Restoring coal mined land to pre-mining shrub cover, density, height, community composition, and diversity to renew wildlife habitat quality is a priority for reclamation specialists. Long-term shrub reestablishment success on reclaimed mined land in Wyoming and suitability of these lands for wildlife habitat are unknown. Fourteen reclaimed study sites, 10 yr old or older, were selected on 8 mines in Wyoming to evaluate shrub reestablishment and wildlife habitat value for antelope (Antilocapra americana) and sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). Five sites were categorized as fourwing saltbush (Atriplex canescens) sites and 9 as fourwing saltbush/big sagebrush (A. canescens/Artemisia tridentata spp. wyomingensis) sites. Published data describing antelope and sage grouse-preferred habitat requirements in sagebrush-grassland steppe ecosystems were used to evaluate shrub community value of sampled sites for wildlife habitat. Mean shrub canopy cover, density, and height for fourwing saltbush sites were 5.8%, 0.23 m−2, and 41.6 cm, respectively, compared to 5.6%, 0.61 m−2, and 31.1 cm for fourwing saltbush/big sagebrush sites. Two fourwing saltbush and 4 fourwing saltbush/big sagebrush sites provided sufficient cover for antelope, while 2 fourwing saltbush and 4 fourwing saltbush/big sagebrush sites were adequate for sage grouse. Only 1 fourwing saltbush/big sagebrush site provided high enough shrub densities for sage grouse. One fourwing saltbush and 7 fourwing saltbush/big sagebrush sites provided ample shrub heights for antelope, while 1 fourwing saltbush and 8 fourwing saltbush/big sagebrush sites were sufficient for sage grouse. One fourwing saltbush and 1 fourwing saltbush/big sagebrush site provided enough grass, forb, and shrub composition for antelope, while no site in either reclamation type was satisfactory for sage grouse. Shrub diversity was 3 times higher for fourwing saltbush/big sagebrush sites (0.984) than for fourwing saltbush sites (0.328). Individually, sites seeded with multiple shrub species had higher canopy cover, density, and diversity compared with single-species shrub seedings. Achieving premining shrub cover, density, height, community composition, and diversity within existing bond-release time frames is unrealistic, considering that some native shrublands require 30–60 yr to reach maturity.
Olson, Richard A.; Gores, James K.; Booth, D. Terrance; and Schuman, Gerald E.
"Suitability of shrub establishment on Wyoming mined lands reclaimed for wildlife habitat,"
Western North American Naturalist: Vol. 60
, Article 7.
Available at: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/wnan/vol60/iss1/7