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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
June 12, 2003

Mr. Ronnie Raum, Forest Supervisor

Mark Twain National Forest

401 Fairgrounds Road

Rolla, Missouri 65401
Dear Mr. Raum:
This letter is in response to your March 12, 2003, request for site-specific review, pursuant to section 7 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, on the proposed Forest-Wide Pine Fuel Reduction Project on the Mark Twain National Forest (all Districts) in Barry, Bollinger, Butler, Carter, Christian, Crawford, Dent, Douglas, Howell, Iron, Laclede, Madison, Oregon, Ozark, Phelps, Phelps, Pulaski, Reynolds, Ripley, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Shannon, Stone, Taney, Texas, Washington, Wayne, and Wright Counties, Missouri for the fiscal year 2003 to 2006 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), 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 Forest-Wide Pine Fuel Reduction Project is a Tier 2 consultation. We have reviewed the information contained in the Forest-Wide Pine Fuel Reduction Project Biological Assessment (BA), submitted by your office on March 12, 2003, with additional information submitted by email on March 31, 2003, and April 2, 2003, describing the potential effects of the proposed project on the above federally listed species.
We concur with your conclusion that there are no additional effects to federally listed species associated with the Forest-Wide Pine Fuel Reduction 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), Mead’s milkweed, running buffalo clover, Indiana bat, gray bat, scaleshell mussel (Leptodea leptodon), pink mucket pearly mussel, Curtis’ pearly mussel, 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 utilize thinning and burning for fuel reduction to achieve the following objectives:


  • Reduce risk of crown fire by eliminating or reducing the interconnection of pine tree crowns, and

  • Reduce fuel loading by removing, reducing, or consuming accumulated fuels.

The MTNF is proposing three different treatments to accomplish the objectives:




  1. Thin approximately 5, 897 acres of densely stocked pine stands so that crowns only touch one side.

  2. Combination thin and burn approximately 5, 511 acres.

  3. Prescribe burn only on approximately 1,487 acres. Generally, these stands are included in the project area to facilitate landscape-level prescribed burns.

Connected actions necessary to accomplish the proposal include fire line construction, temporary road construction, and limited maintenance of existing roads (i.e., draining or gravelling mud holes). Table 1 displays the management activity by acres and stands for each District.

Table 1. Management activities by acres and stands (in parentheses).


Management Activity

Proposed Action

Fuel Load Treatment


12,897 (655)

Thinning (by District)

5,897 (270)

Houston/Rolla

2,796

Potosi/Fredericktown

1,052

Salem

139

Ava/Cassville/Willow Springs

1,904

Doniphan/Eleven Point

6

Thinning and Prescribed Burning by District


5,511 (297)

Houston/Rolla

370

Poplar Bluff

1,138

Potosi/Fredericktown

996

Salem

1,042

Doniphan/Eleven Point

1,965

Prescribed Burning Only by District


1,489 (88)

Potosi/Fredericktown

397

Salem

636

Doniphan/Eleven Point

432

Poplar Bluff

24

1). The thinning only prescription is proposed as a tool to reduce biomass and fuel continuity. Pine stands with a thin only prescription in the project area would be thinned so that the tree crowns only touch on one side to reduce biomass and break fuel continuity.


Products such as posts, firewood, chips, and limited amounts of pine sawtimber could be derived from these operations. Hardwood species in the understory and midstory layers would generally not be marked for thinning unless it was necessary to release pines from competition or reduce fire hazards.
In addition to thinning, coarse fuels would be treated as necessary to prevent buildup of hazardous fuel loads within the project area. As required, the coarse fuels would receive one of the following treatment methods:


  • Physical removal of slash from stands after thinning operations.

  • Chopping or grinding slash in place to promote decomposition.

  • Piling and/or burning of slash.

  • Lopping of tops or slash in place to within 3 feet of the ground to promote faster decomposition.

2). Stands with a thinning and prescribed burning prescription would undergo at least one prescribed burn to reduce fuel load hazards. In all cases, the prescribed burns would be conducted with an ignition window of October 10 to April 30. Burns would be conducted only under conditions that follow MTNF guidelines.


