Wildlife Category Proposal Review: FY 2010 and beyond

Section 10. Narrative

PROJECT TITLE:

Wenas Wildlife Area, 2006-00...
impoundments associated with dams, and urban/residential development resulting in current
distributions that are dramatica...
Cover Type                                           Acres

Grassland                                            56,017

S...
Figure 2. Historical Shrub-steppe Habitat in the Yakima Subbasin.




FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form  ...
Figure 3. Map delineating Ownership.

Wildlife/habitat management activities at the Wenas Wildlife Area focus primarily on...
(figure 4). Several radio-marked sage-grouse that were translocated to the Yakima Training
Center from Oregon and Nevada i...
Subbasin Plan Assessment page 2-97). Shrub loss has impacted shrub-steppe focal species.
Mule deer and greater sage-grouse...
Restoring woody and herbaceous vegetation to the creeks will benefit the American beaver, a
focal species (Yakima Subbasin...
ponderosa pine snags for nesting. Western gray squirrels use large pines and Oregon white oaks
for important life stages, ...
Shrub-steppe
The WWA lies within the Umtanum Ridge geographic priority area described in the Yakima
Subbasin Plan (Page 2-...
Ongoing and proposed riparian wetland restoration work addresses several of the protection and
restoration objectives iden...
large contiguous landscape. For example, wildfire prevention and control abilities on WWA will
directly affect the number ...
The Wildlife Area contains Umtanum, Roza and Wenas creeks, which are perennial fish-bearing
streams, and is bordered on th...
seeded. In 1999 an additional 40 hectares (98 ac) were seeded to native-like vegetation.
        Seedling establishment wa...
includes information on weed location, species, patch size and distribution, treatments,
        and follow-up data.
    3...
be established in and the sites will be monitored to determine the best method of
        reestablishing each forb species...
restoring large tree overstory in ponderosa pine habitats and connecting functional core habitats
across the subbasin.

Bi...
Methods: Establish forb seeding plots and monitor sites to determine the best
                   method of reestablishing ...
Work Element 1.9: Provide Access & Public Information – Maintain Informational
                Signs, Reader Boards and Ki...
Work Element 2.3: Operate & Maintain Habitat/Passage/Structure – Install
                temporary fence as needed for rip...
Also See Work Elements 1.2, 7.1, 9.4, and 9.6.

Biological Objective 4: Protect Microbiotic crust (Yakima Subbasin Plan, S...
Metrics: None
        Also See Work Elements 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.7, 1.10, 7.1, 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 9.4, and 9.5.

Biological ...
through use of photo monitoring. Data collected will be used to assess effects
                   of habitat maintenance, ...
Methods: Assess data collected in monitoring habitat conditions and
                   recreational use on the Wildlife Ar...
Methods: Maintain project infrastructure and physical improvements including
                   office buildings, residenc...
Work Element 10.6: Coordination – Coordination with other entities.

                   Methods: Coordinate protection, en...
Monitoring is a tool for detecting change and identifying problems in the early stages before they
become obvious or a cri...
from national, subbasin, and WDFW regional level surveys, with application to each wildlife
area. Monitoring and evaluatio...
with reference sites and with the probabilistic Jaccard (Chao 2004) as a way of measuring
species similarity between sites...
Past Accomplishments
HEP transects were conducted on the WWA between 1996 and 1998 (Table 1). A preliminary
assessment of ...
the following occur: a wildfire burned through, received a fertilizer application, received
additional herbicide applicati...
----------------------------Percent Cover--------------------------------
Cottonwood Creek East    Outside     -        1 ...
used for elk (Unsworth et al. 1994). Harvest is estimated using results from mandatory harvest
reporting.

