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Attoona iHirror News/Plus •3 B Sunday, June 5, 11 Sportsmen strive to reclaim strip mine '#&*'- ./X-hV 1 <. V U * » , , ->' f * . * - . '" -,.» '*f >« * < Jy , 7 ? -i ' *t . 3 , v ,i..< . .< V ' r' ; ' **'• v v . >i < i v ^ ^ r <• - »'^rt-> •Vl*:* ^*, >> &* m f ;^% -<;,.^f^ 1 \*V> < .''* ; .$*#•:*£ > • '^&ut*£ »* »'• , . 4*"'.'^ * * V * * «fck A V sV"" ' -^V-' ! ^K»2 1%^ » >-...\*A i V-^«s Mirror ptnto by J.D. Cavrlch DICK AMERHEIN of the Bellwood Sports- mine site. The club considers last week's men's Association checks the status of a planting .project by Bellwood-Antls students seedling freshly planted on the old Powell a vital part of their reclamation ef forts. By Kate Sheehy Staff Writer BELLWOOD - The skeletal stalk of American Bittersweet at pick Amerhein's feet embodies a hope he has carried for more than a decade. Rooted in rock, its fingerlike branches reaching for the sun, the thin plant signals life among otherwise desolate ground which was once C.E. Powell Coal Co. strip mine on Bellwood Borough's watershed. And while the seedling's chances for survival are slim — about 2 percent, according to Amerhein — its mere presence suggests reclamation efforts in the area are finally taking hold. "It's just getting to the point where trees will grow here," the conservationist explained, pointing to a rare clump of soil near reddish clay thick with maganese. For the last 15 years, Amerhein and other members of the Bellwood Sportsmen's Association have worked to rejuvenate the Cambria County site off Route 865. By planting and replanting thousands of seedlings, the group says it hopes to eventually reverse the negative environmental effects mining has had on the area's gamelands. This week, about 20 students from Darrell Claar's conservation class at Bellwood-Antis High School joined Amerhein in his annual ritual. The students — some viewing the stark, former strip-mining site for the first time — rooted 4,000 knee-high plants by hand. "I like going up there to try and make, where tb*. strip miners screwed up a HI* bit better," explained Lowell Mur- Byplantingandreplantingthousands of seedlings, the group says it hopes to eventually reverse the negative environmental effects mining has had on the area's gamelands. ray, a high school freshman. Brian Prough, a senior who with the rest of the group planted bunches of 15 seedlings, added "I'm wondering if they'll grow. I hope they will." According to Amerhein, the plants' survival rate in the shale-covered patches of dirt is less than average because the club can't afford fertilizer. Like the students, local sportsmen volunteer to plant the seedlings donated by the state Game Commission. Amerhein described the repeated planting as a necessary step in "rejuvenating the area to what it was before the strip mining." "People really don't realize what an important part of our lives trees are. When you cut down a tree, you're destroying the filter for our oxygen and water. You take the ground's cover off and there's nothing left to retain the water," he explained. To press the point, one of the demonstrations Amerhein and Claar give students is a water test using runoff from the mining area. : Amerhein start* off 'his speech with a glass of clear water. By the time he mixes it with bleach and the water turns brawn with minerals, students gag at the thought of drinking it. On the teenagers' reaction, Claar explained, "Kids today take things for granted. They think they'll always have water that's good to drink." The main lesson he tries to instill in students born after the strip mine closed centers on environmental control. State and federal regulations governing strip mine reclamation back up his teaching. Stronger laws now require more reclamation work on the part of the mining firms—what conservationists point to as proof the government is taking a stronger stance on environmental concerns. Stephen Kleiner, a wildlife conservation officer with the state Game Commission, said he "was glad" Bellwood went with replanting seedlings in the area. "In the case of Bellwood, • they're environmentally oriented," Kleiner said. "The fact the planted, on the strip mining area is no surprise. I have a lot of respect for them for doing that." Governor looks to cut CAT claws, asks review; By Michael Blood Associa i — Gov. _* looking to Is this week to HAEf Robert! state in trim i Fund law andscrati...,. At easey's'fequest, the board that oversees the Catastrophic Loss Trust Fund, or CAT Fund as it's commonly known, will meet Monday to consider a temporary rollback of a scheduled 200 percent increase in Analysis ... h%s been giving of political nicks ' ' ' the fund's $8 annual fee. .'