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In 1978, a group of scientists from several Federal agencies examined reclamation work at 22 coal mines in seven western States. The results of these examinations were not used to derive quantitative predictions of the outcome of reclamation work but rather to determine the general requirements for revegetation success. Locally, reclamation efforts are affected by climate, especially precipitation; the landform of the restored surface; the nature of the overburden material; the nature of the surface soil; and the natural ecological system. The goals of reclamation efforts are now broader than ever. Regulations call not only for reducing the steepness of the final surface and establishing a cover of mostly perennial native vegetation, but for restoring the land for specific land uses, achieving diversity both in types of plants and in number of species, and reintroduction of biological and ecological processes. If specific sites are monitored over a long enough period of time, quantitative predictions of success for individual mines may be possible, and such predictions can be included in environmental impact statements to help in the decision-making process. The results of this study indicate that current reclamation objectives can be met when the reclamation effort is designed on the basis of site-specific needs and when existing technology is used.
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Reclamation of mined lands in the western coal region