A reclamation expert with Cloud Peak Energy is hoping techniques developed at one of the company’s Powder River Basin coal mines can be applied across the West. Kyle Wendtland helped develop a strategy to combat cheatgrass, an invasive species that’s bad for grazing. It’s become a major problem in the West, with more than 50 million acres affected. Currently, the most common method for removing it is to apply herbicides. Cloud Peak’s approach removes the weed mechanically and then reseeds the area with native grasses. Wendtland says it’s cutting-edge.
"Really our focus is to expand this outside of the mine to oil and gas and agriculture," he said. Wendtland says the technique could be appealing to landowners and companies since it’s cheaper than herbicides. "I would speculate that there’s probably 10 to 20 percent of that land surface that this method could be utilized on, so that’s a fair number of acres," he said. Cloud Peak received a national reclamation award this month recognizing the work.