3). The prescribed burning only prescription treats stands that were included in the project area to facilitate landscape-level prescribed burns. These stands are generally classified as oak forest types or open to semi-open habitats. Guidelines for prescribed burns in these stands would be the same as those used for the pine stands.
Mitigation measures to treat residual slash generated from proposed treatment activities would be implemented in the same manner for all the proposed stands. For all stands within 150 feet from a structure, slash would be laid on the ground or removed from the site. For stands not burned and located 150 feet to one-half mile from structures, the residual slash would be lopped and scattered.
The MTNF has proposed several resource protection measures for this project:
1). Resource protection measures for the bald eagle include designating a 100 foot buffer strip of no cutting on either side of perennial and intermittent streams and water bodies; and reducing and/or eliminating an potential from smoke in river corridors by not allowing burning to occur within 18 miles of bald eagle roost sites and within 2 miles of nest sites between the dates of November 1 and July 15.
2). Resource protection measures for the gray bat include designating a 100 foot buffer strip of no cutting in either side of perennial and intermittent streams and water bodies; and conducting prescribed burning between October 10 and April 30. No burning would occur if the wind is blowing towards any gray bat caves. In order to reduce and/or eliminate any potential disturbance from smoke in river corridors near gray bat caves, no burning would occur anywhere within 7 miles of gray bats cave river corridors between the dates of March 1 – April 30 and October 10-15.
3). Resource protection measures for the Indiana bat include designating a 100 foot buffer strip of no cutting on either side of perennial and intermittent streams and water bodies; and conducting prescribed burning between October 10 and April 30. No burning would occur if the wind were blowing towards any Indiana bat caves. In addition, if the area has already been ignited and the winds shift to an undesirable direction, all ignitions would cease as expeditiously as possible without compromising firefighter and public safety. This is to reduce and/or eliminate any potential disturbance from smoke for the bald eagle, gray bat, and Indiana bat.
4). This resource measure is also for the Indiana bat. To the maximum extent possible and logistically practical, retain all dead trees greater than or equal to 20 inches in diameter at breast height (dbh) and all live trees greater than or equal to 26 inches dbh, unless they are an immediate human safety hazard. This is to provide and retain potential Indiana bat roost sites. In all harvest units retain all the shagbark hickory, shellbark hickory, and lightning struck trees greater than or equal to 9 inches dbh. Also retain some (not all) dead and dying trees greater than or equal to 9 inches dbh with at least 10 percent exfoliating bark. This is to provide and retain potential Indiana bat roost sites. In addition, no thinning would occur during April through October 10 within any of the Indiana bat areas of influence.
5). This resource measure is for the Mead’s milkweed. A 100-foot protection zone would be established around all igneous glades identified containing open, grass-dominated patches or continuous grass/herb cover.
6). The following resource protection measure is for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly. Any fireline needed within the Bates Hollow area (fen and seep area) would be constructed by hand to avoid any adverse hydrologic impacts to the fen.
7). The following soil and water resource protection measures (along with compliance with Forest Plan standards and guidelines for soil and water protection) would minimize any disturbance to upland headwater drainages and any movement of soil off the project area that could indirectly affect aquatic organisms downstream of the project area.

  • Minimize fireline areas, revegetate immediately,

  • Construct water bars along firelines,

  • Limit mechanical disturbances to soil with water table restrictions avoiding December through April,

  • Locate skid trails and landings to comply with trail grade and water control structures; divert skid trail and landing runoff to forest floor,

  • Designate filter strips in stands that contain or border water bodies,

  • Implement higher intensity administrative controls at stands near surface water and with severe equipment limitations,

  • Suspend skidding during wet periods, when rutting begins, or when runoff from skid trails is turbid and fails to infiltrate near skid trail,

  • Minimize stream crossings, locate at right angles, and at points with least impact,

  • Revegetate bare soil with annual wheat, oat, or rye seed,

  • Avoid cutting within 50 feet of a sinkhole,

  • Designate a 100 foot buffer strip of no cutting on either side of perennial and intermittent streams and water bodies,

  • Stands with soils that have perched water tables will not be cut during the period of time of wet soil from December to April unless the ground is frozen.


