British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposia

Reclaiming for Wildlife at Line Creek Densmore, Brent 2010

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Proceedings of the 9th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Kamloops, BC, 1985. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation RECLAIMING FOR WILDLIFE AT LINE CREEK by Brent Densmore and Don Townsend INTRODUCTION The Line Creek Mine is operated by Crows Nest Resources Ltd., a subsidiary of Shell Canada Resources. The operation is located in southeastern British Columbia in the Elk Valley northeast of Fernie. Current production is approximately 2 million metric tonnes per year of metallurgical and thermal coal. Line Ridge, where the Mine is located, has been classified as spring/summer/fan range for Bighorn sheep and elk by the B.C. Fish and Wildlife Branch, TAESCO studies, and Crows Nest Resources Ltd. radio- telemetry programs. A number of wildlife studies, undertaken by Crows Nest Resources Ltd. in 1981, are now yielding results which can be applied directly to the reclamation program. STUDIES Habitat Utilization One aspect of the biophysical studies looked at wildlife use of the area through pellet group counts. Ten transects representing 210 plots were located in the West Line Creek and North Line Ridge area to determine relative densities of Bighorn sheep and elk. The plots were located at elevations varying from 2000 m to 1500 m. Relative densities were 0.58 and 0.27 pellet groups per plot for Bighorn sheep and elk respectively. Although sheep occurred throughout the watershed, highest densities were found in the upper elevations. Elk were found mainly in the lower areas at approximately half the density of sheep occurrence. The final Mine waste dumps vary in elevation from 2000 m to 1500 m, so that if the objective is to provide summer habitat for Bighorn sheep and elk, we now know the elevational areas used by each species. Animal Use Days Radio-telemetry monitoring over a three-year period indicates that Bighorn sheep arrive in the Line Ridge area approximately May 1, and are leaving for winter range approximately November 1. Potentially, reclaimed waste dumps could therefore receive approximately 180 days use per year by Bighorn sheep. Observations of elk indicate a similar period of use. A home-range program using combined sighting data for 1983 and 1984 has been used to calculate seasonal use areas for radio-collared Bighorn sheep in the Line Ridge area. This information is subsequently superimposed on a map of the area, and indicates that Line Ridge is located on a small portion of that area where a typical Bighorn ram spends approximately 20;> of its time. 105 Proceedings of the 9th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Kamloops, BC, 1985. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 106 Fecal Pellet Analysis Seasonal collections of fecal pellets over the study area enabled identification of the seasonal diets of Bighorn sheep and elk. Diet components for both ungulates are indicated as follows:  Proceedings of the 9th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Kamloops, BC, 1985. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  Comparing the diets of Bighorn sheep and elk, there are some commonalities which emerge and which have implications for reclamation.  107 Proceedings of the 9th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Kamloops, BC, 1985. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  RECLAMATION PROGRAM Rationale Knowing the diets of Bighorn sheep and elk, and their summer preference areas, reclamation efforts can be more accurately directed toward provision of elk and Bighorn sheep summer range. To provide summer habitat on waste dumps, the vegetation selected has to meet certain criteria which apply to both native species and agronomics. The site-specific species selection criteria which are utilized are as follows: - tolerances to drought, shade and grazing - adaptations to disturbance - erosion control - growth habit - palatability (or non-palatability) to wildlife - wildlife cover value - productivity - nutrient requirements 108 An assessment of the plant species in elk and Bighorn sheep diets indicate that the following vegetation components are common to both diets: Proceedings of the 9th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Kamloops, BC, 1985. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation - range of conditions over which a species occurs - genetic variation of a species between sites - nitrogen-fixing capacity - success, dispersal and propagation capabilities - plant community succession. Overall then, in reclaiming for wildlife habitat the general vegetation characteristics required can be summarized by the following criteria: - forage-cover ratios for ungulates - ecological tolerances - wildlife palatability - propagation ability - erosion control capability - nitrogen-fixing abilities - aesthetics - economics. The fact that economics are last on the list simply means that economics are always the bottom line - what can you realistically afford to do? At Line Creek, several methods for long-term vegetation establishment are being investigated for suitability to waste dump reclamation for wildlife summer range. The methods for tree and shrub establishment being addressed are: - seeding - planting - transplanting - topsoiling for seed-bank germination - establishment and outplanting of large container boxes - sodding - transplanting native soil-plant communities. Seed Collection Sources for native vegetation material near the Mine site have been identified and the locations have been plotted on an ortho photo of the area. Mapped locations are color-coded and correspond to a species list which is also color-coded as to trees, shrubs and nitrogen-fixing shrubs. From these areas, seed has been collected and is currently being propagated at a commercial greenhouse for eventual direct planting onto selected sites on the waste dump. The following is a list of these species which are currently being propagated: Rosa woodsii - Wood's Rose Rosa acicularis - Prickly Rose Arctostaphylos uva-ursi - Kinnikinnick Viburnum edule - High-bush Cranberry 109 Proceedings of the 9th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Kamloops, BC, 1985. