Hundreds Attend North Dakota Land Reclamation Conference

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A two-day conference dealing with land reclamation in North Dakota wrapped up Wednesday.

Nearly 300 people went to Dickinson all for one reason — to brainstorm and learn new ways to return the land to a better state than when they found it.

“Once there’s a disturbance to the surface, and the sub-surface, there’s always possible issues of something else occurring,” said Dunn County landowner Daryl Dukart.

That’s what attendees at the North Dakota Reclamation Conference are hoping to avoid: the problems and challenges that go with land reclamation.

Whether it’s for a pipeline, a new road or anything else that requires the original land to be disturbed, reclamation is needed.

Dr. Tom DeSutter works with soil science at North Dakota State University and said there’s one constant challenge with today’s land reclamation…brine.

“It’s very salty, has a high amount of salt in it which causes the plants do not do well, causes the soil to become almost sterile, and having the correct tools to do the reclamation, and especially in this part of the state, where it’s very arid most of the time and we don’t get a lot of rainfall when you have a lot of water, that makes reclamation easier,” said DeSutter.

Also speaking at the conference was Carissa Wonkka with the USDA. She said her studies have shown it’s very difficult to get land back to the way it was.

“Once you’ve shifted to something else, it’s very hard just to turn around and go back, so it requires a lot more input in coming back and getting there,” said Wonkka.

Someone who knows this first hand is Dukart. He ranches over 2,000 acres of cows in Dunn County and said a contractor ripped up over 30 acres of grassland by accident years ago, and the scars remain.

“We are now five years later on that reclamation plan on that double ripping that happened and I took pictures of it last spring, I took pictures of it last fall and you can still see the difference where the non-disturbed versus the disturbed was,” said Dukart.

He added that despite the issues, he would do it all over again because of the financial benefit the pipeline project had on his property.

If you’re a landowner dealing with the reclamation process for the first time, you’re encouraged to read all the fine print the contractor provides you, and ask plenty of questions before signing that paper.

Land reclamation isn’t just important for landowners.

Another topic covered at the conference was reclamation for critical wildlife habitats.

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