Wyoming shrublands have undergone extensive energy development in recent years. Much of this development occurs on public land designated for multiple uses. Reclamation of these areas has proven difficult due to the harsh climate and alteration of the thin, nutrient poor topsoil during development activities. Energy development and reclamation activities often lead to topsoil dilution, rapid mineralization of nutrients and soil organic matter (SOM), and loss of soil structure. These changes have the potential to degrade the suitability of the soil as a medium to sustain a desirable plant community. Reclamation of land disturbed for energy development in this area has largely been executed by the extraction companies and evaluated by the governing agency (typically, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)). Other parties who rely on this land, such as ranchers with grazing permits, are not typically involved in reclamation. In this study, we examine an unconventional reclamation technique that aims to involve ranchers in the reclamation process: controlled livestock impact. The theory behind this technique is that by confining livestock on a seeded and reclaimed site the animals will improve the seedbed and seed to soil contact through fertilization and hoof action. Natural gas well pads that were reclaimed in the fall of 2009 were selected from three Wyoming natural gas fields. Two treatment plots were established on each well pad: traditionally reclaimed and reclaimed with the cattle impact treatment. Cattle treatments were applied in fall 2009 immediately after reclamation and seeding. Soil samples were taken from the reclaimed plots and before and after the cattle impact on treated plots. Soil samples were then analyzed for SOM parameters including percent light fraction organic matter (LF) and labile C and N. Post-cattle treatment plots had more mineralizable C and more N variability than pre-cattle plots, which indicates an impact from the cattle treatment on SOM characteristics.
Driessen, Cally; Mason, Amber; Norton, Jay; and Strom, Calvin
"Immediate Effects of Controlled Livestock Treatment on Reclaimed Natural Gas Well Pads,"
Natural Resources and Environmental Issues:
Vol. 17, Article 6.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/nrei/vol17/iss1/6