Past Accomplish...
River Canyon. Bighorn sheep on Cleman Mountain are ground counted during winter feeding.
Surveys are used to estimate lamb...
2004 and 2005. Although the DOD appears will to continue annual surveys on the YTC,
occasional searches for new, moved, or...
Section 10. Narrative
Section 10. Narrative
Section 10. Narrative
Section 10. Narrative
Section 10. Narrative
Section 10. Narrative
Section 10. Narrative
Section 10. Narrative
Section 10. Narrative
Section 10. Narrative
Section 10. Narrative
Section 10. Narrative
Section 10. Narrative
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  1. 1. Wildlife Category Proposal Review: FY 2010 and beyond Section 10. Narrative PROJECT TITLE: Wenas Wildlife Area, 2006-004-00 A. Abstract and statement of innovation Located in Yakima and Kittitas Counties, the Wenas Wildlife Area (WWA) encompasses approximately 29,060 ha (71,777 ac) of shrub-steppe habitat, 423 ha (1,045 ac) of riparian forest, 563 ha (1,390 ac) of conifer forest (ponderosa pine habitat type) and 130 ha (320 ac) of riverine habitat along the Yakima River, which borders the wildlife area on the east. The wildlife area is managed by WDFW wildlife area personnel and is bordered to the north by the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area and private land, to the south by Oak Creek Wildlife Area and to the west by U.S. Forest Service and Washington Department of Natural Resources. The WWA is dominated by shrub-steppe habitat, which is managed primarily for shrub-steppe obligate wildlife species such as sage-grouse, Brewer’s sparrow, and western meadowlark. The wildlife area’s riparian and wetland habitats provide for a host of wetland and riparian obligate species such as waterfowl, yellow warbler and beaver. The Yakima River and Umtanum Creek also support ESA listed steelhead. The ponderosa pine habitat potentially provides habitat for large tree obligate species such as the white-headed and Lewis’ woodpeckers and the western gray squirrel. Habitat maintenance and protection measures planned for the Wenas Wildlife Area include: maintaining habitat enhancements, establishing forb seedings, controlling introduced weedy vegetation, including Russian knapweed, using integrated pest management (IPM), protecting riparian areas and associated wetlands, maintaining fences and fire breaks, and relocating project roads where erosion is being delivered to drainages (WDFW 2006). B. Problem statement: technical and/or scientific background The transition zone between the east slopes of the Cascades and the arid Columbia Basin contains an ecologically diverse array of habitats. Throughout eastern Washington, these habitats are threatened by urban development and habitat degradation through incompatible land uses. The Wenas Wildlife Area (WWA) mitigation project (Figure 1) addresses declining quantity and quality of shrub-steppe habitat and subsequent negative impacts on the distribution and populations of shrub-steppe obligate species such as sage-grouse, Washington ground squirrels, sage thrashers, sage sparrows, Brewer’s sparrows, loggerhead shrikes, and ferruginous hawks within a portion of the Yakima Subbasin (Vander Haegen et al. 2000, WDFW 2000). Many of these species have been adversely impacted by habitat conversion to alternate uses, such as irrigated and dry land agriculture, water conversion to alternate uses, water FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 1
  2. 2. impoundments associated with dams, and urban/residential development resulting in current distributions that are dramatically reduced from their historic ranges. The WWA protects 71,777 acres of Shrub-steppe/Interior Grasslands, 1,045 acres of Interior Riparian/Wetlands and 1,390 acres of Ponderosa Pine habitat (Table 1), three of the four focal wildlife habitats identified within the Yakima Subbasin Plan. Previous to acquisition and protection of the WWA by WDFW, the land was subjected to inappropriately high levels of livestock grazing and a haphazard network of ecologically damaging roads. Ongoing and proposed future work on the WWA addresses limiting factors for the Shrub-steppe/Interior Grasslands, Interior Riparian/Wetlands and Ponderosa Pine focal habitats of the Yakima Subbasin. Figure 1. General location map for the Wenas Wildlife Area. The Wenas Wildlife Area is predominantly shrub-steppe habitat that includes both grasslands and shrublands. Cover types and approximate acreages are shown in Table 1. Table 1. Wenas Wildlife Area Cover types/acres. FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 2