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  As well as this seed collection, cuttings of redosier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera), willow (Salix spp.) and black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) are being propagated for outplanting on selected sites. Container Box Trials To establish native vegetation communities on Mine waste dumps, a giant-sized version of the containerized seedling concept is being investigated. The objective is to introduce trees, shrubs and forbs either as single species or as the main components of a particular plant community into containers suitable for future outplanting as units. These "boxes" are large, 4 ft. X 8 ft. X 2 ft. deep and are filled with a pre-selected prepared soil mixture. Trees, shrubs and forbs are planted as wildling transplants, nursery seedlings, rooted cuttings or seed. The appropriate fertilizers are applied, then the containers are maintained on site until required. During the initial establishment of box vegetation, a sprinkler system is in place to water the seedlings. Once vegetation is established, the boxes can be left on their own to grow until required for outplanting. This could be for as long as ten years, if necessary. Used in reclamation, the boxes are transported onto dump areas by stoneboat or similar device. A trench is then excavated by cat or backhoe, and the boxes are simply placed in and back-filled around. Placement can be in any configuration required by the site. Islands of boxes can be established, or long stringers on contour for erosion control or moisture retention, etc. As well, as many or as few boxes as required can be used depending on site requirements or the community you are trying 110 Proceedings of the 9th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Kamloops, BC, 1985. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation to establish. Initial development trials have utilized the following means and species: Rooted Cuttings (softwood) Saskatoon Yellow Mountain-Avens Prickly Rose Shrubby Cinquefoil Western Thimbleberry American Red Raspberry Black Swamp Gooseberry Wildling Transplants Douglas Fir Lodgepole Pine Nursery Crop Seedlings Englemann Spruce Sitka Mountain Alder Fall Seeded White Mountain-Avens Yellow Mountain-Avens Silverberry Elderberry Prickly Rose Sitka Mountain Alder Chokecherry. The success of these fall-seeded species will become apparent after assessment in summer of 1985. The containers used in these initial trials are constructed of plywood salvaged from various aspects of the coal cleaning plant construction. Continued container research in 1985 will employ the use of gabion baskets as large containers. WASTE DUMP PLATFORMS Since the West Line Creek waste dump will essentially be constructed in a series of platforms ranging in elevation from approximately 2000 m to 1500 m, platform topography is being manipulated to provide a diversity of slopes and aspects. By providing broken topography perpendicular to the prevailing winds, snow and rain are being trapped in the lee of these "berms" to provide good growing sites for trees and shrubs. Typically, the exposed, south-facing aspects of these raised berms will be seeded to grasses with low growth form, such as Festuca saximontana. The berms are formed by free-dumping waste material from the outer east side of the pit, which is generally good top material containing roots, logs, 111 Proceedings of the 9th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Kamloops, BC, 1985. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation etc. These dumping operations are planned right into pit production, so that suitable material is selected as mining progresses. Sloping out these berms works the fines to the surface, and kicks the coarser material off to the sides. Formation of these berms is very cost-effective because the reclamation is carried out simultaneously as part of the pit operation. In cross-section, a berm would be a minimum of 2 metres high and 20 - 30 metres wide at its base. Again, they are built perpendicular to the prevailing winds, such that moisture deposition and retention are increased on the leeward side. The height also serves to conceal wildlife from view as they are travelling across the dump areas. NATIVE LEGUME RESEARCH In concert with the University of Victoria and several of the Elk Valley coal mines, Clint Smyth is working under the guidance of Dr. Marcus Bell to investigate certain high-elevation native legumes for suitability to reclamation of waste dumps. The species being investigated are: Astragalus robbinsii - Robbins' milkvetch Astragalus vexilliflexus - Bent-flower milkvetch Oxytropis podocarpa - Stalked-pod locoweed Oxytropis sericea - Silky locoweed Hedysarum sulphurescens - Yellow hedysarum Astragalus alpinum - Alpine milkvetch Astragalus bourgovii - Bourgeau's milkvetch. The advantages of native legumes are that they are adapted to steep, rocky slopes, don't require maintenance fertilization, produce viable seed each year, and are generally palatable for wildlife. Clint's methods involve monitoring restrictions to natural growth by observing plants in a native setting, collecting seed and subsequent propagation, then various types of trials on mine spoils. This year, his third year of research, Clint will be outplanting approximately 3000 plants onto Mine waste dumps. As well, he has collected enough seed to try direct seeding of single species onto spoils. Other trials will assess competition with native grasses and forbs, agronomic grasses and forbs, and between native legumes. Initial indications are that several of the species have good potential for establishment on difficult high-elevation sites. Although time constraints preclude the presentation of more detailed program information, it is hoped that this provides you with an overview of the direction that reclamation is taking at Line Creek. Should you desire more information on any particular program discussed, please feel free to contact Crows Nest Resources Environmental Department. 112


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