United States Department of the Interior
FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
Columbia Ecological Services Field Office
608 East Cherry Street, Room 200
Columbia, Missouri 65201
Phone: (573) 876-1911 Fax: (573) 876-1914
October 21, 2002
Ms. Katherine Stuart, District Ranger
Mark Twain National Forest
Potosi-Fredericktown Ranger District
P.O. Box 188
Potosi, Missouri 63664
Dear Ms. Stuart;
This letter is in response to your August 27, 2002, request for site-specific review, pursuant to section 7 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, on the proposed Ozark Trail Construction Project on the Potosi-Fredericktown Ranger District in Iron and Reynolds Counties, Missouri for the 2003 planning period. On June 23, 1999, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a Programmatic Biological Opinion (Programmatic BO) for the Mark Twain’s National Forest (MTNF) Land Resource Management Plan (LRMP). This Programmatic BO established a two-tiered consultation process for LRMP activities, with issuance of the programmatic opinion being Tier 1 and all subsequent site-specific project analyses constituting Tier 2 consultations. When it is determined that a site-specific project is likely to adversely affect federally listed species, the Service will produce a “tiered” biological opinion.
In issuance of the Programmatic BO (Tier 1 biological opinion), the Service evaluated the effects of all U.S. Forest Service’s actions outlined in the LRMP for the MTNF, as well as a number of identified, proposed site-specific projects that were attached as an appendix to your biological assessment. The Programmatic BO evaluated the effects of Forest Service management program activities, including timber management and prescribe burning, on the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), Curtis’ pearly mussel (Epioblasma florentina curtisi), Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), gray bat (Myotis grisescens), Meads milkweed (Asclepias meadii), pink mucket pearly mussel (Lampsilis abrupta), running buffalo clover (Trifolium stoloniferum), and Topeka shiner (Notropis topeka). We concurred with your determinations of “not likely to adversely affect” for Curtis’ pearly mussel, pink mucket pearly mussel, running buffalo clover, and Topeka shiner. We also concurred with your determination of “likely to adversely affect” for bald eagle, gray bat, Indiana bat, and Mead’s milkweed.
Your request for Service review of the proposed activities associated with the Ozark Trail Construction Project is a Tier 2 consultation. We have reviewed the information contained in the Ozark Trail Construction Biological Evaluation (BE) submitted by your office on August 27, 2002 and a September 26, 2002 revision, describing the potential effects of the proposed project on the above federally listed species. On March 7, 2002, Theresa Davidson, a biologist on my staff, visited the project site with several specialists from MTNF.
We concur with your conclusion that there are no additional effects to federally listed species associated with the Ozark Trail Construction Project beyond those that were previously disclosed and discussed in the Service’s Programmatic BO of June 23, 1999. We also concur with your determination that the only species that may occur within the project area are Hine’s emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora hineana), Indiana bat, gray bat, running buffalo clover, Mead’s milkweed, Ozark hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi), pink mucket pearlymussel, Curtis pearlymussel, scaleshell mussel (Leptodea leptodon) and bald eagle. As described in the Service’s Programmatic BO, we believe that adverse effects are likely to occur to the Indiana bat.
Description of the Proposed Action/Preferred Alternative
The MTNF proposes to construct approximately 26 miles of new trail. The new trail section would be a non-motorized trail open to hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian use (although some sections may be closed to equestrian or mountain biking use) and would become a part of the existing Ozark Trail system. A trailhead will also be developed at an existing pull-off at the trail junction in T35N R1E, Section 33.
Most of the trail and trailhead construction will be accomplished by the use of a small, motorized trail dozer (SWECO 480). In areas of steep terrain, trail construction will be done using hand tools in lieu of a trail dozer in order to minimize soil disturbance and erosion potential. Where the trail crosses the Barton Fen area (not in the fen proper), only mowing will be done to construct and clear the trail. Clearing limits on all constructed sections will be no more than six to eight feet wide, with a resulting tread width of 24 inches. Small wooden footbridges and hardened crossings will be constructed as necessary at drainages and stream crossings to protect aquatic resources. An easement will be obtained at the southern end of the trail section at the junction of J highway just west of Oates.
