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Pipelines, Improved Wildlife Habitats Compatible

 

Changes in the landscape of Susquehanna County continue to happen in the active areas of the gas exploration process.

These changes on the physical landscape show up as the building of access roads, gas well pads and the gas and gathering pipelines.

The pipeline areas go across active farm crop areas, hay and pasture fields, old fields that are reverting to brush habitat and woodland areas.

Construction activities on these pipeline and gathering lines can change what is or what was growing on the land’s surface. This is especially notable if the area has been forest.

These newly changed areas are opportunities for landowners who want to positively influence wildlife habitat.

Companies that build these pipelines and gathering lines are required to reseed all disturbed surface areas.  The companies want the seeding subcontractors to seed the land with a mix that provides good cover.

As a landowner, you may need it reseeded to a hay or pasture mix if you are a farmer. If it was a former woodlot area, you may want it seeded to a wildlife habitat mix.

The landowner should look out for his own interest because once it has been properly seeded, limed, fertilized and mulched, the company has met its responsibility and will not return to do more work unless there has been a complete germination failure.

For landowners interested in improving wildlife habitat, this may be a golden opportunity.

The first best opportunity would be to have a specific mix picked out as part of the lease agreement.

Second, the landowner could talk to the seeding contractor and ask what seed they intend to use. Ask them if they have taken a soil test and how much lime and fertilizer they will apply.

They may have a mix that perfectly suits the landowner’s needs. Perhaps the landowner has something he believes is better suited for providing cover for wildlife.

Many seeding contractors are willing to work with the landowner to get a good seed mix planted that meets the landowner’s needs.

However, sometimes the seeding contractor has certain limitations to the quantity of lime and fertilizer used. One of the main reasons for a good seed mix to experience longevity failure is not enough fertilizer and lime to create a good crop.

 If the seeding contractor cannot put enough lime and fertilizer on to support the wildlife habitat mix the landowner wants, the landowner can make up the difference and create a good wildlife food crop plot on the pipeline.

The landowner is the manager of the land and as long as he leaves the access ways to the pipeline right of way open, he can take this opportunity to create better habitat for wildlife and himself.

The Susquehanna Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) encourages landowners and seeding contractors to work together to make the reseeding process work for both parties.

The first steps of the reseeding process are:

•Have a soil test taken to determine how much lime and fertilizer is needed for the seeding of wildlife habitat mix to grow.

•Determine what wildlife habitat mix you want. Remember that the gas exploration companies and their seeding subcontractors may be required to plant seed that can grow quicker, green up faster and provide erosion control. This type of quick cover can be added to the desired wildlife habitat mix that the landowner desires.

Once the soil test results are received, the correct amounts of lime and fertilizer can be applied to the pipeline area land.

Most of the soils in Susquehanna County can easily take two tons of lime per acre to offset their natural acidity.

The landowner should work with the seeding contractors to see that the soil test is followed in relation to the application of lime and fertilizer for optimal seeding growth.

If  the soil test calls for three tons per acre for the wildlife seeding mix you want and the contractor can only put down two tons per acre because they only have to bring the soil pH up to the level it had before the pipeline was installed, the landowner/wildlife habitat manager can offer to put on the other ton per acre.

The same logic applies to fertilizer.

Knowing there are 43,560 square feet in an acre and knowing how many acres or parts of acres to be seeded will help the landowner in his discussions with the seeding contractor.

Lime and fertilizer requirements are also dependent on what is being planted. Different plants have different nutritional needs. Most new perennial grass and legume seedings need a soil pH of between 6.0 and 6.5.

The Susquehanna Branch of QDMA sees the pipelines as new opportunities for wildlife habitat management.

The construction of pipelines can result in improved vegetation, new seedings, lime and fertilizer applications, new wildlife habitat edges—wildlife often prosper on the edges between two different kinds of habitat—and the opportunity to do something better than what was there before.

Once the pipeline has been reseeded, it is the landowners who must manage the new opportunity to grow new habitat on their land. Landowners will decide how well the land is managed for wildlife habitat, including food and cover, and how to continue to improve the habitat on their property.

Article submitted by Bob Wagner, secretary of Susquehanna Branch of QDMA.

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