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British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Natural revegetation of exploration trenches in the Stillwater Complex of the Beartooth Mountains, Montana Wheeler, David W.; Sawyer, John O.


In 1971 and 1972 Anaconda Copper Company reclaimed a series of mineral exploration trenches located in the Beartooth Mountains of Montana, Custer National Forest. The work was done following U.S. Forest Service prescriptions and resulted in backfilling the trenches and extensive seeding of exotic species of three grasses and one clover. From an examination of photographs taken 1971 to 1975 and subsequent site inspections, it is apparent that the initially high cover of exotic species has declined, and native plants from surrounding areas have begun to colonzie the reclaimed trenches. A study was conducted during 1979 to 1980 to identify those native species. The trenches are located in the basal zones of the Stillwater Mineralized Complex at elevations ranging from 2,500 meters to 2,835 meters. Surrounding vegetation types include Abies lasiocarpa-Pinus albicaulis/ Vaccinium scoparium, Pinus albicaulis-Abies lasiocarpa, Pinus albicaulis, and dry alpine. Colonization on the trenches was found to be positively correlated with the surrounding undisturbed vegetation types. There was an assemblage of native species that were mainly restricted to colonizing trenches that extend into or through the dry alpine and timberline habitat types. There was another aggregate of species that were associated with the Abies lasiocarpa-Pinus albicaulis/Vaccinium scoparium habitat type. Successful colonizers which are locally abundant should be used as seed sources for subsequent reclamation of disturbances in the Complex and in other areas of similar habitat type. Further studies should be conducted to develop seeding recommendations for other habitat types throughout Montana.

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