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Pipeline Positives: Post Construction Wildlife Conservation

March 12, 2014
By Travis R. Hunt - OVO Pro Staff , Ohio Valley Outdoors

In 1770, a famous lawyer, farmer, and second President of the United States, John Adams, stated in part: "facts are stubborn things." As much as some attempt to deny the reality of the Marcellus and Utica oil and gas play in eastern Ohio, northern West Virginia, and western Pennsylvania, the reality is this "play" is here and here to stay.

The facts are staggering in that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources approved 885 Utica shale well permits as of September 14, 2013. Of these permits, 506 are held by Chesapeake Exploration, LLC (Chesapeake). Chesapeake has drilled 321 wells in the Utica of which 106 are actively producing. Additionally, the Fall 2013 edition of "Pipeline Connections", published by Schloss Media of Cadiz, Ohio, reports the following Harrison County Ohio specific well pads: 26 owned by Chesapeake; 17 owned by Gulfport Energy Corporation; 11 owned by Hess Ohio Development; six owned by Chevron Appalachia, LLC; and one owned by Atlas Noble, LLC.

As wells perpendicularly dot the horizon, pipelines gently meander under the fields and forests. Pipelines are the other half of the Marcellus and Utica play for they are the mechanism of choice to transport oil and gas from a well to a processing or transportation hub. For example, the ATEX Express Pipeline, beginning in Washington County, Pennsylvania and transports ethane from a point source to existing pipelines in Seymour, Indiana and ultimately into Mont Belvieu, Texas. As for pipelines laid, CBC Pipeline, which is one of numerous local pipeline installation operations, has run approximately 100 miles of pipe since July 2012.

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Owners and operators have a unique conservation opportunity to assure that wildlife also benefits from well pad and pipeline construction.

The oil and gas under our feet that many landowners have been blessed with, is being freed from the ground and now flows through the pipelines and proudly heats, cools and provides woefully needed energy both domestically and abroad. However, the benefits of well pads and pipelines do not extend to man alone. A pipeline creates a 100 foot wide path through woods and fields alike. As the afternoon sun begins the slow decline in the sky, simply drive past any pipeline and you will see deer grazing in the "sendero" or opening created by the underground pipeline. Deer and, for that matter, turkey are attracted to openings in nature and utilize them to do what they do. that is eat, mate, and shelter.

Well pads and pipelines provide a fantastic conservation opportunity to dramatically benefit the wildlife that share these areas. Planned conservation, via the application of targeted seed blends, is one method to attract, hold, and grow these two and four legged natural resources. Working in conjunction with Jeff Wood, Soil and Crop Advisor at Jefferson Landmark located in Bloomingdale, Ohio two seed blends were developed for post well pad and pipeline installation application. These seed blends were required to have the desirable conservation characteristics specific to both wildlife benefits and environmental benefits. The following characteristics were required as we developed the seed blends: nutritional value, superior wildlife forage, seed application efficiency, fast growing root system to minimize soil erosion, initial stand up, longevity and durability.

After the desirable characteristics were identified, two seed blends were formulated for their adherence to the conservation characteristics. The first seed blend is identified as JL-No Till. JL-No Till does not require heavy equipment and is suitable for applications from timber clearings and in moderate moist areas including adjacent to dams or ponds. Additionally, this variety provides high-protein content (up to 36%) and an aggressive root system.

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"As the afternoon sun begins the slow decline in the sky, simply drive past any pipeline and you will see deer grazing in the 'sendero' or opening created by the underground pipeline."

The second send blend is identified as JL-Pure Perennial. JL- Pure Perennial is a seed blend that is best planted with the assistance of basic machinery and is suitable for application in a timber opening, field, or mild to moderate moist areas including near pond and dam applications.

The ongoing exploration and subsequent production from the Marcellus and Utica oil and gas play is here and here to stay. Hundreds of well pads and pipelines are operating, under construction, or are scheduled for construction in the coming years. The natural resources flowing from these wells and through these pipelines heat our homes and power our economy. The benefits to society are nearly endless. This tremendous benefit that has been entrusted to these owners and operators places a tremendous obligation on them to responsibly manage this resource. Obviously federal, state, and local regulation and oversight is present. In conjunction with this oversight, oil and gas companies employ environmental health and safety professionals to coordinate and implement internal activities from workplace safety, to responding to discharges, to assuring compliance with regulations. However, owners and operators have a unique conservation opportunity to assure that wildlife also benefits from well pad and pipeline construction.

Many owners and operators, ranging from individual private landowners to corporate well operators, are actively seizing this opportunity. The most economical and immediate impact to wildlife is yielded via the planting of beneficial ground covering after the completion of pipelines, well pads, and the adjoining area. Jefferson Landmark has developed two seed mixes specifically formulated for this region as options for owners and operators to plant. These mixes provide the anti-erosion and site stability characteristics and are simultaneously beneficial to local wildlife including deer and turkey. Each formulation consists of desirable forage and provides a high level of protein as well as cover and secondary health benefits. This article highlights two seed formulations that have yielded exceptional results. These formulations can be modified to overcome specific variables or customized per the owner's request.

Greetings from the woods of Ohio. The pipeline company that I am partnering with planted acre upon acre of JL- No Till upon completion of the pipeline. I routinely witness wildlife grazing this area. I witness does bringing their fawns to this area in an effort to provide them with readily available forage. I witness turkey proudly strutting across the pipeline openings as they display the copper hue of their tail feathers. Conservation is happening. After all, if you plant it they will come. Next hunting season I may even witness myself recovering a majestic buck from the woods of Ohio as I intercept him before he steps into a JL-No Till food plot planted over top of my pipeline.



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