  3. 3. Cover Type Acres Grassland 56,017 Shrubland 14,862 Riparian Shrub 385 Riparian Forest 340 Conifer Forest – Woodland 1,240 Conifer Forest – Medium density 150 Revegetated Fields and Grasslands 898 Riverine 320 TOTAL 74,212 Shrub-steppe/Interior Grasslands Focal Habitat Approximately 60% of historic shrub-steppe in eastern Washington has been lost to land conversion primarily for agriculture and more recently urban development. Within the Yakima Subbasin, shrub-steppe was historically the most abundant wildlife habitat (Daubenmire 1970) (Figure 2). Relative to other subbasins, the Yakima Subbasin has retained large acreages of shrub-steppe including the WWA, which is a contiguous block of 71,777 acres of shrub-steppe (Figure 3). However, the viability of plant and animal populations that reside on remaining shrub-steppe lands within the subbasin are increasingly threatened by habitat fragmentation, loss of deep soil communities, altered fire regimes, presence of invasive alien species, inappropriate livestock grazing, and loss of microbiotic crust (Yakima Subbasin Plan Assessment pages 2-96 through 2-99; Vander Haegen et al. 2001). FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 3
  4. 4. Figure 2. Historical Shrub-steppe Habitat in the Yakima Subbasin. FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 4
  5. 5. Figure 3. Map delineating Ownership. Wildlife/habitat management activities at the Wenas Wildlife Area focus primarily on improvement of shrub-steppe habitat to aid in the recovery of greater sage-grouse. Sage-grouse were historically found in shrub-steppe habitats throughout eastern Washington, but have declined 77% between 1960 and 1999 (Schroeder et al. 2000). The spring 2008 population in Washington was estimated to be about 632, with 187 on the Yakima Training Center and 445 on private land in Douglas County (WDFW, unpublished data). The species is listed as threatened by the state of Washington and is a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act (Stinson et al. 2004). The Yakima Subbasin includes seven areas designated for recovery of sage-grouse populations (Stinson et al. 2004). One of these designated areas is the Yakima Training Center (US Army’s Yakima Firing Center Military Reservation), which contains the only remaining population of sage-grouse in the subbasin. At its closest point, the Training Center is less than one air mile from the Wenas Wildlife Area. In addition, the Roza, Umtanum Creek and South Umtanum Ridge Management Units of the WWA are included within the Umtanum Ridge Recovery Area FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 5
  6. 6. (figure 4). Several radio-marked sage-grouse that were translocated to the Yakima Training Center from Oregon and Nevada in 2004 and 2005 have moved to and occupied the WWA. In spring 2006, a translocated female sage-grouse moved from YTC to the Wenas WA where she successfully nested and fledged a brood. Throughout that summer and fall she was observed with several non-radio marked sage-grouse on the Wenas WA. Based on these observations, habitat conditions are capable of supporting nesting and brood-rearing sage-grouse (WDFW unpublished data). Figure 4. Map delineating Sage Grouse Recovery Zones. Of special concern on the WWA is the legacy of inappropriate livestock grazing and abandoned farm fields, which have left significant acreages of invasive alien plant species. Livestock grazing was eliminated from the WWA, but not before several invasive species gained a stronghold. Accelerating the spread of invasive species is a network of unimproved/unplanned roads. Vehicles traveling these roads transport invasive species seeds to new areas. Road banks frequently function as a reservoir seed source for invasives and then as a pathway into native plant communities. Unchecked, invasives threaten the viability of native plant communities on the WWA (Yakima Subbasin Plan Assessment page 2-98). As one example, the spread of cheat grass (Bromus tectorum) was aided by livestock grazing. Cheat grass dries out earlier than native plants and is extremely flammable. Thus, cheat grass-dominated areas on the WWA and throughout the subbasin have reduced the fire return interval in shrub-steppe. Increased wildfires lead to loss of sagebrush and other shrubs and further expansion of cheat grass (Yakima FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 6
