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”Teeming” for Wildlife in Pennsylvania

For decades, Elk County, Pennsylvania, supplied coal to power the region and beyond, including to Domtar’s local mill in Johnsonburg. But strip mining has left behind a legacy of scarred land, marked by acidic soils devoid of organic matter and nutrients – conditions not suitable for growing vegetation.

Driven by the need to find a new home for its manufacturing byproducts, a passion for wildlife, and a desire to leave a different kind of legacy, the Johnsonburg Mill found the perfect solution.

For more than 20 years, the mill has been using organic and nutrient-rich wastewater treatment residuals and acid-balancing lime residuals to rejuvenate old mine sites. The benefits are wide-reaching: regional water quality has been improved by more effectively treating acid mine drainage; lush vegetation has returned, providing valuable food and cover for wildlife; and the mill has found a long-term, cost-effective solution to divert more than 95 percent of its byproducts from the landfill to more beneficial uses.

Today the restoration effort is blossoming, literally, with sunflowers and more.

The success of these efforts would not have been possible without teaming up with equally determined public and private non-profit wildlife groups, such as the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Pheasants Forever.

While the mill converted both its power boilers from coal to cleaner burning natural gas in late 2016, it is important we continue helping restore the land from which we once sourced fuel.

It’s just one example of how Domtar has enhanced the land, making it more attractive to wildlife, more valuable to the community and more enjoyable for hunters and nature lovers. Don’t take it from us. Here’s what Richard S. Bodenhorn, president of North Central Pennsylvania Pheasants Forever, had to say in a letter to Domtar in March 2019:

Today the restoration effort is blossoming, literally, with sunflowers and more.

“With the 2018 pheasant season fully behind us, I would like to thank the Domtar – Johnsonburg Mill for once again providing the habitat that made state game lands 44 the prime place in Pennsylvania for pheasant hunting.

I heard nothing but praise for the habitat hunters found again this year… absolutely beautiful fields of corn, soybean, sorghum and sunflower. What is even better, if you are a pheasant hunter, is the fields not only look like good habitat, but they are also harboring pheasants and better hunting opportunities for a wide range of wildlife species. The deer, bears, raccoon and other wildlife greatly enjoyed the corn, but still left the fields valuable to the pheasants and other smaller species well into the fall and winter.

Once the hunting seasons have ended, and hunters settled in for the winter, the crops still have what might be their greatest value. They are then of great importance in both food and cover to the various wildlife species through the winter months when natural food can often be hard to find.

Without their donation, work in land applying the residuals (working it into the existing ground), then planting the crops, neither the hunters or the wildlife would be benefiting from what is without a doubt the best habitat they have seen in that area in their lifetime.

We all owe Domtar both a round of applause and heart felt thank you for being such a benefit to our community, hunters and wildlife.”