commons 
community-based reclamation.

Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Abstract ID:59
Candidate for Awards:None