Press Statement

Press Statement: ReImagine Appalachia Unveils Report Highlighting Federal Programs Transforming the Appalachian Region


April 16, 2024

Contact: John Neurohr,, 717-364-6452

Appalachia — ReImagine Appalachia today released a comprehensive new report, meticulously detailing a multitude of federal programs that are playing a pivotal role in rejuvenating damaged lands in the Appalachian region, mitigating the devastating effects of climate change, and offering substantial workforce development opportunities.

With its abundance of forests, wetlands, and farmland, Appalachia is rich in carbon-absorbing natural resources. For too long, however, the Appalachian region has been exploited by absentee corporations in extractive industries, leaving much of the region dealing with the dual issue of economic instability and damaged lands. The new report underscores that, with the right investments, there is a path to repair damaged lands, help to tackle climate change through reforestation and wetland restoration, and build pathways to family-sustaining careers for people with significant barriers to employment.

“Our research shows that a significant increase in funding made available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act is enabling organizations and communities to enhance their natural resources sustainably,” says Stephen Herzenberg, report co-author and Executive Director of the Keystone Research Center. “Moreover, it opens up a wealth of workforce opportunities for all, thereby fostering socio-economic growth in the region.”

The report documents several successful initiatives that are making a profound positive impact on the region’s workforce and environment, including:

  • The Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities (WORC) Program; 
  • The Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI); and 
  • The Urban and Community Forestry Program. 

Each program provides a unique approach to restoration and workforce development, demonstrating the diverse strategies employed to revitalize the Appalachian region.

“Natural infrastructure projects, from reforested former mine lands to the improvement of urban tree canopies, offer much needed employment opportunities to Appalachians while bolstering the region’s resilience to climate change,” states report co-author Rike Rothenstein.

The report also highlights the importance of workforce development programs that bring disconnected workers back into the workforce through programs such as apprenticeships, pre-apprenticeships, and programs that combine paid, on the job technical training with wrap-around services to help eliminate the barriers to employment many participants face when (re-)starting their careers. Structural barriers to stable, family sustaining employment include those recovering from substance use disorder or formerly incarcerated individuals. 

“We have to look at the broad impacts that incarceration has had on the Appalachian region and our people. When people come home, they need a continuum of care. It’s important to invest in people, and in programs that provide returning individuals with the real wrap-around support they need,” said Archbishop Marcia Dinkins, Founder & Executive Director of the Black Appalachian Coalition (BLAC). 

The report further recommends that programs should be deliberate about connecting trainees to pre-apprenticeship and union apprenticeship programs, higher education, or ongoing jobs as their next step. 

“Apprenticeship programs are not just avenues to learning a trade; they are doors of opportunity for local workers and historically marginalized communities to earn a good living. LIUNA firmly stands behind Reimagine Appalachia’s efforts to highlight apprenticeship as an opportunity for local individuals with barriers to employment and a solution for land remediation training in the Appalachia area,” said Vince Irvin, Apprentice Coordinator, Ohio Laborers’ Training Center. 

The report strongly advocates for continued support and financial investment from Congress and the Biden Administration. “The “Growing a Restoration Workforce” policy report highlights the increasing number of federal funding streams that support this work and shows how these programs can be a pathway to a family-sustaining career,” Rothenstein emphasizes.


For more information about the report, or to organize an interview with Herzenberg, Rothenstein, or another representative from ReImagine Appalachia, please contact John Neurohr at

Read the report here.

View a recording of a webinar about the report here.