The Power Of Storytelling, Nature, And Elk Inside Appalachia


The nights are cooler and the days are beautiful, but this year, fall feels different. Seasonal changes and life shifts can feel a lot like anxiety, especially as we all keep abreast of the news from across the country, and the globe.

We’re listening back to an episode of Inside Appalachia we originally aired in spring, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The seasonal shift is different, but the same advice from public health experts holds true: It’s safest to avoiding cramped public places, and when you’re hanging out with friends, experts say do it outside. Get some fresh air.

We have that here in Appalachia and we’re celebrating that wildness.

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.

Elk, Standing Elk

Albert Herring
Wikimedia Commons

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.

Since we originally aired this story earlier this spring, West Virginia wildlife officials have been able to confirm that 15 baby elk were born in the mountain state this year, bringing the herd’s total to 85.

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 storyteller who lives in North Carolina. He uses stories and songs to get kids excited about the natural world.

Rural People’s Connection With Nature


C. Williams

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, 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 excerpt from his article “Eastern Kentucky Has Been Underwater, but You Probably Didn’t Notice”.


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.

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 Andrea Billups. Brittany Patterson edited our show this week. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens.

You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.