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Extension developing reclamation, restoration educational material


Hit and miss efforts to restore and reclaim disturbed lands have spurred an effort by the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service to develop written materials and possible how-to programs for reclamation industry professionals.

The efforts will be aimed at areas disturbed by energy extraction.

"There are folks in the reclamation industry who are doing very good work, but there are others who, either through ignorance or maybe not caring enough, are not doing a very good job," said Gene Gade, UW CES educator serving Campbell, Crook and Weston counties. "There is a huge amount of land being disturbed, and it is going to impact the long-term future of Wyoming in profound ways. Calls have been made to the university and field offices from folks who don't know the difference between sagebrush and some lawn grass. I've been fairly appalled at some of the calls."

More than 40 representatives of government agencies, industry professionals and from the University of Wyoming met March 13-14 in Laramie to start hammering out the nuts and bolts of the effort. The impetus came from the UW CES Sustainable Management of Rangeland Resources initiative team, of which Gade is chairman.

The effort is being funded by grant money from the School of Energy Resources via the College of Agriculture's Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center, said Lachy Ingram, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Renewable Resources in the College of Agriculture.

"That was our kick in the pants to get it going," said Jay Norton, extension soil specialist and assistant professor in soil fertility in the department. Norton facilitated the Laramie meeting and developed the idea for the reclamation bulletin series. "This is turning out to be a great initiative to form the basis for a great ongoing working group."

The effort will combine information from both pure and applied science as well as other sources to produce practical guides for Wyoming landscapes, said Ingram. "It's an interesting project in that it involves a range of people--agency, energy industry, reclamation/restoration practitioners, university and consultants--who are coming at it from difference perspectives."

The UW CES team began discussing how to address reclamation efforts more than a year ago. "There is always a niche for education," said Gade. "Research in this has been going on for decades. A great deal has been learned, and certain practitioners have a great deal of expertise. We need to transfer that to the new generation of reclamation people. I see it as a classic extension niche--taking information in research and industry and disseminating that to the new audience that needs it in useful terms."

Printed and online materials may be produced, said Norton. The information could also form the basis for how-to workshops. "We've also seen a lot of interest in a certification program extension could develop," he said.

Site- and topic-specific materials would provide state-of-knowledge science. For example, information would provide minimum practices for successfully restoring a site with loamy soil and 10 to 14 inches of precipitation.

Keeping in mind that the area disturbed is not only well pads but roads and pipelines is important, said Ingram. "If we want to maintain, to the largest extent possible, the inherent beauty of much of the Wyoming landscape for future generations of Wyomingites, it is essential reclamation be undertaken on all areas that have been disturbed by energy extraction. Otherwise, the potential for large areas of Wyoming to be permanently scarred is significant."

Materials could be ready in the next several months. Ingram will develop bulletins with help from UW CES personnel then send drafts to those who attended the meeting at UW and others who have an interest in the bulletins for comments and suggestions. Ingram said the need for material addressing topsoil issues became clear at the meeting.

"We had a nice mix of three basic groups--agency, industry and university," Gade said about the Laramie meeting. "Having been involved in the formation of several groups of this type, I'm more impressed with this group than many. The need is clear, and the money is there to fund it. I think it is going to move forward quickly and be a worthwhile thing for the university and state of Wyoming."

3 Star CO\5-B

Date: 4/16/08

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