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Reclamation Award Winner to Speak in UW Classes

November 4, 2014
man kneeling in the middle of the prairie
Kyle Wendtland, environmental manager at Cloud Peak Energy’s Antelope Mine and a University of Wyoming alumnus, examines vegetation on reclaimed land at the Powder River Basin coal mine. (Photo courtesy of Cloud Peak Energy)

An environmental engineer for a Wyoming coal company who won the federal government’s most prestigious mining reclamation award will speak to University of Wyoming students this week.

Kyle Wendtland, environmental manager at Cloud Peak Energy’s Antelope Mine in the Powder River Basin, is scheduled to speak Wednesday and Friday, Nov. 5 and 7, in classes taught by Pete Stahl, professor in UW’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, and director of the Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center. The “Reclamation of Drastically Disturbed Lands” (REWM 4200) classes are from 10-10:50 a.m. in the Energy Innovation Center’s Encana Auditorium.

Wendtland, who received a bachelor’s degree (1989) and a master’s degree (1993) in range management from UW, developed a cheatgrass mitigation program that resulted in the Antelope Mine receiving the 2014 Excellence in Surface Coal Mining Reclamation Award from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

Wendtland will be accompanied by another UW alumnus, Allen Wellborn, who works for Cloud Peak Energy at its Spring Creek Mine in Montana. Both also have agreed to attend Wednesday evening’s meeting of the UW student Reclamation/Restoration Club, ROaR.

Stahl says the university’s connection with Wendtland represents the type of interaction that benefits UW students, the state’s key industries, the environment and the science of restoration ecology.

“Kyle is one of the most innovative and thoughtful reclamationists working in the state of Wyoming,” Stahl says. “He has made a number of important contributions to advance land reclamation technology in sagebrush grasslands and plays an important role in training the new generation of experts in this field.”

Wendtland says his success in cheatgrass mitigation stemmed directly from his master’s degree program at UW. Cheatgrass, which reduces both wildlife habitat and forage for livestock, has infested an estimated 50 million to 53 million acres in the American West. It can be a particular problem in areas disturbed by mining or other energy production activities.

Through innovative husbandry practices and custom seeding techniques, the Antelope Mine has transformed more than 400 acres of cheatgrass-dominated lands into sustainable stands of native plants that achieve the post-mining land use goal to provide for livestock grazing and wildlife use.

The Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center, an interdisciplinary program housed within UW’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, works closely with the School of Energy Resources. It is a premier regional center for restoration, reclamation and rehabilitation of disturbed ecosystems based on sound ecological, agricultural and economical practices.

Cloud Peak Energy Inc., headquartered in Gillette, is one of the largest U.S. coal producers, operating the Antelope and Cordero Rojo mines in Wyoming and the Spring Creek mine in Montana.

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