Tapping Into The Love Of Wild, Inside Appalachia

Mar 13, 2020

There is a lot happening in the world that is stressful. But the risk of the coronavirus doesn’t necessarily have to mean you have to barricade yourself indoors. Diseases spread in close quarters, so some researchers advise that you should get outside and exercise with your friends if you can. Go on a walk. You can still avoid sneezing into each other's faces and make sure you wash your hands, but your immune system loves to be outside.


So on this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we’re exploring Appalachia’s wild side. In this show we’ll explore stories about humans and nature, and what exploring the outdoors means to different people. 

Doug Elliot is a storyteller and a naturalist who leads nature walks across the region to teach children and adults about plants and animals.
Credit Saro Lynch-Thomason

In This Episode

Elk In Appalachia

Across Appalachia, there are several efforts to reintroduce elk back into the forests. There’s a project in North Carolina, another in Pennsylvania and one in West Virginia.

In Kentucky, the project is now in its second decade. Reporter Irina Zhorov spent some time there to learn why so much energy has been spent reintroducing elk to the Bluegrass State. 

Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton, second from left, watches as five elk are released at a reclaimed strip mine near Hazard Thursday, Dec. 18, 1997. These are the first free-ranging elk to set hoof in Kentucky since the 1840s
Credit AP Photo/Rhonda Simpson

Reintroducing Elk In West Virginia

Five years ago West Virginia launched its own elk reintroduction project, inspired by Kentucky's. They estimate it could eventually give a $3 billion hunting and tourism boost to the economy. Inside Appalachia Folkways reporter Caitlin Tan spent time trying to catch a glimpse of elk in the southern coalfields of West Virginia and learned how the project is going. 

A bull elk keeps a watchful eye on a herd of cow elk in Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, Colo.
Credit AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Storyteller Uses Song To Inspire Kids To Learn About Nature

These days, kids spend less time exploring outdoors and more time in front of screens. It’s a problem, especially since studies show that time outside is great for kids. It can help them reduce stress and stay healthy. In this episode we’ll meet Doug Elliot, a naturalist and storytelling who lives in North Carolina. He uses stories and songs to get kids excited about the natural world. Reporter Saro Lynch-Thomason tells us more.

Rural People’s Connection With Nature 

Writer Silas House argues that too many people around the world are losing their connection with nature. He recently wrote an article in The Atlantic, responding to the lack of media attention he saw after parts of central Appalachia faced catastrophic flooding. 

In much of his work, the author and playwright celebrates the natural world and rural places and people. Growing up in southeastern Kentucky, House says nature was his paradise. In this episode we hear an interview with House and an except from his article "Eastern Kentucky Has Been Underwater, but You Probably Didn’t Notice"

A rare stand of old red spruce trees in WV.
Credit Brittany Patterson/ Ohio Valley Resource

Outdoor Afro 

There’s a stereotype about the kinds of people often pegged as “outdoor” people. If you buy into the outdoor gear industry, and look at the models they use in magazines and websites, you might assume that outdoor people are all white. 

That characterization is just not true, according to Rue Mapp. She’s black, and she loves getting outside. The challenge contending with these stereotypes inspired her to start an online blog called Outdoor Afro. 

The Allegheny Front's Kara Holsopple sat down with Rue Mapp, and one of the group’s leaders, Kim Refosco, who is based in Pittsburgh.

Biologists tag and release a northern flying squirrel.
Credit Barb Sargent / Courtesy WV DNR

Flying Squirrels

West Virginia’s northern flying squirrel was endangered, but it is on the rebound. While challenges remain, federal biologists say the species continues to do well, in large part due to the restoration of its habitat: red spruce forest. Reporter Brittany Patterson recently took a hike through one of these iconic ecosystems to find out more.

We had help producing Inside Appalachia this week from WHYY in Philadelphia, WUKY in Lexington, The Allegheny Front, which is produced in Pittsburgh and reports on the environment, and the Ohio Valley ReSource, which is funded by the Corporation for public broadcasting and West Virginia Public Broadcasting. 

Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Dinosaur Burps, and Blue Dot Sessions.

Roxy Todd is our producer. Eric Douglas is our associate producer.  Our executive producer is Glynis Board. Brittany Patterson edited our show this week. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. 

You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.

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