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Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Clearinghouse: Environmental resources for tribal energy development
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Monitoring Reclamation Success

Monitoring the effectiveness of reclamation is the last step in a project's life. It ensures that the environment is restored to previously established benchmarks.

Monitoring reclamation success focuses on measuring the return of the environment to near-predisturbance conditions. At a minimum, monitoring revegetation success and soil stability is usually required. Monitoring the success of reclamation activities will be an important part of any project and will be needed to mitigate project impacts after a project is complete.

As for other aspects of a monitoring program, monitoring reclamation success must be scientifically defensible. Following are some guiding principles for monitoring reclamation success:

  • Establish Reclamation Targets or Goals: Targets or goals should be established early in the planning process and should be used in the impact assessment in determining long-term impacts. These targets and goals will serve as benchmarks against which success is measured and should be well-defined, representative of success, unambiguous, and easily measured. These benchmarks should be agreed on by the project proponent and regulatory authorities. They are often an element of permits needed for the project prior to project development. Example benchmarks include percent vegetation cover, species composition, and water quality.
  • Establish Reference Plots: Reference plots are areas that are identified (usually prior to project development) as representative of the desired postreclamation condition. These can serve as benchmarks against which success is measured. Determination of a lack of significant difference between reference plots and similar plots in reclaimed areas is usually considered an indication of reclamation success.
  • Develop Metrics for Success: As mentioned above, benchmark parameters should be easily measured. The sample size needed to adequately define condition will depend on the underlying variability in the parameter to be measured. This variability should be considered in determining needed sample size. Metrics for success are often a component of permits needed for the project prior to project development.
  • Use Adaptive Management: As for monitoring during project construction and operations, adaptive management should be an element of reclamation success monitoring. If monitoring indicates a failure to meet benchmarks, reclamation procedures should be modified or new procedures adopted to compensate. Monitoring may indicate that additional erosion control methods may be needed or that reseeding with a new mix of plant species required.