In addition to the MTNF’s implementation of the RPM’s and TC’s in the Programmatic BO and other protective measures, the following information was considered in determining the projects effects on the Hine’s emerald dragonfly, running buffalo clover, Mead’s milkweed, pink mucket pearlymussel, Scaleshell mussel, and Curtis pearlymussel.
Hine’s emerald dragonfly: 1) the proposed trail is within 300 feet of one of the sites in which the species has been documented; 2) field surveys have indicated that no suitable habitat will be impacted by the project; 3) only mowing is proposed for construction and maintenance of the trail near the occupied habitat; 4) the section of trail near Barton Fen will follow an existing old road that would be open only to hiking under this proposal; 5) the section of the proposed trail near the fen will not be open to equestrian use in order to reduce the potential for soil disturbance and the introduction of noxious weeds (from horse droppings); and 6) the trail will be periodically monitored to insure that no unauthorized “side trails” are developed into dragonfly habitat from the designated trail.
Running buffalo clover: Recent surveys of the area have indicated that suitable habitat for this species is unoccupied.
Mead’s milkweed: 1) There are no known populations at this plant species within 8 miles of proposed trail corridor and 2) there is no suitable habitat within the project area.
Pink mucket pearlymussel, Scaleshell mussel, and Curtis pearlymussel: 1) These species do not occur in the project area; 2) the closest known populations are 49 miles downstream of the project area; 3) all streams will be crossed at right angles to the stream channel to minimize the distance that the trail occurs within the stream; 4) all stream crossings will be constructed with hand tools; 5) bridges or hardened crossings will be placed at crossings that would otherwise be likely to erode or cause resource damage (from horse or foot traffic); 6) all perennial stream crossings will be monitored regularly to determine if the trail is causing any erosion or increase in sediment to the stream or if the crossing impedes fish passage; 7) if monitoring indicates that the stream crossing is impacting the aquatic environment, efforts will be made to improve the crossing and reduce erosion; and 8) trail construction involving heavy equipment within floodplains or adjacent to perennial streams will occur during dry or frozen periods.
Based on the site-specific information above, we concur with your determination of “not likely to adversely affect” for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly, running buffalo clover, pink mucket pearlymussel, Scaleshell mussel, and Curtis pearlymussel. We would concur with a determination of “not likely to adversely affect” for Mead’s milkweed. The Service also concurs with your determination that the project will have “no effect” on the bald eagle and gray bat. The Service also concurs with your determination that the Ozark Hellbender, a candidate species, is not within the project area of influence. Therefore the project will not affect the species.
The following biological opinion is based on likely adverse effects to the Indiana bat from activities associated with the Ozark Trail Construction Project. In conducting our evaluation of the potential impacts of the project on Indiana bat, our review focused on determining whether: (1) this proposed project falls within the scope of the Programmatic BO issued for MTNF’s LRMP; (2) the effects of this proposed action are consistent with those anticipated in the Tier 1 Programmatic BO; and (3) the appropriate implementing terms and conditions associated with the reasonable and prudent measures identified in the Tier 1 biological opinion are adhered to. This Tier 2 Biological Opinion also identifies the incidental take anticipated with the Ozark Trail Construction Project and the cumulative total of incidental take for the MTNF for the 2002-2003 planning seasons. It conforms to the Service’s Programmatic BO (page 88) pertaining to individual projects the Service reviews following the issuance of the Programmatic BO.
Status of the Species
Species description, life history, population dynamics, status and distribution for the Indiana bat are fully described on pages 40-62 of the Programmatic BO and are hereby incorporated by reference. Since issuance of the Service’s Programmatic BO, a biennial survey was conducted on Indiana bat Priority 1 hibernacula. Approximately 102,870 Indiana bats were counted during surveys conducted in 2000 and 2001. This compares to the 115,885 Indiana bats that were estimated in 1999 at the same locations (Richard Clawson, Missouri Department of Conservation, in litt. 2001- as presented at the Indiana Bat Symposium held in Lexington, Kentucky, March 29-31, 2001). Mist net surveys were conducted for bats on the Mark Twain National Forest between 1997 and 2001. These surveys resulted in the capture of 501 individual bats of 9 species during 594 hours of mist netting, but no Indiana bats were captured.
