Presentation on theme: "Overcoming Challenges for Reclamation Success Cindy Pappas Ed Redente, Ph.D. Richard Bell."— Presentation transcript:
Overcoming Challenges for Reclamation Success Cindy Pappas Ed Redente, Ph.D. Richard Bell
Importance of Reclamation Heightened focus on reclamation and, most importantly, reclamation “success” 1. State and other stakeholders perception that wildlife habitat and therefore hunting are being adversely impacted by the lack of habitat restoration 2. BLM’s own assessment and determination that reclamation has not been “successful” is driving the development of a standard reclamation planning template 3. BLM is including disturbance cap-based alternatives in a number of EISs
Reclamation as a Part of NEPA Compliance Key component of mitigation either as ACEPMs/Design Features or as COAs Required by 43 CFR 3000 and 36 CFR 228, Onshore O&G Orders, and Notices to Lessees – the Gold Book Until recently, reclamation planning for O&G projects have been proposed and implemented with varying levels of commitment of science or evaluation for success
Successful Reclamation BLM is now including criteria or thresholds for success in terms of a percent cover and species diversity within a specified period of years Other stakeholders such as WG&F are coming up with similar guidance on reclamation planning including criteria for success Are these criteria for success achievable? Are they science based? Do they account for the dynamic and variable nature of the environment?
Disturbance Cap BLM has included and will likely continue to include a Disturbance Cap Alternative, especially EISs Applied reclamation that is determined to be “successful”, both interim and final, during the life of the project by the BLM/stakeholders allows the operator to subtract the “successfully” reclaimed acreage from the project total so to keep the acreage of disturbance below the cap How can an operator plan and go forward with a project whose development over time will be subject to accepted “success” for timely reclamation in challenging environments?
Reclamation Science—The State of the Art The knowledge base for the reclamation of disturbed lands in the western U.S. is extensive Reseeding of millions of acres following the dust bowl of the 1930s Improvements of millions of acres of arid and semiarid rangelands in the 1960s—1980s following more than a half a century of rangeland exploitation
Reclamation Science—The State of the Art Conversion of millions of acres of marginal farm land to perennial grasslands under the USDA Conservation Reserve Program beginning in 1985 Reclamation of tens of thousands of acres of mined lands, especially following SMCRA and rigorous state rules and regulations governing mine land reclamation
Reclamation Science—The State of the Art Relevance to Oil and Gas Reclamation The knowledge that has been accumulated from decades of reclamation work in the western U.S. has direct application to the O&G industry No need to reinvent to wheel for O&G reclamation
Reclamation Science—The State of the Art Relevance to Oil and Gas Reclamation (continued) Although some of the knowledge is being applied to O&G, much of it is not being used In general, reclamation has not been a high priority for O&G projects The effectiveness of achieving reclamation success needs to increase if O&G development is going to be allowed to continue
Environmental Challenges to Reclamation Success Physical Challenges Extremes in Texture Infiltration Hydraulic conductivity Water holding capacity Cation exchange capacity Soil Compaction Too much compaction results in the loss of macropores, runoff increases, potential for erosion increases, and root growth is restricted.
Environmental Challenges to Reclamation Success Physical Challenges (continued) Rock Fragments Reduction in root volume Decline in TWH capacity Reduction in total soil nutrients Elevated surface temperature (higher heat capacity than soil) Poor seed soil contact in seedbed
Physical Challenges (continued) Erosion Major limiting factor to restoration success Water (sheet and rill/gully) Wind Environmental Challenges to Reclamation Success
Physical Challenges (continued) Precipitation Precipitation is limiting factor for plant establishment Plant establishment limited by frequency and duration of rainfall events Rainfall often results in successful germination, but frequency of events does not support long- term establishment Environmental Challenges to Reclamation Success
Chemical Challenges Soil pH Extremes in pH are problematic for plant growth ( 9.0) Soil pH is not typically a problem with oil & gas reclamation Soil salinity (EC > 4 mmhos/cm) Effects plant’s ability to take up water Effect is more prevalent during germination and early seedling growth
Environmental Challenges to Reclamation Success Chemical Challenges Soil sodicity Deterioration of soil structure (defloculation or dispersion of soil particles results in restricted water movement into soil, lower aeration, lower seedling emergence, and lower root elongation)
Environmental Challenges to Reclamation Success Biological Challenges Invasive Species Competition from highly competition invasive plants (noxious and non-noxious weeds) Grazing Animals Over utilization by wildlife and domestic livestock
Other Challenges to Reclamation Success Improper Reclamation Techniques Inadequate seedbed preparation Poor seed-soil contact Lack of “safe sites” for seed germination & establishment Seed distribution not uniform Planting seed too deep Seeding rates too low Seeding wrong time of the year
Improper Species Selection and Seed Mixture Composition Species not adapted to site conditions Cultivar or variety within a species not adapted Use of species that have seed dormancy issues Use of species that are difficult to establish or very slow growing Formulating seed mixtures that over emphasize species that are difficult to establish or are highly aggressive Other Challenges to Reclamation Success
Overcoming Challenges for Reclamation Success Select species adapted to soil texture Eliminate soil compaction by ripping or scarifying Rock fragments are difficult to remove, if percent is high, then considering adding amendments to increase WHC Control erosion with mulch and reduce slope angle and length Cover saline soils or use only salt tolerant species Cover sodic soils or use only sodium tolerant species Control invasive species
Overcoming Challenges for Reclamation Success Use of fencing to exclude large herbivores Rough seedbed is superior to a smooth seedbed Implement quality controls during seeding Seed prior to the period of greatest precipitation or period of most reliable precipitation (this varies by region) Select species and cultivars that are adapted to site conditions. If seed supplies are coming from native collections, only use seed to that has been collected from environments similar to where planting will occur
Overcoming Challenges for Reclamation Success Avoid or minimize the use of slow growing species Avoid or minimize the use of species with seed dormancy issues Formulate seed mixtures based on the ecological characteristics of the species Implement monitoring programs to measure reclamation success
Measuring Reclamation Success Short-term (Interim) Reclamation Difficult to define success by current standards Thresholds based on percent cover and restricted timelines fail to address environmental variability Proper planning, implementation, and monitoring should be basis for determining short-term success Final Reclamation Scientifically based standard that accounts for the dynamic and variable nature of the environment in which the disturbance has occurred
Measuring Reclamation Success Making intelligent decisions Drawing on knowledge base we already have Establishing realistic goals and thresholds Avoiding costly errors Successful reclamation can be achieved!