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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #405052

Research Project: Science and Technologies for the Sustainable Management of Western Rangeland Systems

Location: Range Management Research

Title: A generalized state approach to setting reclamation benchmarks

item McCord, Sarah
item DAVIDSON, ZOE - Bureau Of Land Management
item SCHALLNER, JEREMY - New Mexico State University
item Webb, Nicholas - Nick

Submitted to: Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/12/2023
Publication Date: 2/16/2023
Citation: McCord, S.E., Davidson, Z.M., Schallner, J.W., Webb, N.P. 2023. A generalized state approach to setting reclamation benchmarks. Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts. Abstract.

Interpretive Summary: Reclamation occurs after oil and gas extraction to put well pads on a positive long-term trajectory and to restore ecosystem function. Currently, there are not standardized benchmarks in place to assess whether reclamation efforts on US Bureau of Land Management Lands (BLM) have been successful. Benchmarks can be used to evaluate the condition of resources and ecosystem services. Plant and soil monitoring data are useful for establishing benchmarks, because monitoring data are quantitative and can be summarized to establish ranges of ecosystem indicators, such as ground cover of important plant species or percent bare ground. We developed benchmarks at a broad scale for oil and gas reclamation on BLM lands in the western US using monitoring data and two different approaches. One approach uses multivariate analysis to identify plant communities, and takes benchmarks from these plants communities. The second approach sets benchmark ranges by finding quantiles of indicators (e.g., bare ground and shrub cover) from the distribution of monitoring data. These benchmarks can be used by BLM field offices to assess whether reclamation has put abandoned oil and gas well pads on a trajectory towards regaining ecosystem function.

Technical Abstract: Reclamation practices are used after the extraction of fossil fuels to put abandoned well pads on a positive, long-term trajectory and restore ecosystem services. Despite the widespread implementation of reclamation on US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, there is no common framework by which to measure the success of reclamation efforts. We developed benchmarks for oil and gas reclamation at a broad geographic (Level 3 ecoregion) scale for the western US using monitoring data and two approaches: a multivariate approach to identify vegetation communities and indicators of ecosystem function for ecological site types, and an indicator quantile approach. Benchmarks resulting from both methods were placed along climatic and topographic gradients that can be used to further refine benchmark values within ecoregions, at the BLM Field Office or other management unit level. Benchmarks derived from the multivariate approach and the indicator quantile approach were compared against known indicators of ecosystem function and ecosystem services. These benchmarks can be used as standardized metrics to assess the effectiveness of reclamation efforts at a broad, regional scale.