Six Strategies for Rehabilitating Land Disturbed by Oil Development in Arctic Alaska

  • M. Torre Jorgenson
  • Michael R. Joyce
Keywords: Animal distribution, Environmental impacts, Floods, Fishes, Granular resources extraction, Gravel, Oil spills on land, Oil well drilling, Reclamation, Revegetation, Roads, Tundra ecology, Wetlands, Wildlife habitat, Alaska, Northern, Prudhoe Bay region


Oil development in arctic Alaska has left a range of disturbed lands that will eventually require rehabilitation. These lands include gravel roads and pads, gravel pits and overburden stockpiles, drilling reserve pits, occasional accidental spills, and other minor disturbances to the tundra. A long-term research program investigating site-specific and cost-effective methods for rehabilitating degraded lands for fish and wildlife habitat has developed six general strategies that are applicable to the range of disturbed conditions. These strategies include 1) flooding of gravel mine sites for fish habitat, 2) creation of wetlands in ponds perched on overburden stockpiles, 3) revegetation of thick gravel fill and overburden to compensate for lost wildlife habitat, 4) removal of gravel fill to help restore wet tundra habitats, 5) restoration of tundra on less severely modified habitats, and 6) remediation of areas contaminated by oil spills, seawater spills, and drilling mud. Although most techniques are in the early stage of evaluation, preliminary results suggest that successful methods are available to create diverse, productive, and self-sustaining communities that are useful to a range of wildlife.

Key words: Arctic, Alaska, disturbance, habitat, tundra, oilfield, rehabilitation, revegetation, restoration, wetlands