Wildlife Introduction

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1 Wildlife Introduction The wildlife section of this chapter is divided into sections for various habitats and groups of species. Old growth, snags and downed wood, and riparian areas are unique habitats that fulfill key habitat components and general habitat requirements for many wildlife species including Neotropical migratory birds. These habitats will be analyzed together in one section. Canada lynx and grizzly bears are threatened species occurring in the project area; the wolverine was recently listed as a proposed species. Sensitive species identified for the Flathead National Forest occurring in or potentially occurring in the project area include the bald eagle, blackbacked woodpecker, boreal toad, fisher, flammulated owl, gray wolf, harlequin duck, northern bog lemming, and Townsend s big-eared bat, among others. The Forest Plan lists as Management Indicator (MIS) all threatened and endangered species, sensitive species, and commonly hunted ungulates including elk, mule deer, and white-tailed deer. Wildlife species in this area have evolved in ecosystems influenced by wildland fire, insects, and disease. The proposed project contains several kinds of activities that can affect wildlife use, such as salvage of fire-killed timber, tree and shrub planting, temporary road construction and use, and roadwork and culvert replacement. Life history information, including relevant habitat and population information, can be found for these species in the 2016 Flathead National Forest Evaluation and Compliance with National Forest Management Act Requirements to Provide for Diversity of Animal Communities (Exhibit Rg-1). As described in the individual sections, the evaluation of direct, indirect, and cumulative effects on wildlife species and habitats used the best available science and records of wildlife use of habitats within and close to the analysis area. For grizzlies, this area encompasses the Big Bill Shelf, Lower Twin, and Spotted Bear Mountain Grizzly Bear Subunits. For elk and other big game species, an area approximating the downstream half of the Spotted Bear River drainage was used. For all other wildlife species and habitats, the Bent Whitcomb Lynx Analysis Unit was used for analysis. These areas are shown in Figure 3-1 below. Applicable past, present, and reasonably foreseeable events described in the Introduction section of Chapter 3 were considered during the evaluation of the affected environment and for the analysis of effects. The condition of the affected environment, together with applicable reasonably foreseeable events as described in the above-mentioned section, were considered during the analysis of the environmental effects of the alternatives. The listed events that are not specifically analyzed or mentioned in the following discussion were considered to have no potential effect or negligible effects on wildlife or their habitats. Tables 3-23 and 3-24 below were used to determine which species to carry forward into the analysis. were selected for detailed analysis if they are Flathead National Forest Management Indicator that are present in the project area or their known habitats are likely to be affected by the proposed actions. The spatial extent of effects analysis for this project varies between species, as detailed in the sections that follow. 3-63

2 Figure 3-1. Wildlife Analysis Areas for the Trail Creek Fire Salvage Project Trail Creek Fire Grizzly Bear Analysis Area (Big Bill Shelf, Lower Twin, and Spotted Bear Mountain Grizzly Bear Subunits) Wildlife Analysis Area and Bent Whitcomb Lynx Analysis Unit Big Game Analysis Area Table Presence and Status of Wildlife Management Indicator and Known or Potential Habitats in and Near the Trail Creek Fire Salvage Project, Flathead National Forest (Exhibit sections Q, Rb, Rd, Rg, Rn, Rr, Rs, and Rt). Wildlife Status Known or Expected in South Fork Flathead Watershed Known or Expected in or near Trail Creek Project Area Bald Eagle Sensitive; MIS Yes Yes Bighorn Sheep Sensitive; MIS No No Black-backed Woodpecker Sensitive; MIS Yes Yes Boreal Owl MIS Yes Yes Boreal Toad Sensitive; MIS Yes Yes Canada Lynx Threatened; MIS Yes Yes Common Loon Sensitive; MIS Yes No Elk, Mule Deer, and White-tailed Deer MIS Yes Yes Fisher Sensitive; MIS Yes Yes Flammulated Owl Sensitive; MIS Yes Yes Gray Wolf Sensitive; MIS Yes Yes Grizzly Bear Threatened; MIS Yes Yes Harlequin Duck Sensitive; MIS Yes Yes 3-64

