Computer aids for reclaiming eastern surface mines as rangelands

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

An eastern range management concept was developed and demonstrated for coal surface mined lands. An objective weighting methodology was employed to determine the optimum forage species mixture to seed surface mined sites. With the optimum mixture determined, total costs for establishment, total monthly available dry matter, and percent crude protein content were calculated for each homogeneous range unit. These outputs of the FRSELECT (Forage Selection) algorithm were then stored for linear programming analysis.

Inputs from FRSELECT were combined with animal class nutrient requirements, other costs, and revenue data to determine the optimal allocation of resources using the COPLAN (Computer Optimization PLANing) linear programming model. The COPLAN system combines a matrix generating subsystem with the revised simplex algorithm and cost minimization objective function to determine the optimal economic solution. Outputs from this model are interpreted and displayed through a report-generating routine.

The union of these two sub-systems (FRSELECT and COPLAN) create the hybrid model RANGER (Resource Allocation for Non-tillable Grassland and Eastern Rangeland). Initial runs of the RANGER model using inputs typical of the opportunities in southwest Virginia, demonstrated a protein deficiency in the available forage for the late fall and winter months. A protein supplement input was necessary for all additional runs of the model. Sensitivity analyses suggested a limitation on operation size and profitability according to the amount and type of protein supplement supplied. Further analyses suggested unprofitable levels of operation at all but large (1000+ acres, 453.6 ha) areas.