Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

Mountaintop mining by Vivian Stockman

Mountaintop mining by Vivian Stockman


The Challenge

America's most destructive mining practice turns mountainsides into wastelands, buries streams forever under an avalanche of waste, and decimates critically needed habitat of our fastest declining songbird, the Cerulean Warbler. As its name suggests, mountaintop removal/valley fill mining results in the complete removal of the top of a mountain in order to reach hidden coal seams near its surface. Millions of tons of dirt and rock are then dumped into surrounding valleys, burying streams and their aquatic life forever, and impacting headwaters that supply drinking water for millions of people. Mountaintop mining destroys mature forests that Cerulean Warblers and other birds rely on to breed.


In addition to buried valleys and streams, the mined areas themselves are generally not reforested, as it is far cheaper to plant non-native grasses than tree seedlings. Therefore, mined areas reclaimed in this manner will remain grasslands for decades or centuries to come. Cumulatively, across what should be a forested region, mountaintop mining removal and valley fill operations greatly impact bird habitats and populations.


ABC Conservation Framework

This program fits into two the category Eliminating Threatsof within ABC's conservation Framework.
pyramid icon


Primary Birds Impacted

Cerulean Warbler, Henslow’s Sparrow, Kentucky Warblers, Worm-eating Warblers, Wood Thrush, Louisiana Waterthrush



As long as millions of tons of mining waste are dumped into valleys and streams, birds and other wildlife will be negatively impacted. The clear solution to this problem is to ban the practice of mountaintop removal mining.

In places where this form of mining has already occurred, reforestation programs need to be initiated to try to restore some native habitat. Research by the U.S. Geological Survey and West Virginia University shows that breeding Cerulean Warblers avoid forest edges where they meet reclaimed mine grasslands (up to 650 feet into the forest), existing in much lower densities than in intact forests. If reclaimed mines were reforested, these “edge effect” losses would be quickly reduced. In time, they would also be able to support breeding Ceruleans.

ABC Results

ABC Results Button ABC has supported HR1310 and S696, two bills that will stop the destructive practice of mountaintop mining.
ABC Results Button

In conjunction with the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture as part of the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI), ABC has helped reforest thousands of acres of formerly mined lands to benefit Cerulean Warblers and other birds. Read more about ARRI here


What Next?

What Next Button

ABC and its partners have been invited by U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-Maryland) to help integrate ARRI in future climate change legislation. Through the cap and trade of carbon credits, some of the generated revenue could be included in ARRI’s clean-up and reforestation efforts.

Take Action

Ask your Representative/Senators to co-sponsor H.R. 1310/S. 696, and help stop the destructive practice of mountaintop mining. Visit ABC's Action Site to take action day