Volunteers needed for Earth Day tree planting

Every year more than 1 billion people participate in Earth Day. To celebrate the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge will host a red spruce tree planting on April 20 and 21.

Volunteers are needed to help plant nearly 5,000 red spruce trees during this two-day event. Anyone wanting to participate should arrive at the Refuge Visitor Center in Canaan Valley at 10 a.m. on both days. Volunteers are asked to bring gloves, sturdy shoes, water and appropriate clothes for the weather. Lunch will be provided to volunteers by the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

Red spruce once covered hundreds of thousands of acres in the higher elevation areas of the state. Prized for its straight, unknotted light wood, spruce was used in everything from paper to pianos. The Wright brothers even used spruce in the construction of the first airplanes.

Many spruce forest wetlands are now listed as globally impaired and are a high conservation priority for the state. After heavy industrial logging, red spruce stands were reduced to less than 10 percent of their original size. Now a group known as the Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative works to restore this important ecosystem.

Red spruce ecosystems are home to the federally threatened Cheat Mountain salamander and the recently delisted Northern flying squirrel.

Planting spruce in riparian areas also ensures cold water streams will remain shaded and provide spawning areas for native brook trout. By planting spruce seedlings, the Wildlife Refuge seeks to expand and improve habitat for these important species.

Spruce tree seedlings for this project were provided in part by support from the Arbor Day Foundation.

For more information about this volunteer event or to learn more about red spruce restoration in West Virginia, anyone interested can contact Dawn Washington, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist, at 304-866-3858.