CONSOL Energy Lands, Greene County, Pennsylvania

About CONSOL Energy Lands

Pittsburgh-based CONSOL Energy is the leading diversified energy producer in the Appalachian Basin. The company, which both mines coal and extracts natural gas, is committed to restoring depleted mine areas and managing active energy-producing sites to benefit wildlife. Over the years, CONSOL has formed cooperative partnerships with local and national conservation organizations and state wildlife agencies to achieve its environmental goals.

On lands in Greene County, southwestern Pennsylvania, CONSOL is working with the Ruffed Grouse Society, Quail Forever, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission in a multi-year project aimed at creating at least 1,700 acres of regrowing young-forest and native grassland habitats. Many species will benefit from this project, including white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbits, ruffed grouse, woodcock, bobwhite quail, wild turkeys, resident and migratory songbirds, and reptiles. So far, work has centered on former farmland that was surface-mined for coal, and on nearby poor-quality woodlands.

Improving the Land for Woodcock

In 2008, the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service funded a Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) project in which old agricultural fields of non-native cool-season grasses would be treated with herbicides, then replanted with native warm-season grasses. The Pennsylvania Game Commission designed and carried out this work. Also, woodlots interspersed with the old farm fields were cut back by at least 100 feet to create regrowing brushy and shrubby zones between the grasslands and the wooded tracts.

warm season grasses

Warm-season grasses planted on CONSOL lands offer improved habitat for wildlife.

Although cool-season grasses offer some benefits to wildlife, they also have disadvantages. Cool-season grasses, such as timothy, bluegrass, orchardgrass, and tall fescue, are not native to the Northeast. They are often expensive to maintain, requiring fertilization, liming, the application of selective herbicides, and periodic reseeding. Some cool-season grasses, such as tall fescue, grow so densely that they hinder the travel of ground-dwelling songbirds, rabbits, and quail as these wild creatures rear their young and search for food.

Warm-season grasses, often called “prairie” or “bunch grasses,” grow best in summer’s heat. They include switchgrass, indiangrass, big bluestem, little bluestem, and broomsedge. (Before European settlement, prairie grasses extended from the Plains east into portions of western Pennsylvania.) The clumping nature of these native grasses typically yields bare ground under and between the individual plants, providing travel corridors for birds and their broods and other wildlife including small mammals and reptiles. The bunchy structure of native grasses also allows forbs, legumes, and wildflowers to seed in and sprout between them. This diversity of vegetation encourages a range of insects to colonize grasslands. The resulting mix of plants and insects offers much diverse food for wildlife. Quail use this sort of habitat for feeding and finding shelter. Woodcock often forage in upland grassy areas where the vegetation is not too dense.

Bobwhite quail

Conservationists hope to introduce wild bobwhite quail. Maslowski/USFWS

The CONSOL Greene County project was designed to create a landscape that would allow the eventual introduction of bobwhite quail from CONSOL lands in Illinois. In 2009, work started on 130 acres east of Pennsylvania Route 88 in Monongahela Township. Pennsylvania Game Commission workers converted around 40 acres of cool-season grasses to warm-season grasses. Logging also took place on 120 acres. At present, conservation efforts are on hold in this area, as another energy company, which owns the rights to thin seams of coal beneath the surface, has decided to mine those seams and to recover remnant coal in existing spoil piles on the site. When the mining is finished, the company will recontour the landscape, and the planting of native grasses will resume.

In a second aspect of the overall habitat project, CONSOL entered into an agreement with the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) to manage CONSOL’s wooded acreage, both to turn a profit and to convert the scattered low-quality woodlots and other forested tracts into better-quality young-forest habitat. The resulting mosaic of grasslands and regrowing forest will benefit dozens of wildlife species, including many whose numbers have dwindled in recent decades.

RGS hired Appalachian Forest Consultants of Stoystown, Pennsylvania, to direct timber sales and logging on the CONSOL properties. Wooded parcels are intermixed with land where mining is taking place, reclaimed mined land, water impoundments, and unmined acres.

Before CONSOL bought the land, much of the wooded acreage had been “high-graded,” with the best lumber trees removed over the years during repeated cuttings. Foresters determined that the best way to return high-quality upland forest to the landscape was through clear-cutting: removing the remaining low-quality trees and letting shoots and seedlings grow back densely. This strategy would create many acres of young forest to benefit quail, woodcock, grouse, rabbits, white-tailed deer, and songbirds such as prairie, golden-winged, and blue-winged warblers.


Seed trees will help spur the return of young forest on CONSOL's Robena Mine site.

Timber cutting started in winter 2011 on lands west of Pennsylvania Route 88, in an area known as the Robena Mine site. An initial round of harvesting removed the timber from 80 acres; most of the trees were chipped on site and sold as pulpwood. Altogether, CONSOL has leased 1,600 acres of timber to the Ruffed Grouse Society on the Robena Mine site, of which at least 350 acres will be logged in the near future.

Loggers are instructed to leave approximately 25 seed trees per acre. Species include maple, oak, black cherry, ash, tuliptree, and aspen. Foresters have specified both clearcuts and smaller patch cuts in different timber stands. Logging roads and log landings will be planted with grass, creating areas where woodcock can display and breed in springtime and roost at night during late summer. The regrowing forest will supply nesting, feeding, and brood-rearing cover for timberdoodles. At some point, biologists and land managers may determine that the mosaic of habitats will support an introduction of wild northern bobwhite quail.

CONSOL has leased more than 10,000 acres of timber to the Ruffed Grouse Society in Greene County alone. The company may also lease other forested lands to RGS in Washington and Indiana counties in Pennsylvania, and on Monongalia and Marian counties in nearby West Virginia, in an effort to improve those wooded tracts for young-forest wildlife.

Funding and Partners

CONSOL Energy, Ruffed Grouse Society, Quail Forever, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Wildlife Management Institute.

How to Visit

Groups can arrange visits to conservation-oriented projects on CONSOL lands by contacting David Bojtos, Manager – Dispositions, CONSOL Energy, 1000 CONSOL Energy Drive, Canonsburg PA 15317-6506, 724-485-4038,