Reclamation Specialist

Reclamation specialists work on rehabilitating land disturbed by industrial activities. They assess environmental damage, devise restoration plans, and lead efforts to stabilize soil, improve water quality, and reintroduce native flora and fauna. They collaborate with scientists and engineers to ensure projects comply with regulations and contribute to ecosystem preservation. They aim to restore natural habitats with monitoring and adaptive management.

At a Glance

Imagine you are a land restoration coordinator standing in a field that now boasts healthy, green grass; you reflect on the work completed as a reclamation specialist. This field, part of a farm, was once adjacent to an abandoned mine that had left behind a legacy of environmental issues, including acid rock drainage from waste rock piles, which had rendered the soil too acidic for agricultural use and posed a risk to groundwater quality.

Your task involved developing and implementing a reclamation plan to address these issues. The first step was to research the site's historical use to identify all potential contaminants and understand their possible environmental pathways. This knowledge was crucial for designing effective remediation strategies.

Based on this research, you drafted a reclamation plan that outlined specific actions: pollutant removal, monitoring protocols, and soil restoration methods. This plan received approval from the relevant provincial reclamation committee, allowing you to move forward with the practical aspects of the project.

The implementation phase included removing vegetation unsuitable for the site, reshaping the land to manage water flow, and treating the soil with agricultural limestone to neutralize the acidity. You also oversaw the addition of fertilizers and selected seeds to replenish nutrients and restore the soil's health.

This project, spanning several months, required meticulous planning, coordination with contractors, and management of resources. The successful reclamation of the site resulted in restored soil conditions conducive to agriculture and protection of the local groundwater from contamination.

Job Duties

Job duties vary from one position to the next, but in general, reclamation specialists are involved in the following activities:

  • To assess environmental impacts and pinpoint reclamation needs, perform in-depth evaluations of affected areas.
  • Create comprehensive restoration plans for disturbed lands, focusing on soil stabilization, water remediation, and revegetation, all adapted to the specific ecosystems.
  • Ensure reclamation projects adhere to all relevant federal, state, and local environmental regulations, including securing required permits.
  • Lead the execution of reclamation projects through efficient resource management to ensure on schedule and within budget.
  • Employ methods to reintroduce native plants, rehabilitate wildlife habitats, and reconstruct natural ecosystems on damaged lands.
  • Use techniques to curb soil erosion, boost soil health and enhance water quality in areas undergoing reclamation.
  • Work alongside government bodies, community organizations, and other parties to ensure reclamation efforts align with community interests and environmental goals.
  • Oversee reclamation efforts, assess their success, and make necessary adjustments to meet project objectives.
  • To encourage environmental responsibility, offer advice and training to property owners, businesses, and the public on optimal land use and reclamation methods.
  • Keep current on breakthroughs in reclamation technology and approaches, integrating new practices to improve project outcomes.

Work Environment

Reclamation specialists operate within the office, field, and laboratory. In each of these settings, individuals in this occupation carry out diverse duties that bridge science, management, and community engagement to rehabilitate the environment.

The office:

  • Design reclamation plans, including timelines, resource allocation, budgeting, and compliance with environmental regulations.
  • Prepare comprehensive reports on reclamation activities, progress updates, and outcomes for stakeholders and regulatory bodies.
  • Research and ensure adherence to local, state, and federal environmental laws, including obtaining the necessary permits for reclamation projects.
  • Analyze environmental data from field surveys and laboratory tests to inform decision-making and project adjustments.
  • Communicate with government agencies, community groups, landowners, and other stakeholders through emails, presentations, and meetings.
  • Engage in continuous learning through webinars, conferences, and training to stay updated on the latest reclamation technologies and practices.

The field:

  • Conduct thorough evaluations of disturbed lands to identify the extent of degradation and determine the necessary reclamation measures.
  • Collect soil and water samples for analysis to assess contamination levels and the effectiveness of reclamation efforts.
  • Record the existing flora and fauna to inform the restoration of indigenous habitats and the preservation of biodiversity.
  • Oversee or participate in on-site soil stabilization, revegetation, and water remediation efforts.
  • Monitor reclamation projects and evaluate their impact on the environment and ecosystem recovery.
  • Meet with local communities, landowners, and other stakeholders on-site to discuss project goals, address concerns, and provide updates.

The laboratory:

  • Analyze soil and water samples collected from the field to measure pollutants, pH levels, nutrient content, and other relevant parameters.
  • Conduct experiments to test the efficacy of different reclamation methods and materials in controlled laboratory settings.
  • Perform quality control checks on soil amendments, plant seeds, and other materials used in reclamation projects.
  • Manage and organize laboratory data, including sample tracking, analysis results, and reporting.
  • Collaborate with environmental scientists and researchers to interpret laboratory results and integrate findings into reclamation plans.
  • Explore new technologies and laboratory methods to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of reclamation efforts.


Where to Work

Reclamation specialists can find employment in various settings, each offering unique opportunities to contribute to environmental restoration and sustainability, from shaping policies and projects that mitigate the impacts of industrial activities on natural landscapes to balancing economic development with environmental stewardship, demonstrating the importance of sustainable practices. They include:

  • Environmental consulting firms
  • Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government agencies
  • Mining ompanies
  • Construction companies
  • Not-for-profit environmental conservation organizations
  • Land development firms
  • National parks and protected areas
  • Oil and gas companies
  • Urban planning departments
  • Universities and research institutions

Search for jobs on the ECO Canada Job Board.