Effects Analysis
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 effect on the Mead’s milkweed, bald eagle and gray bat.
Mead’s milkweed: 1) There are no populations of Mead’s milkweed within six miles of the Forestwide Pine Fuel Reduction Project and 2) there are no igneous glades within the project area.
Bald eagle: 1) There are no known bald eagle nest sites within two miles of any project area stand (the closest bald eagle nest site is approximately 2.5 miles from a project stand; 2) There are two communal roost sites within 18 miles of project stands (one on the Cassville Unit and one on the Doniphan/Eleven Point District; 3) Proposed activities do not involve the removal of trees large enough to be roost trees; 4) Any sediment produced by project activities would not be of a magnitude where the prey base will be affected; and 5) smoke from the prescribed burns are not likely to displace bald eagles.
Gray bat: 1) Prescribed burns may be conducted from October 10 through April 30 and range in size from less than 10 acres to 600 acres; 2) The closest gray bat cave is less than 2 miles from a 7 acre proposed burn (this cave is a maternity cave); 3) smoke from the prescribed burns are not likely to displace gray bats; and; 4) any sediment produced by the project activities would not be of a magnitude where the prey base will be affected.
Based on the site-specific information above, we would concur with a determination of “not likely to adversely affect” for the Mead’s milkweed, bald eagle and gray bat. The Service also concurs with your determination that the project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the Hine’s emerald dragonfly, running buffalo clover, pink mucket pearly mussel, Curtis’ pearly mussel, and scaleshell mussel. The project may adversely affect the Indiana bat.
Biological Opinion
The following biological opinion is based on likely adverse effects to the Indiana bat from activities associated with the Forest-Wide Pine Fuel Reduction 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 Forest-Wide Pine Fuel Reduction Project and the cumulative total of incidental take for the MTNF for the 2003-2006 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 and Anabat detection surveys were conducted for bats on the Mark Twain National Forest between 1997 and 2002. These surveys included 1689 net hours of mist netting and 2863 hours of Anabat detecting. These surveys resulted in the capture of 1251 individual bats of 9 species and 9 species recorded with Anabat detectors (43,102 call files), but no Indiana bats were captured or detected.
There are 10 Indiana bat caves within 5 miles of project stands. Some project stands are within three Areas of Influence (AOI) for the Indiana bat (Bell-Bat-Saloon AOI, Cave Hollow Cave AOI, and Ryden Cave AOI). The closest cave is less than one mile from the project area. However no Indiana bats were found in this hibernaculum during the most recent survey (1998). There are no Indiana bat caves within any of the project stands. The project area is approximately 40 miles from the nearest documented maternity colony on the Mississippi River and 8 miles from the nearest capture site of a reproductively active female northeast of the Potosi District.
Environmental Baseline
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 year’s old age class (146,184 acres to 119,605). The relative percentages of the other two age classes (20-49 years old and 10-19 years old) were 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 experienced severe weather in the spring of 2002. Several tornados in 2002 damaged timber stands on both private and public lands in Missouri. Flooding occurred in many drainages, 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, all or most of the downed timber on public and private lands cannot be removed. 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.
Thousands of acres affected by oak decline are causing concern for the health of forests in Missouri and Arkansas. 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), 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 March 12, 2003 BA for the Forest-Wide Pine Fuel Reduction 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. Some work will be conducted in three Indiana bat “Areas of Influence”. Migrating Indiana bats and individual bats that stay near the hibernacula could be potentially impacted from the proposed activities. All work being conducted within AOI’s will be in compliance with the management strategies developed for Indiana bat AOI’s. Adverse effects to the Indiana bat from this project could occur from the removal of potential roost trees in the timber harvest areas and tree removal associated with temporary road construction.
The prescribed burning will be conducted in late winter or early spring when bats are still hibernating. The burns will only be conducted using the above mentioned resource protection measures, to push smoke away from the hibernaculum. The prescribed burns may also have a beneficial effect by opening forest canopies and decreasing dense understory vegetation that could inhibit bat movements to foraging habitats and roosting sites. Because surveys have been conducted in and adjacent to the MTNF with no Indiana bat detections, and since all maternity colonies in Missouri have been found north of the Missouri River or within the floodplain of the Mississippi River, it is highly unlikely that a maternity colony exists in the project area. 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 and implementing management strategies developed for AOI’s will minimize any potential adverse effects to the Indiana bat by maintaining suitable Indiana bat roosting and foraging habitat.
Conclusion
The actions and effects associated with the proposed Forest-Wide Pine Fuel Reduction Project are consistent with those identified and discussed in the Service’s Programmatic BO and the management strategies developed for Indiana bat AOI’s. 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 Forest-Wide Pine Fuel Reduction Project will result in the incidental take of Indiana bat habitat (acres) as outlined in Table 2. 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 (Table 1).
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. All management activities within the three AOI’s affected must comply with the management strategies developed for AOI’s on the MTNF. 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 Forest-Wide Pine Fuel Reduction 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, reinitiation 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.
Sincerely,

Charles M. Scott

Field Supervisor
cc: Field Supervisor, Indiana ESFO, Bloomington, IN

Theresa Davidson, FWS, Ava, MO



Jennifer Szymanski, FWS, Lacrosse, WS
G:\Davidson\ForestWidePineFuelReduction.doc

Table 2. Incidental take of Indiana bats for the Forest-Wide Pine Fuel Reduction 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.





2003

2004

2005

2006

Acres exempted annually

Timber Harvest

2,282

2,282

2,282

2,282

20000

Cumulative Total

15,807

12,495

4,394

3,669

_________

Prescribed Fire

0

1,400

1,400

1,400

12000

Cumulative Total

11,888

11,848

7,487

5,892

_________

Road Construction

0

1

0

0

25

Cumulative Total

11

6

0

0

__________


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