You are amazed at how many useful plants there are in the mountains. The fact that plants like ginseng are rare is a reminder, though, that the variety of useful plants available in the mountains today is nothing like what it used to be. Traditionally, most collectors were local people who harvested enough for their families. Sometimes they would gather additional plants to sell in the local market. In recent years, however, there has been increased global demand for natural products like medicinal herbs. This has brought outside collectors to the mountain.
When you step out of your tent, the rain-soaked landscape reminds you that a storm blew through camp during the night. It's a little cloudy out, but the sun is already trying to break through. Before long the rest of your teammates are awake and you gather around the fire, eating toast with butter and drinking hot tea. Now that you know a little bit about the people of Blair Mountain and have seen their natural landscape, you begin to think about the relationship between the two. Do these mountain people use the natural resources found on Blair Mountain to survive?
Mountain logging site. Photo: Library of CongressYou've just been fortunate to witness the incredible diversity of plant life on Blair Mountain. Unfortunately, many of these plants are in danger. In addition to the threat of mountaintop mining, these plants are threatened by logging, agricultural practices, and tourist activities. These threats exist because people have discovered the vast resources-from fun to wood-that mountains have to offer and they are taking advantage of them.
You've just been fortunate to witness the incredible diversity of life in Makalu-Barun National Park. Unfortunately, many of these plant and animal species are in danger. In addition to the degradation of forests and grasslands from cattle grazing, deforestation is taking place as trees are removed for fuelwood. You and your team even brought a camping stove to cook with so you wouldn't increase the pressure on these forests. More pressure comes from the illegal hunting of wildlife and harvesting of wild plants by outsiders.
The Appalachians. Photo: TMIAfter weeks of planning and preparation, your expedition is finally going to begin. First you land at Logan County airport in Ethel, West Virginia. After renting a car, you drive 20 miles to the town of Hetzel.
Hetzel, the closest town to Blair Mountain, is where you will spend a day making final preparations for your expedition.
Overview: Students begin their expedition by investigating local and mountain biodiversity and exploring the environmental threats and conservation measures related to the biodiversity of these two areas.
Objectives: To become familiar with local native plants through the investigation of and comparison to native plants in the mountain environment.