Mr. Peabody’s Coal Train
Working out of the University of Chicago, in the early 1930s, Edgar Transeau mapped the historic prairie habitats of North America, with an emphasis on the eastern extension known as the prairie peninsula. The history of coal extraction in southwestern Indiana is over a century old. Prior to 1977, surface mining was a crude business, with overburden piled on the surface—one shovel-full dumped adjacent to the previous and so on in a pattern resembling an upside-down egg carton—and planted over by state reclamation biologists with acid-tolerant white pine seedlings. Reclamation procedures were legislatively revised in 1977 with the implementation of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA). Under SMCRA guidelines, habitats destroyed as a result of coal mining had to be restored to their previous use, a historical use, or to a standard that is equally or more economically productive. Hillenbrand Fish and Wildlife Area-West supports a herpetofaunal diversity that rivals any comparably sized property in Indiana.