Abstract: Alberta’s reclamation criteria for wellsites and associated facilities require the removal of wood debris as one of the necessary measures in order to qualify for a reclamation certificate, and thus end the lease of the wellsite. It has been observed that this requirement may be impeding the establishment of vegetation on these sites. The purpose of removal is to reduce fuel loading and thus diminish fire hazard.

This paper reviews the relevant literature concerning the reclamation criteria, fire hazard, and the disturbance associated with wellsites; the effects that removal of woody debris has on the site; and the requirements for growth by boreal forest species. It concludes that conditions at wellsites are not consistent with significant fire hazard, and that the negative effects of removal of woody debris are such that aggressive control of fuel is probably not warranted on most sites.

Several recommendations can be made. Decisions about quantity and types of material left on site should be based upon the end land use, and the needs of the vegetation which will make the site capable of meeting that use. Research to compare differences between reclaimed wellsites left with varying levels of debris could assess the importance of woody debris and help justify changes in the criteria, if appropriate. If changes to the criteria are not an option, changes in reclamation techniques may be needed. Increased use of planted seedlings (as opposed to reliance on natural invasion or direct seeding) would take advantage of the better ability of older seedlings to tolerate adverse conditions, and allow use of artificial shade to increase survival.

Redfield, E. 2000. Woody debris on reclaimed wellsites: implications for fire hazard and revegetation in Alberta. Prepared for Northstar Energy Corporation. 55 pages.