Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Andrew Martin

Second Advisor

Steven Vanderheiden

Third Advisor

Dale Miller


This thesis examines the effects of abandoned mines on tree health in Boulder Canyon, CO and also analyses national and state policy regarding abandoned mine lands mitigation. Abandoned mines are a prevalent issue throughout the nation and in the state of Colorado. Research has shown that abandoned mines leak heavy metal pollutants that can have an adverse effect on ecosystems. I used a line intercept sampling method to determine the mean diameter at breast height and percentage of dead trees at 13 mined and 13 control areas. The results showed that the presence of a mine had no effect on either the mean diameter at breast height or the percentage of dead trees. For the policy analysis I focused on mitigation success rates of both the EPA Superfund and the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety (DRMS) as well as how these organizations are funded. The DRMS had a higher success rate of mitigation which can be partially contributed to stable revenue from taxes on the coal and nonrenewable industry. The EPA Superfund will not be able to effectively mitigate abandoned mine Superfund sites if a polluter pays tax on the non renewable sector is not reinstated.