Beverly Materials partners with a wildlife foundation to expand a preserve that fosters research and education.
As operators develop their mine plans, the site’s final use is typically taken into consideration, but Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based Beverly Materials took reclamation planning to the next level. The operation’s mine plan was built around a reclamation project developed in partnership with its next-door neighbor, the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation (MMWF).
“Environmental roles are important in every industry. Our company strives for compliance with everything at all different levels of government. In this particular case, we’re trying to go way above and beyond to make a real showcase of a reclamation project,” says Dave Zumbrunn, general manager, Aggregate Division, Beverly Materials LLC, a member of the Plote Family of Companies. “We’re trying to make something that’s not just satisfying the reclamation regulations, but something that’s a park-like setting and functional for the use of the McGraw Foundation.”
MMWF focuses on research and educational activities revolving around fish, game, and wildlife. Its 1,224-acre nature preserve is home to more than 250 species of birds, 52 species of fish, 18 species of amphibians and reptiles, 51 species of butterflies, and 33 species of mammals. More than 800,000 trees have been planted on the site, and approximately 30 lakes and ponds have been dug to provide habitat for fish and birds.
As Beverly Materials was planning its site, the MMWF wanted to broaden its lakes to allow for expansion of its research and recreational fishing activities. “They contacted us because we have a common property line,” Zumbrunn says. “We’re in the mining business right on the other side of the property line, so it’s a natural fit.”
Before mining began, the operator worked with the foundation’s fisheries and wildlife biologists to develop a plan that would create an environment that would foster a good home for wildlife research and education. MMWF had multiple objectives for the project, including expansion of lands to foster wildlife habitat on the dry lands and shores as well as creating a world-class fishery and experimental spawning beds.
“We came up with a design together that has all the features their research people wanted,” Zumbrunn says. “Once an agreement was struck between the company and their organization, we approached the different government agencies to get the various approvals. Basically, it became our mine plan.”
The plans call for the creation of a lake ranging in size from 60 to 70 acres, with a maximum depth of 30 feet. The man-made lake is being carefully sculpted and terraced to create both shallow and deep water fisheries with spawning beds needed for healthy fish populations. Native plants are being used in the grassy areas surrounding the lake to create new habitats for birds and other animals. Six years into the 30-year project, approximately 40 acres of new lake have been created.
Rather than creating a typical prism, the project entails the creation of a more organically shaped lake, which will include peninsulas and other areas jutting into the water that will allow researchers to net fish and grow various types of plant life both above and below the water.
“The mining process is just a little bit different than what we’d do on a normal piece of land,” Zumbrunn explains. “We’re cutting the lake perimeter to a contour designed by myself and the McGraw Foundation. They wanted a certain portion designed with islands and natural-looking features sticking out of the water’s edge.”
“In my opinion, this is something that benefits everyone involved,” Clark Ganshirt, vice president of MMWF, says of its partnership. For the foundation, it provides an opportunity to create more wildlife habitats even as natural habitats are dwindling. For the operator, it offers a post-mining use that enriches the community.
One key to a successful partnership, Ganshirt says, is to have clear expectations on both sides before entering into a legal agreement. “Have a clear understanding before the contract is signed,” he explains. “Know what the land owner’s goals are, and know how much the producer is willing to do.”
By playing the strong suit of each partner, the reclamation project is a rewarding one for each party. “We work very closely with the McGraw Foundation and try to meet their needs,” Zumbrunn explains. “They are the experts in what it is they are looking for. We’re the experts in mining and putting the earth in that shape once we’re done.
“It’s a win-win for everyone.”
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