PHASE V: Reclamation
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RECLAMATION and Abandonment





































The Healthy Lands Initiative integrates reclamation, vegetation treatment, and habitat conservation to restore landscapes to full function.


Disturbing as little surface area as necessary during construction is the first step in successful reclamation.
Re-applying topsoil and immediately re-seeding with native vegetation reduces loss of forage, habitat, and sediment; lowers maintenance costs; and helps maintain scenic qualities.

A well site must be re-contoured to the original contour or to one that blends with the surrounding landform. Stockpiled topsoil must be redistributed.

All access and service roads must be reshaped to the original contour and fully re-vegetated.

After re-recontouring and topsoil re-distribution, the natural vegetation must be restored.

A fully reclaimed former well site: the post in the center of the frame marks the spot of a former well.

A service road made from caliche leads to the site of a plugged well in New Mexico.  Removing the caliche and re-spreading topsoil is the first step in reclamation.  In just one growing season, the road has re-vegetated naturally, without re-seeding.


Reclamation helps ensure that the effects of oil and gas development on the land and on other resources and uses are not permanent.

Reclamation actually begins prior to construction.  A reclamation plan is included in the surface use plan of operations, which must be approved before any construction can begin.  Integrating reclamation into operations in this way is critical to successful reclamation.

Minimizing surface disturbance during construction also eases final reclamation.  Partial reclamation of drilling areas must occur during production.

Reclamation must begin as soon as possible after the surface is disturbed and continue until the BLM determines that successful reclamation has been achieved.

Interim reclamation of all disturbed areas not needed for active production operations is a best management practice (BMP) that also reduces costs and increases the effectiveness of final reclamation.

The ultimate objective of reclamation is ecosystem restoration, including restoration of the natural vegetation community, hydrology, and wildlife habitats.

In most cases, this means a condition equal to or closely approximating that which existed before the land was disturbed. 

Reclamation must achieve short-term stability, the visual, hydrological and productivity objectives of the surface management agency, and include the steps necessary to ensure that long-term objectives will be reached through natural processes.

Reclamation restores the original landform or creates a landform that blends in with the surrounding landform. 

Successful reclamation, over time, allows local native species to re-establish on the site and the area to regain its original productive and scenic potential.

Reclamation is successful when a self-sustaining, vigorous, diverse, native plant community is established, with a density that will control erosion and non-native plant invasion, and re-establish wildlife habitat or forage production.

The BLM continues to perform inspections during reclamation.

Prior to final reclamation, requirements are reviewed with the operator.  (Interim reclamation is inspected and discussed during the operations phase.)

During reclamation and abandonment, inspections ensure that the well is being properly plugged and reclamation is being completed correctly.

Following reclamation, the inspector checks that the site has been properly re-contoured, that topsoil has been returned to disturbed areas, and that proper re-seeding has been done.


When the site has been re-contoured; is successfully re-vegetated; is free of weeds and leftover equipment; and is stable, the BLM approves a final abandonment notice for the site.  

The BLM continues to monitor the site over the long term to ensure that it remains stable and that ecosystem function is fully restored.


Last updated: 10-20-2009