INSTITUTE, W.Va. — West Virginia State University and Diversified Energy Co. are partnering to plant more than 10,000 trees around West Virginia in the coming year, thanks to a $125,000 donation Diversified made to fund the initiative.
University President Ericke S. Cage said the project will engage many Mountain State communities, for which he is particularly thankful.
“We are excited to partner with Diversified Energy on this transformative project that will not only leverage WVSU’s statewide extension service network but engage local communities in this year-long endeavor,” Cage said.
“We are thankful to Diversified Energy for its commitment to environmental stewardship and for helping to keep West Virginia such a beautiful place to live, work, and play.”
Teresa Odom, Diversified Energy’s Vice President of ESG & Sustainability, said the initiative is in keeping with the energy company's stewardship model.
“One of the foundational elements of our stewardship model is the sustainable management of our assets that provide clean, affordable energy throughout the Appalachian region.
"That stewardship model naturally extends into an emphasis on environmental programs, and this partnership with WVSU demonstrates Diversified’s commitment to engaging with and giving back to the communities in which our employees work and live.”
The project builds off the legacy and models the framework of the West Virginia Division of Forestry’s Mountaineer Treeways Program, which provided free, corporate-sponsored, bare-root seedlings to communities and organizations for planting on public lands in exchange for an in-kind match of volunteer time and a one-year survivability report.
The project will be divided into three stages, according to Cage.
During stage one, 5,000 trees will be planted. Volunteers will plant trees along a tract of land ravaged by a tornado in 2015 at Coopers Rock that was subsequently logged to salvage any remaining timber.
Trees will also be planted to improve the safety, natural aesthetics, and recreation of the Morris Creek watershed and the old Mammoth Mine site in the Gauley River watershed. The last location for tree planting in stage one is the Marilla Streambank stabilization project and Outdoor Learning Park in the Deckers Creek Watershed.
During the second state, the program will engage Future Farmers of America chapters statewide in planting 5,000 trees. Each participating chapter will determine the location and the number of trees planted at each.
During the third stage, trees will be planted for beautification or production of fruits or nuts in urban communities where the area is predominantly underserved. Trees will be placed in low socially economic areas throughout the state, working with individual homeowners, church groups, schools, and other community organizations.
Educational components will exist concerning tree production and care. And the university's extension service will survey communities and gauge interest in the programming and offering of trees to determine locations.
In addition to the tree plantings, a portion of the donation from Diversified Energy will also go to tree planting and other biodiversity initiatives on the university campus in the Kanawha Valley at Institute.
Tree planting for the entire project would begin between April and June 2023 with planting ending between September and November 2023.
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