Reclamation research

As part of our ESG initiatives, it is our goal to study, analyze and, ultimately, improve the wild game carrying capacity on local reclaimed land and promote additional habitat for critical species of plants and animals

Mule deer and elk are the principal big game species on our Utah mineral leases, with the leases occupying favored winter range for both species. Herd sizes and survivability are determined primarily by food availability through the full range of conditions in these winter range areas. Mule deer are primarily browsers, preferring shrubs and forbs, but they will also eat grasses and sage. Elk are primarily grazers, preferring grasses, but they will also eat shrubs and forbs.

Our studies show that environment of the Seep Ridge site contains three basic fauna types:

Dense Forest occupies the largest portion of the land in the area. There is virtually no food for deer or elk in these areas, but the forest does provide shelter.

Sparse Forest also occupies a large portion of the area. There is a small quantity of grasses and shrubs, with sage being most prevalent.

Sage Flats occupy a less significant area. There is more food in this area, with more grasses and shrubs, though primarily sage.

Taken as a whole, these areas provide the best winter range for deer and elk in the area, but the capacity to support animals in the worst of winters is still very limited.

As part of our ESG initiatives, it is our goal to study, analyze and, ultimately, improve the wild game carrying capacity on local reclaimed land

In collaboration with the habitat Program manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, in 2013 a research test plot commenced, with the seeding on our Seep Ridge lease, of several shrub, forb, and grass species that are native to the region.

This research plot was fenced and has been allowed to grow without disturbance. Contrary to the popular perception that mined oil shale debris is barren, this planting continues to flourish on the site. The results of this research will be used to provide an abundance of rich feed for mule deer and elk in future reclaimed areas on our leases.

Further research in collaboration with Red Leaf was undertaken to study the Penstemon Grahamii (PeGr), a beautiful and rare flower that is native to very limited regions of the high desert and is relatively widespread in the southern Uinta Basin. There had been concern that this plant may become endangered as disturbing areas where they are found to grow will endanger the survival of these plants. In particular, it is believed that mining in the areas of growth of these plants might endanger them. However, research at the University of Utah suggests that PeGr is amenable to revegetation. State of Utah researchers, in collaboration with our staff, planted several of these plants in shale mining debris on our Seep Ridge lease, fenced the planting to protect it from small animals, and observed plant behavior. These plantings showed excellent growth after many years.