  7. 7. Subbasin Plan Assessment page 2-97). Shrub loss has impacted shrub-steppe focal species. Mule deer and greater sage-grouse are dependent on sagebrush for forage, greater sage-grouse and Brewer’s sparrows use sagebrush for nest concealment, and all three species use sagebrush for protection from weather and predators (Yakima Subbasin Plan Assessment pages 2-98, 2-99 through 2-120). Control of the spread of invasive species and their replacement with native and native-like species is imperative to reverse this cycle that further degrades the quantity and quality of shrub-steppe on the WWA. Without control and restoration efforts, invasive species will persist and likely expand their range even in the absence of livestock grazing. In severely infested areas, native plants cannot be expected to return on their own in most circumstances because native seed sources have been eliminated, microbiotic crusts have been degraded or eliminated, and invasive plants have become well established (Yakima Subbasin Plan Assessment page 2-99). Interior Riparian Wetland Similar to shrub-steppe, riparian wetland habitat was subjected to a long history of inappropriate livestock grazing on the WWA. Overtime, intense grazing pressure resulted in the loss of native woody and herbaceous vegetation. This loss is most pronounced in the Roza Creek drainage where rapid runoff has resulted in streambed incision greater than 20 feet in certain areas. Erosion induced by removal of native vegetation and the cessation of over grazing by livestock then compounded the situation by allowing for large-scale encroachment by invasive species. Riparian habitat conversion and degradation was listed in the Yakima Subbasin Plan as a significant limiting factor for properly functioning riparian wetland systems (Yakima Subbasin Plan, page 2-229). Without active management to control and eliminate invasive species, the system cannot be expected to return to native conditions. Essential to restoring native vegetation is returning the stream to its natural floodplain. Improperly constructed and positioned road crossings constrict and inhibit a riparian system from functioning naturally. Furthermore, roads can impede fish passage and contribute to water quality degradation (Yakima Subbasin Plan, page 2-132). The loss of floodplain habitat, especially side channels and springs adjacent to the mainstem Naches and Yakima Rivers were identified as a significant limiting factor for the productivity of aquatic habitat in the subbasin. The Subbasin Plan calls for restoration of riparian zones and reduction of chronic bed instability through revegetation, introduction of LWD, protection of riparian areas by purchase or easement, improved riparian area management, and restoration of natural flow regime (Yakima Subbasin Plan Executive Summary, page 16). Since 2003, seven (7) miles of stream-adjacent parallel roads have been abandoned or decommissioned and another seven (7) miles have been improved or relocated. In addition, one of the two fish passage barriers on Umtanum Creek has been corrected and plans for correcting the second barrier are under development. Restoration of native woody and herbaceous vegetation in creeks will benefit focal fish and wildlife species (i.e. steelhead, yellow warbler, mallard, and American beaver). Yellow warblers are dependent upon riparian trees and shrubs for breeding and migration (Yakima Subbasin Plan, page 2-134). In addition, the Audubon Society has designated the Umtanum Creek watershed and the Yakima River Canyon as Important Bird Areas (IBA). The designations recognize the importance of these watersheds to breeding and migrating neo-tropical migratory birds. Ongoing and proposed work on the WWA will ensure that these nationally recognized IBAs are protected and enhanced for a high priority group of species including the yellow warbler. FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 7
  8. 8. Restoring woody and herbaceous vegetation to the creeks will benefit the American beaver, a focal species (Yakima Subbasin Plan, Page 2-146). Beavers use woody vegetation to build lodges, and they eat the leaves, twigs and bark. Herbaceous plants such as grasses and forbs are important food sources in summer (Yakima Subbasin Plan, pages 2-145 & 2-146). Beavers will in turn assist in the recovery of riparian wetland function by creating dams, which will increase sedimentation in incised portions of creeks. Small ponds created behind dams will provide brood rearing habitat for mallards. Restoration of herbaceous cover in the adjacent uplands will provide increased nesting cover for mallards (Yakima Subbasin Plan, pages 2-140 & 2-141). Reconnecting streams to their natural floodplains and restoring woody vegetation to the creeks will also enhance fish habitat and potentially open up habitat that has not been available in the past. Roza Creek Beaver Pond Ponderosa Pine Ponderosa pine habitat has experienced the strongest declines and degradation of any habitat type in the subbasin, as well as throughout the west. The wildlife communities have suffered from the reductions of dead standing trees (snags), and old-growth forest conditions. Harvest practices have resulted in removal of older stands and large overstory trees across the landscape. Fire suppression has altered stand structures, favoring shade tolerant species and promoting overstocking of stands. The white-headed woodpecker and western gray squirrel are dependent upon large cone bearing pines, particularly in winter. White-headed woodpeckers use large FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 8