Education and Skills


If you are considering a career as a reclamation specialist, you should have a keen interest in:

  • Environmental conservation, focusing on ecosystem degradation.
  • Ecosystem restoration, concentrating on rehabilitation.
  • Sustainable development, balancing economic growth with environmental stewardship.
  • Research and development of technologies and methods for environmental restoration.
  • Community engagement, promoting collective action for sustainable practices.

If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as a reclamation specialist, the following programs are most applicable:

  • Environmental Science
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Soil Science
  • Natural Resource Management
  • Ecology, with a focus on ecosystem restoration and habitat conservation.

In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a reclamation specialist is an undergraduate degree. Pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree in fields related to land reclamation enhances your expertise, career prospects, and ability to contribute to the field. These advanced degrees offer specialized knowledge and skills highly valued in the professional and academic worlds.

While there are no professional certifications exclusively for reclamation specialists, many in this field hold certifications as agrologists, biologists, engineers, environmental practitioners, or geoscientists. These certifications acknowledge their expertise in the interdisciplinary skills essential for successful land reclamation and ecological restoration.

Our Environmental Professional (EP) designation can also help you progress in your chosen environmental career.


Technical Skills

  • Environmental assessment techniques
  • Geographic information system and remote sensing
  • Soil science
  • Water quality management
  • Revegetation and afforestation techniques
  • Environmental law and policy
  • Project management and planning
  • Ecological restoration principles
  • Stakeholder engagement and communication
  • Data analysis and reporting

Personal and Professional Skills

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Analytical thinking
  • Communication skills
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Project management
  • Attention to detail
  • Leadership
  • Environmental awareness
  • Empathy and community engagement

Environmental employers look for professionals who can combine technical knowledge with soft skills. Watch our free webinar Essential Not Optional: Skills Needed to Succeed in Canada’s Environmental Industry or take our Essential Skills courses.

Role Models

Cameron Faminow

Cameron Faminow cites the combination of his ranching and farming background with his experience in the oil and gas industry as the main reason he is an effective environmental consultant. “People in this industry use jargon, which can be quite confusing and confounding.” Due to his combined experience, Cameron doesn’t have any problems translating this jargon. Today, he is the president and senior environmental planner of his own environmental consulting company.

Spending much of his time on reclamation projects, Cameron works both before and after a development project is complete. “The term ‘reclamation’ is similar to the term ‘environment’ in that it encompasses so many components…there are very few activities in any industry that do not have a reclamation component.” Prior to a development project, he does “front end” work, such as gathering the baseline data that will facilitate the return of the site to its preconstruction condition. “Ultimately, facilities will be abandoned, so the more we know prior to construction, the better we can reclaim the site,” he explains. Cameron’s “back end” work involves investigating sites that may still have reclamation issues.

Through literature searches and field investigations, Cameron determines what the land was used for and what pollutants may still remain at the site. After reclamation, the sites “should have the same agricultural or environmental capability as they did prior to development.” One of the highlights of Cameron’s work is the number of opportunities currently available to him. “Right now, there’s no shortage of work in all facets of the environmental industry, particularly in the reclamation sector.” He also enjoys the dynamic nature of his job, and the fact that a reclamation specialist’s role is “to create a win-win-win scenario, where industry, the environment, and landowners all win.”

Reclamation is an important process both for wildlife and humans alike; the process of deforestation is an example. When forests are cut down, whether to clear land or harvest more resources, it can be easy to forget that this has lasting environmental effects.

For wildlife, deforestation displaces species and may force them into new ecosystems that are not well-equipped to sustain additional wildlife. In the long run, this can create species and resource imbalance and can drastically deplete the population sizes of various species.

For humans, the process of reclamation supports conservation efforts to reverse the effects of deforestation. Reclamation allows us to efficiently use the same land in multiple ways, rather than disrupting new sites.

Some projects are more permanent (new housing communities and malls), others are less so (resource extraction). When these temporary projects have been completed inactive sites shouldn’t be left as is without any intention to use them again.

The research, data collection, and extensive planning or reclamation specialists mean they know which sites can be reclaimed in the future before they are disrupted. Other sites that haven’t been planned as thoroughly pose more of a challenge to reclaim. Reclamation specialists carry out extensive field investigations to determine exactly what the land was used for, what pollutants may still be lingering, and the probability of success with reclaiming that site.

Being a reclamation specialist is a very dynamic occupation. As the environment grows, there will be an increasing need for reclamation specialists.

Your Impact

Reclamation specialists are environmental professionals who restore lands disturbed by industrial or development activities, such as mining, construction, or deforestation. Their work impacts the environment by rehabilitating ecosystems, enhancing biodiversity, and stabilizing soil and water quality. This occupation focuses on reversing negative impacts on natural landscapes and promoting the recovery of native vegetation and wildlife habitats. The role embodies sustainability by aiming to leave the earth in a better state for future generations, ensuring that natural resources are restored and preserved.

Economically, reclamation specialists help mitigate the long-term costs of land degradation, such as loss of arable land and water pollution, by restoring ecological balance and functionality. This, in turn, supports agriculture, forestry, and tourism industries. Socially, their work improves community well-being by ensuring clean water and air and creating natural spaces for recreation and cultural activities.

Reclamation specialists support sustainable development by balancing environmental recovery with economic and social needs.

Occupational Classification

Reclamation specialists are classified into the following occupational groupings:

NOC Code: 21300 – Civil engineers

NOC Code: 21109 – Other professional occupations in physical sciences

NOC Code: 21399 – Other professional engineers

The National Occupational Classification (NOC) provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers, and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data and describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.

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