No Indiana bats have been documented in the project area, however there is approximately 1,062 acres of suitable foraging/roosting habitat within the project area. Approximately 16.6 miles of the proposed trail will be within the area of influence of an Indiana bat cave, with the closest distance from the trail to the cave being approximately 1 mile. Of the 16.6 miles, 6.7 miles would be in habitat considered suitable for Indiana bats. The nearest capture of a reproductively active female Indiana bat was approximately 23 miles from the proposed trail corridor.
The environmental baseline for the MTNF was established and fully described in detail on pages 7-16 of the Service’s June 23, 1999 Programmatic BO. Since issuance of the Service’s Programmatic BO, the environmental baseline on the MTNF has changed. The percentage of trees in the 50 years or older class has increased from 72% to 73% (956,841 acres to 970,131 acres) that includes a 4% increase of trees 90 years old or older-old growth (159,474 acres to 212,631 acres). Additionally, there has been a decrease of 11% to 9% in the 0-9 years old age class (146,184 acres to 119,605). The relative percentage of the other two age classes (20-49 years old and 10-19 years old) was unchanged. Other changes relate to the decrease in timber harvest on the forest between 1996 and 2000. The average timber harvest on the MTNF has decreased from an average annual harvest of 18,215 acres between 1986 and 1997 to 11,567 acres between 1997 and 2000. Between 1985 and 2000, the average annual harvest volume on the MTNF was 55.3 million board feet of commercial timber, which decreased to an annual harvest volume of 32 million board feet between 1998 and 2000.
Timber management practices utilized on the MNTF have also changed. Of the 11,567 acres harvested annually on the MTNF between 1996 and 2000, an average of 5,487 acres (47%) involved thinning, salvage, and miscellaneous operations (e.g., firewood permits); 3,389 acres (29%) included uneven-aged management (i.e., group selection, single tree selection, and single tree selection with groups harvest technique); and 2,691 acres (23%) were associated with even-aged regeneration harvest techniques (i.e., shelterwood, clearcut, and seedtree harvest methods). Although approximately 9,300 acres of reforestation via natural regeneration has occurred per year since 1986, the average of such activities decreased to about 7,000 acres (~25%) between 1998 and 2000. Between 1986 and 1997, timber stand improvements (TSI) averaged about 3,850 acres per year. Since 1998, TSI activities averaged 1,938 acres per year, a reduction of approximately 50%. Activities to benefit wildlife (e.g., prescribed fires, tree planting in riparian corridors, construction of ponds or waterholes, brushhogging, planting of food plots, conversion of cool season grasses to native warm-season grasses, etc.) decreased from an annual average of 9,000 acres between 1986 and 1997 to an annual average of approximately 6,000 acres (a reduction of approximately 33%) between 1998 and 2000 (Jody Eberly, U.S. Forest Service in litt. August 13 and 22, 2001).
Missouri has experienced severe weather in the spring of 2002. Several tornados in 2002 have damaged timber stands on both private and public lands in Missouri. Flooding has occurred in many drainage’s, uprooting trees and causing other structural damage. Some landowners are removing the downed timber in many areas and many are burning the wood that is unsuitable for other products (e.g. sawlogs, firewood, etc.). However, not all landowners (both public and private) can remove all or most of the downed timber. Once the wood dries out, an unnaturally high fuel loading in Missouri forests will have been created, and the risk of catastrophic fire will increase.