3 Wildlife Status Known or Expected in South Fork Flathead Watershed Known or Expected in or near Trail Creek Project Area Northern Bog Lemming Sensitive; MIS Yes Yes Northern Leopard Frog Sensitive; MIS Yes No Peregrine Falcon Sensitive; MIS Yes No Townsend s Big-eared Bat Sensitive; MIS Yes Yes Wolverine Proposed; MIS Yes Yes Neotropical Migratory Birds Yes Yes Old Growth Associated Yes Yes Riparian Habitat Yes Yes Snag/Down Wood Habitat MIS = Management Indicator. Yes Yes Table Specific Habitat Occurrence and Other Issues Related to the Trail Creek Fire Salvage Project Affected Area, Flathead National Forest (Exhibit sections Q, Rb, Rd, Rg, Rn, Rr, Rs, and Rt). Wildlife Comments Related to the Project Area and Wildlife Analysis Area Bald Eagle Bighorn Sheep Black-backed Woodpecker Canada Lynx Common Loon Elk, Mule Deer, and White-tailed Deer Fisher Flammulated Owl No known or suspected nesting in the project area or within the larger Trail Creek Wildlife Analysis Area. Fish, waterfowl, and carrion provide food in the area. There are no herds that are resident on the Flathead National Forest (FNF), but bighorns that are believed to be resident in surrounding areas are sometimes seen on the FNF. Closest known bighorn population is the Sun River Herd, occasionally observed in the Bob Marshall Wilderness on the FNF, 6 miles away to the east. The project area is also not in a linkage area between bighorn sheep populations. Suitable habitat exists throughout the Trail Creek burn in areas of moderate and high fire intensity. Potential habitat exists throughout the Bent Whitcomb Lynx Analysis Unit. All but the western quarter of the LAU is designated as Critical Habitat for lynx. There are records of lynx occurrence in and near the area. Snowshoe hares are abundant. No potential nesting or feeding habitat exists for common loons in or near the project area. No known or expected nesting takes place on any lake downstream of the project area. Hungry Horse Reservoir appears to be occasionally used for feeding or migratory staging. The Big Game Analysis Area is used seasonally by elk, mule deer, and whitetailed deer. A portion is in the Spotted Bear Mountain/Horse Ridge Elk Unit which is classified as winter range. Elk hunting season security areas appear to be sufficient. Potential habitat exists in the Trail Creek Wildlife Analysis Area, particularly in areas outside moderate and high vegetation burn severity generated by the Trail Creek fire. Single-story ponderosa pine or drier Douglas-fir old forest with open understory is scattered across the Trail Creek Wildlife Analysis Area. No flammulated owl occurrences have been documented within the Analysis Area. The nearest documented occurrence is located about 50 miles to the northwest. 3-65

