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Reclamation conference looks forward to improved practices, growth

The sixth annual North Dakota Reclamation Conference once again saw industry experts, educators and wildlife agencies gather to share ideas and best practices while working toward continued growth and improved reclamation practices in North Dakota.

The sixth annual North Dakota Reclamation Conference once again saw industry experts, educators and wildlife agencies gather to share ideas and best practices while working toward continued growth and improved reclamation practices in North Dakota.

"It's called 'unique perspectives' this year; we tried to bring in some things that haven't been talked about in years past," Brenda Schladweiler with BKS Environmental Associates, one of the early organizers of the event, said. "Technology such as drones, unmanned aerial vehicles ... we also brought it full circle with some of these last talks as they are about bringing knowledge from the past, what's worked and what hasn't."

The conference has brought on average 300 or more attendees, many of whom work in or around the energy industry, some of whom even work in the reclamation industry, which provides the clean-up work necessary to restore the use of land once disturbed through drilling and mining. It all began when the oil boom was really, well, booming.

"The need was great, at the time there was a lot of development-and there still is," Schladweiler said. "A lot of the educational need was great at that time."

The collaborative nature of the event is intrinsic to its appeal. Toby Stroh, an assistant professor of agriculture at DSU and organizer of the event, described valuable the opportunity to gather so many people in one room.

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"We bring minds together, share knowledge and bring vendors together. It's a collaboration," Stroh said. "There's as much shared in the trade show and the social event as there is shared in the meeting itself. It's a combination."

Randy Bowlds of Rocky Mountain Reclamation, a company based out of Wyoming, said that reclamation has only grown more effective as time and technology advance, and the spirit of cooperation present at the event contributes to the improvement of reclamation processes.

"In the 20 years I've been doing it I've seen the curve in reclamation just keep progressing," Bowlds said. "Processes became more efficient because of agencies working with each other instead of planting whatever they thought goes there, like many years ago ... that doesn't happen anymore. Agencies want diversification, they want forms, they want grasses, they want these native species that were originally there that people may not even know were there anymore due to overgrazing or poor management practices. That's the general plan with reclamation, to make things better than it was."

Rep. Vicky Steiner attended the conference for the first time, although she said she's been keeping up over the years.

"I'm always interested in what the new techniques are," Steiner said. "I found it really interesting, the Terrence Schmidt from North American Coal, they are finding that compaction is more of a challenge."

Compacted soil makes it hard for root systems to penetrate, and current reclamation techniques have to find ways to provide pathways for them, Steiner said.

The conference featured a variety of speakers from the North Dakota Game and Fish and other non-public agencies. These conferences are made possible by a collaboration from Dickinson State University, BKS Environmental Associates, North Dakota State University Extension Service, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Society for Range Management and the Agricultural Research Service.

Related Topics: DICKINSON STATE UNIVERSITY
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