Johnsonburg Mill Helps Wildlife By Improving Soil Quality

On August 10, 2011, Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe commended Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) and Domtar’s Johnsonburg Mill for taking steps to improve elk and wildlife habitat in north-central Pennsylvania.

“This year’s project on State Game Land 311 will improve 42 acres where previous coal mining from decades ago destroyed the topsoils,” Roe said. “Past mining left this area a barren and damaged landscape that did not support much wildlife or wildlife habitat.”

According to Dennis Dusza, Game Commission Northcentral Region director, it costs about $3,000 per acre to improve these damaged landscapes by bringing in the paper mill soils additive, which consists of wood fibers and lime that are a waste product in the paper manufacturing process. Domtar matches the RMEF funds with $76,000 worth of labor and materials being spent to upgrade the pH of the soils, with the Game Commission adding $5,000 of its own land management funds to the project.

The Johnsonburg Mill has been involved in a cooperative effort to improve poor soils and create wildlife habitat on Pennsylvania State Game Lands since 1997. Illustrating the constructive use of manufacturing byproducts, the soil additive is plowed into sites, helping improve soil quality and establish vegetation.

“It gives us much satisfaction that we have made a beneficial, positive and lasting impact towards improving the wildlife habitat of our region,” said Andy Redmond of Domtar-Johnsonburg Mill.

The 42 acres will be treated to produce high-quality clovers, legumes, grasses and some grain crops for elk and other wildlife to feed on for years to come. “Elk, wild turkeys, whitetail deer and black bear heavily use these sites,” Dusza said. “Some cottontail rabbits and numerous species of furbearers and non-game wildlife, such as songbirds, other mammals and even aquatic life and reptiles and amphibians, benefit from these improved soils.”

With the Johnsonburg Mill’s support, the RMEF cooperative has helped restore more than 110 acres of land over the past decade. Elsewhere, residuals generated from the Domtar site have successfully helped re-vegetate thousands of acres of active and abandoned strip mines and even area farms. The Johnsonburg Mill is proud to support its surrounding community through these measures, and hopes to contribute toward improving local soil quality for years to come.