4 Gray Wolf Grizzly Bear Harlequin Duck Northern Bog Lemming Northern Leopard Frog Peregrine Falcon Townsend s Bigeared Bat Western (Boreal) Toad Wolverine Neotropical Migratory Birds Old Growth Associated Riparian Habitat Snag and Downed Wood Habitat Wolves from the Spotted Bear pack appear to occasionally make use of the Trail Creek Wildlife Analysis Area, although denning has not been identified within the analysis area. Individuals are known to occupy the project subunits and use different elevations throughout the year. Diverse, quality forage is abundant and distributed throughout the project subunits that make up the Grizzly Bear Analysis Area. Denning habitat occurs in the higher elevations. Closest suspected reproduction is about one half mile to the southeast of the closest proposed treatment. No activities would occur in proximity to harlequin duck breeding habitat during the breeding season. No occurrences are reported within the Trail Creek Wildlife Analysis Area, although suitable habitat does exist. The closest proposed harvest unit would be 0.3 miles from the closest RHCA boundary around a peatland that provides potential habitat. Habitats in Montana include low-elevation and valley-bottom ponds, spillway ponds, beaver ponds, stock reservoirs, lakes, creeks, pools in intermittent streams, warm water springs, potholes, and marshes. Historically, this species has never occupied high-elevation wetlands in Montana such as those in the project area. Not known on the FNF although it is likely they occurred historically. Closest reports are near Eureka, MT, and west of Kalispell, MT. The Montana Peregrine Watch monitors a riverside cliff site about 2.5 miles west of the project area, listed as historic nest territory #83. This nest was last known to be active in 1976 (Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks 1984). A single bird was observed in the vicinity in 2009 and this wide-ranging species is occasionally seen in the South Fork Flathead River drainage. There is no other known or suspected potential cliff nesting habitat in or near the Trail Creek Wildlife Analysis Area. Caves, snags, and bridges in the analysis area may provide roosting habitat; wetlands and forests may provide feeding habitat. Found in the South Fork sub-watershed in an area adjacent to the Trail Creek Wildlife Analysis Area. Only one observation has been reported within the Trail Creek Wildlife Analysis Area since Suitable breeding habitat occurs in several wet-lands. Upland habitat exists for adults throughout the Trail Creek Wildlife Analysis Area. Not expected to be a resident proximity to proposed treatments due to lack of persistent spring snow, but the species may travel through the project area. Suitable denning habitat (i.e., areas of persistent spring snow) occurs in the northern portion of the Trail Creek Wildlife Analysis Area. Well-distributed and diverse habitat exists throughout the Trail Creek Wildlife Analysis Area for a suite of Neotropical migratory birds. Old growth and other mature forests are well distributed across the Trail Creek Wildlife Analysis Area, even though the 2015 Trail Creek Fire converted several large areas to young transitional forest. Well-distributed and diverse habitat exists throughout the Trail Creek Wildlife Analysis Area for a suite of riparian wildlife species. Large snags and down wood are well-distributed across the Trail Creek Wildlife Analysis Area, particularly in the 2015 Trail Creek Fire Area. The criteria used to determine which species to not carry forward for further analysis included lack of habitat in the analysis area and lack of effects to the habitat of a species from any of the alternatives (Table 3-25). Prior to the preparation of this document, a review was conducted of District and Forest wildlife records, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) list of Federally Threatened and Endangered species on the Flathead National Forest (Exhibit Rt-1), the 3-66

5 Forest Service Region 1 Sensitive List (Exhibit Rs-1), and the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks website (Exhibit Rg-4). Table and Rationale for Not Being Included in the Detailed Effects Analysis for the Trail Creek Fire Salvage Project (see Exhibits Rg-1 and Rs-3 for additional information). Rationale Bighorn Sheep Common Loon Harlequin Duck Northern Bog Lemming Northern Leopard Frog Peregrine Falcon This project would have no impact on bighorn sheep because it is not located in the vicinity of any resident herds of bighorn sheep nor is it in a linkage area between populations (Exhibit Rs-23). This project would have no impact on common loons because there is no potential loon nesting or feeding habitat in the analysis area and no potential for measureable effects on potential feeding and staging on the 23,602-acre Hungry Horse Reservoir, seven or more river miles southeast of the project (Exhibit Rs-21). This project would have no impact on harlequin ducks because project activities do not occur within 0.5 mile of breeding stream reaches, activities would have no effects on water quality or prey base, and there would be no potential to disturb individuals or broods (Exhibit Rs-15). This project would have no impact on northern bog lemmings; there are no proposed activities within 0.3 mile of potential habitat and activities would have no measurable effect on wetland water quality (Exhibit Rs-2). This project would have no impact on northern leopard frogs because there is no potential habitat for this species in or near the analysis area nor any potential for effects to reach potential habitat (Exhibit Rs-12). This project would have no impact on peregrine falcons because there would be no project activities in the vicinity of the riverside cliffs where the historic nest site was located, no project activities in the vicinity of potential feeding habitat, and no potential to affect prey availability (Exhibit Rs-7). The Forest Plan s Amendment 21 Record of Decision (USDA Forest Service 1999a) stated that it was appropriate to focus limited resources on programmatic efforts to evaluate and monitor the effects of management actions on the habitat of those species for which population viability is a particular concern. The Flathead National Forest has monitored sensitive species and reported on their status in a document which is updated annually (2016 Flathead National Forest evaluation and compliance with NFMA requirements to provide for diversity of animal communities; Exhibit Rg-1). The sources of monitoring data are identified in the sections that follow. 3-67

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