Do more for the Earth, XTO!

Perhaps my favorite part of my internship thus far has been the reclamation portion. I have had the joy and frustration of surveying reclaimed well pads for surface compliance. In other words, I get to tell huge oil companies, like XTO (formerly Exxon), that they need to do more for the Earth! The most frustrating part of this is seeing the reality of how little these companies actually do.
In the reclamation process, I learned that it is more important to return the land to its natural contour than to have thriving vegetation. Of course the thriving vegetation is necessary, but it comes after the original contour is intact. The contour is the ‘permanent’ part of the landscape, while vegetation waxes and wanes, the contour remains consistent. In addition to that, the soils must be free of weeds and returned in the layers in which they were extracted. I have visited a few locations that looked great from afar with tall flowering grasses, forb diversity, and desirable shrubs; and then, I walked the perimeter to find that the vegetation had concealed a huge pile of rocks or soil that had not been incorporated into the shape of the contour. This created a steep slope that almost looked like the area was on a pedestal or something similar. At first it was rather hard to fail a reclamation effort like these, knowing that they would have to destroy all of the vegetation in order to fix the problem. But I know I am part of the learning process for these companies. The standards of the BLM are rightfully high!
After learning of all the work it takes to return the Earth to her natural state, I wonder if the destruction, in the first place, is necessary. Yet, I do enjoy the luxury of hot showers, lights at night, and road trips… so I conclude that less is best. And thankfully, I know I am not alone.

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