.. Casey is hoping the rollback will ease tensions surrounding the issue long enough for lawmakers, who are under pressure to kill the CAT because of the pending increase, to review the issue more thoroughly. The Legislature in recent months has been hastily, and some would say recklessly, moving ahead with plans to abolish the fund since it became obvious the issue could become a political millstone in the November elections. "It's clear that the Legislature cannot deal with this issue in a responsible, comprehensive fashion," Casey said recently in support of the proposed rollback. "We've got to put the CAT Fund in the wastebasket, but we cannot throw in the wastebasket the lives and safety of seriously and severely injured people. The only responsible way to do this is to scrap the CAT Fund in the context of overall and comprehensive insurance reform." Casey's rollback, if approved, has the potential to relieve some worried lawmakers. But the plan, nonetheless, does not guarantee an easier route to resolving the CAT Fund dispute. Casey's plan emerges in the midst of a tangle of legislation that seeks to do away with the CAT Fund and shift catastrophic coverage to the private sector. The CAT Fund, established in 1984, provides up to $1 million to help offset medical costs for severely injured automobile accident victims. The House and Senate have each voted numerous times to dismantle the fund, but specifics in the bills have differed. For example, the House wants private insurance companies, which would fill the void once the CAT Fund is abolished, to offer coverage through a pooling system that is intended to hold the cost of coverage down. The Senate has rejected that approach. Casey, meanwhile, has been advocating his comprehensive reform plan. Others want the fund retained, calling it the best bargain in town. Also unresolved is how the state plans to deal with the fund's long- term debt, estimated to be in excess of 1270 million. The debt is generated by the estimated costs of paying, lifetime benefits to the more than $00; claimants now receiving payments.. "That's such a huge number wfe can't run away from it," said Sen. H,' Craig Lewis, D-Bucks. - ? • Casey's plan to roll back the fee increase offers the prospect, at least for now, of a more patient approach: to the issue. But with all the con}, peting factors, including this? pressures of an election year and the mounting long-term debt, it shouldn't surprise anyone to see the* CAT Fund debate remain at the top of the legislative agenda. -I Mm Pa. hopefuh arriving It's that time of vear again. Twenty-two young ladtes from . across the state are converging on Altoona this week to compete for the coveted title of Miss Pennsylvania. Their week-long schedule * begins with today's parade and cSattsi with thewinhar being crowned during Saturday's gala affair. The pageant is expected to attract appijaimately 3 000 Visitors who will spend an estlmatedfl50,0(» In Altoona. The event officially kicks off with the eighth annual parade. Beginning at 2:30, the proces- < ston will march from the Cricket PieWPlaa to the Station Mall Spectators will be treated to the smiling faces of ttaconWstants.plusafuUcom- . element of bands, baton (wirier* arid local notables. Intide the maU, the ladles will •then be Introduced and will be on hand for autographs. For the rest of the week, the contestants' days and evenings are busy with rehearsal! and interviews that will lead to the judges' final choice, women will visit the local in city businesses sponsoring them. For the rest of Monday, plus Tuesday and Wednesday, the ladies will rehearse their various performances', each fine-tuning their final shows that will be graded by five judges. On Thursday, the judges will interview toe contestants, giving them points that wilfgo toward the final judging. The ladies will be quizzed on current events and something on their resume, such as a hobby or schooling. The chosen winner witt be the one who earns the most point*. Talent is given the most weight, counting for half the scoring. Besides the personal interviews and talent, the contestants wilt also be scored in the competitions- In iwimsuit and evening gown. The pubttc can buy tickets to the preliminary judgingtaking place Thursday and "Friday nights at 8-.JO at the Jaffa Mosque. The top 10 finalists will be dnsen Saturday night aad will compete in the throe oiHrtage competitions: talent, swlmsuit and evening gown. One of those 10 will thenlw crowned Mis* Pennsylvania iM. A SULLEN PATRIOT. After fighting with his sister, 5-year-oW Timothy Vahey was sent to the sidelines at Saturday's firemen's parade in HolUdaysburg. But after the Claysburg youth shed a /Mirror photo by Gary M. Barantc; few tears, his father relented and let him return to view the colorful procession. ;'