Another situation is causing concern for the health of forests in Missouri and Arkansas. Thousands of acres are being affected by oak decline. Many large northern red, southern red, black, and scarlet oaks are declining and dying. The reason for this problem is complex and is not linked to any one cause but trees that are old (70 to 90 years), are on shallow, rocky soils, ridgetops and upper slopes, and that have been stressed from drought, are predisposed to decline. There are other factors that contribute to this oak decline: red oak borers, twolined chestnut borers, armillaria root rot, and others (from brochure “Why are the oak trees dying??” produced by the USDA Forest Service 2001). The oak decline problem will create habitat for the Indiana bat, but could also pose a risk from catastrophic wildfire.
Effects of the Action
Based on our analysis of information provided in your August 27, 2002 BE for the Ozark Trail Construction Project, we have determined that the potential effects of the proposed action are consistent with those addressed in the Programmatic Biological Opinion and are hereby incorporated by reference. The proposed project will not disturb Indiana bats within their cave habitat. No new caves were found during lay out of the trail. Adverse effects to the Indiana bat from this project could occur from the removal of suitable roost trees in the trail corridor. The proposed trail would disturb a total of approximately 8.6 acres of suitable Indiana bat foraging habitat. Of these 8.6 acres, approximately 4.8 acres would be within the area of influence for an Indiana bat cave. No trail construction will take place within the “key area” of the area of influence. A more complete discussion of these effects can be found in section D- Effects of the action (direct and indirect effects), on pages 62-65 of the Service’s June 23, 1999 Programmatic BO.
Harm to Indiana bats could also occur if the removal of suitable roost trees causes bats to abandon a traditionally used roost site. The likelihood of cutting a tree containing an individual roosting Indiana bat, however, is anticipated to be extremely low because of the rarity of the species on this district and the large number of suitable roost trees present on the MTNF.
Implementation of the terms and conditions associated with the reasonable and prudent measures (RPMs) provided on pages 75-81 in the Programmatic Biological Opinion will minimize any potential adverse effects to the Indiana bat by maintaining suitable Indiana bat roosting and foraging habitat.
The actions and effects associated with the proposed Ozark Trail Construction Project are consistent with those identified and discussed in the Service’s Programmatic BO. After reviewing the size and scope of the project, the environmental baseline, the status of Indiana bat and its potential occurrence within the project area, the effects of the action; and any cumulative effects, it is the Service’s biological opinion that this action is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the Indiana bat.
Incidental Take Statement
The Service anticipates that the proposed actions associated with the Ozark Trail Construction Project will result in the incidental take of Indiana bat habitat (8.6 acres; 16.6 acres cumulatively for 2003; see Table 1). The type and amount of anticipated incidental take is consistent with that described in the Programmatic BO and does not cause the total annual level of incidental take (forested acres) in the Programmatic BO (page 74) to be exceeded (150 acres total per year in Soil and Water Activities).
The Forest Service must implement all pertinent reasonable and prudent measures and implementing terms and conditions stipulated in the Programmatic BO to minimize the impact of the anticipated incidental take of Indiana bats, and to be exempt from the take prohibitions of Section 9 of the Act. We have determined that no new reasonable and prudent measures, beyond those specified in the Programmatic BO, are needed to minimize the impact of incidental take anticipated for the Ozark Trail Construction Project. Implementing the measures outlined in your conservation program for federally listed species on the MTNF (approved March 2000) will further reduce potential adverse effects on the Indiana bat.
This fulfills your consultation requirements for this action. Should the proposed project be modified or if the level of take identified above is exceeded, re-initiation of consultation as outlined in 50 CFR 402.16, is required.
We appreciate your continued efforts to ensure that this project is consistent with all provisions outlined in the Programmatic BO. If you have any questions regarding our response or if you need additional information, please contact Theresa Davidson at (417) 683-4428 ext. 113.
Charles M. Scott
cc: Theresa Davidson, FWS, Ava, MO
Table 1. Incidental take of Indiana bats for the Ozark Trail Construction Project (forested acres affected annually) and its contribution to the cumulative totals for the Mark Twain National Forest as outlined on page 74 of the Service’s Programmatic Biological Opinion of June 23, 1999.
Acres Exempted Annually
Soil and Water Activities