Manchin, Witnesses Praise Bipartisan America’s Revegetation And Carbon Sequestration Act As Critical Investment In West Virginia

West Virginia Wildlife Resources Chief: ARCs Act provides rural Appalachia with ‘hope and a clear path forward’

October 21, 2021

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s opening remarks, please click here.

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s questioning, please click here.

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, welcomed a fellow West Virginian, Mr. Paul R. Johansen, Wildlife Resources Section Chief for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, to the committee. Mr. Johansen testified before the committee at a hearing on several forestry and wildfire bills, including Chairman Manchin’s bipartisan America’s Revegetation and Carbon Sequestration (ARCs) Act. Both Chairman Manchin and Mr. Johansen praised the bill as an opportunity to restore abandoned mine lands and create safer communities while delivering sustainable economic boosts to local communities.

“Restoring and revegetating reclaimed and abandoned mine lands will produce significant ecological and economic benefits across the Appalachian region. West Virginia alone has more than 440,000 acres of land impacted by surface mining for coal. These lands are a legacy from our past. They provide a link to our history and remind us of the role Appalachia played in meeting the nation’s energy needs. These lands also represent a bridge to the future. The ARCs Act will enable us to polish this legacy by restoring biological diversity, enhancing wildlife habitat, providing essential employment training, and putting people back to work across the Appalachian coal fields,” said Mr. Johansen.

Chairman Manchin also questioned Mr. Johansen about the opportunities the ARCs Act’s provisions concerning restoring abandoned mine lands would bring to Appalachian coal fields, particularly in West Virginia.

“[The ARCs Act’s] abandoned mine lands initiative holds so much promise for our state. More than 30% of West Virginians live within one mile of a[n unreclaimed] mine site. I will note that we included $200 million in the bipartisan infrastructure bill which we think is going to be a tremendous opportunity and a great start for us. Can you tell us a little bit more about the types of economic opportunities that you see coming from the revegetation of these abandoned mine lands?” asked Chairman Manchin.

“The thing that excites me most about this particular bill is the potential economic impact that this would have in rural Appalachia. It would afford the opportunity to put training programs in place that would get either newly graduating high school students or displaced miners back onto those lands, doing some fabulous work in terms of restoring the habitat. The economic impact would be not only training opportunities but putting people back to work on the ground, getting idled mine equipment that we could put back onto those reclaimed mine sites to rip the soils up, reduce the compaction, and allow us to effectively manage and put in place vegetation… I’m familiar enough with West Virginia to know that these rural areas of West Virginia need those economic opportunities to put people back to work, and I really think this bill has that potential,” said Mr. Johansen.

In September, Chairman Manchin introduced the bipartisan America’s Revegetation and Carbon Sequestration (ARCs) Act of 2021 to restore ecosystems and boost carbon storage and sequestration through tree planting, fire risk reduction projects, and expanded use of forest products and new wood technologies. A section-by-section summary of the bill is available here.

The hearing featured witnesses from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, and Wyoming State Forestry Division. To read their testimony click here.

To watch the hearing in full, please click here.