Lester R. Davis State Forest
February 16, 2011
"And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County down by the Green River where Paradise lay. Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away." - John Prine, 1971
When coal and other minerals are strip mined, the land is literally turned upside down, depositing nearly sterile debris (spoils) many feet deep and destroying the previously healthy top soil. What little is left of the land is then abandoned -- or at least this was the case until relatively recently. Nature, however is remarkably resilient, and over time, and with a little help, can eventually recover from many forms of abuse.
In 1951, Lester Davis purchased 85 acres (34.4 hectares) of land in southwestern Missouri, for $42.50, that had been strip mined around 1926, and which 25 years later was still nothing but spoils. He was determined to find some way to return the land to its natural beauty. Between 1951 and 1967, Davis with a few helpers, planted 101,269 trees and shrubs and sowed thousands of seeds over his land. With a total investment of less than $9,600, he planted nearly 356 different species of plants. Since the land was so rough it was all done by hand. In 1968, Mr. Davis donated the acreage to the Missouri Department of Conservation. This land is now known as the Lester R. Davis State Forest. Today, as pictured above, several ponds provide a background for towering stands of mature trees, which are a magnet for both the wildlife that now abounds and for nature lovers who can walk the miles of trails throughout the park. Mr. Davis showed how it could be done. In the U.S., laws in most states and jurisdictions now require mining companies to restore the mined-over land to near its original state.
Photo details: Center photo taken on March 19, 2010: Nikon D80 camera; ½ second exposure; f22; ISO 100; 40mm lens. Left and right photos taken on November 3, 2010: Nikon D80 camera; 1/10 second exposure; f16; ISO 100; 16mm lens.