Marcellus Well Site Reclamation

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Reclaiming Well Sites in the Marcellus Shale Region

The Marcellus region coincides with the prime hunting ground in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York. There will be thousands of well sites cleared for drilling and all of them must be reclaimed in some fashion.

If you are a landowner lucky enough to have one of these sites on your property, you have half the cost of a food plot already taken care of. Surface owners can make lemonade of lemons here if they are interested in attracting wildlife and game to their land.

Drilling operators are required to do some reclamation work, which usually amounts to grading the site and planting some fescue. This will not attract any wildlife.

If we are going to clear a place in the forest and plant it, why not make it a wildlife planting? The whiners of the world complaining about compacted soil and the topsoil being discarded are only partly correct. After planting many log landings over the years and many skid trails, I have never had a problem getting a good food plot to grow on a log landing, even after heavy truck traffic and scraping the topsoil off the site. It is just a matter of providing the appropriate soil amendments and proper planting techniques. I have equipment to break up any compaction problems. As I wrote in my piece about planting food plots on mountain ground, sometimes it takes a lot of lime, maybe some chicken bedding, liquid manure, sludge – I have used all of these on sites where the soil just won’t support forage. Any site can be made to grow forage and cover with the proper effort.

Log landing planted in clover

Instead of settling for a useless grass field with no forage or cover, consider planting a well site in perennial forage such as clover or birdsfoot trefoil. How about some forage oats and rotate that with brassicas? Another plan would be to plant the inside with forage and the outer edges with mast-producing trees and shrubs. I have had good success with American cranberry, dogwood, crabapple, naturalized apple, pears, hybrid oaks and aspen/ spruce mix for grouse fans. Keep in mind that deer exclusion fence may be necessary when planting nursery stock. I always use 3-year seedlings grown in jiffy pots. That way, they come with their own potting soil and a good root system. These plants are usually producing fruit within a few years time and are growing well with survival near 100%.

If you have a well site or pipeline on your property and you would like to reclaim it to wildlife food and cover, call me to discuss it. I can take care of the planting process for you or simply do a consultation with you to give you a plan of action for your site.

About the Author:

Wildlife habitat manager and consulting forester from Central PA. Studied environmental Agriculture specializing in wildlife management and Forestry. B.S. Agriculture, Masters degree in Forestry. 30 years experience in land investment, forestry and wildlife habitat improvement. Currently working as a Farm Bill Forester for Pheasants Forever on Game Commission and Golden Winged Warbler Initiative.