  9. 9. ponderosa pine snags for nesting. Western gray squirrels use large pines and Oregon white oaks for important life stages, such as nesting and feeding. The perpetual timber rights were acquired by WDFW on the Wenas Wildlife Area in 2008 and will allow management to begin to restore functional habitat with an overstory of large ponderosa pine and to restore a functional fire regime on the wildlife area. Strategies will include thinning and/or prescribed burning in identified areas. The objectives in the Yakima Subbasin Plan are to restore functional habitat with an overstory of large ponderosa pine on ecologically significant portions of focal habitat area by the year 2104 and increasing the use of prescribed fire on public lands by 100 percent by year 2015. C. Rationale and significance to regional programs The management of a large contiguous block of over 74,000 acres of undeveloped habitat that includes riverine through ponderosa pine creates a unique opportunity to provide and maintain landscape level objectives including providing quality shrub-steppe, riparian/wetland, and ponderosa pine habitat in the subbasin. This BPA-funded mitigation project provides habitat for both threatened and endangered (T&E) and Priority Habitat & Species (PHS) animals. It is an important link in WDFW’s efforts to protect, enhance and increase shrub-steppe, riparian/wetland and large tree ponderosa pine habitats for associated wildlife species and, within a limited area, anadromous fish. As an ongoing mitigation project, the Wenas Wildlife Area project is consistent with the Northwest Power Planning Council’s 2000 Program including, but not limited to the following sections: Overall Vision (Section III A-1) “Wherever feasible, this program will be accomplished by protecting and restoring the natural ecological functions, habitats, and biological diversity of the Columbia River ecosystem….”, Planning Assumptions (Section III, A-2) “This is a habitat based program, rebuilding healthy, natural producing fish and wildlife populations by protecting, mitigating, and restoring habitats and the biological systems within them…”, Scientific Principles (Section III, B-2) i.e., Principles one through eight, Biological Objectives (Section III, C-1) “Recovery of fish and wildlife affected by the development and operation of the hydro system that are listed under the Endangered Species Act,” (Section III, C-2a.4) “Develop and implement habitat acquisition and enhancement projects to fully mitigate for identified losses; Coordinate fish and wildlife activities throughout the basin…; maintain existing and created habitat values; and monitor and evaluate habitat and species responses to mitigation actions,” and Wildlife (Section III, D-7) “Complete the current mitigation program for construction and inundation losses and include wildlife mitigation for all operational losses as an integrated part of habitat protection and restoration”. The Wenas Wildlife Area is a BPA-approved wildlife mitigation project. This project partially meets BPA's mitigation obligation to compensate for wildlife losses resulting from the construction of Grand Coulee, McNary and John Day hydroelectric dams (Rasmussen and Wright 1989; Howerton 1986). The WWA provides 19,254 Habitat Units of protection credit for six wildlife mitigation species, mule deer, sage-grouse, western meadowlark, black-capped chickadee, yellow warbler, and mink. These species were identified in the loss assessments and were used as HEP indicator species. Funding for the WWA has been provided by BPA under terms specified in the Washington Agreement (MOA). FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 9
  10. 10. Shrub-steppe The WWA lies within the Umtanum Ridge geographic priority area described in the Yakima Subbasin Plan (Page 2-91, Figure 2-18). The Subbasin Plan’s shrub-steppe geographic priority areas were based on management units described within the Washington State Recovery Plan for the Greater Sage-Grouse (Stinson et al. 2004). Within the Recovery Plan, the Umtanum Ridge management unit was identified as a sage-grouse population expansion area. The WWA and the surrounding lands including the WDFW owned/managed Oak Creek, LT Murray, and Quilomene/Whiskey Dick Wildlife Areas comprise key habitat for sage-grouse recovery. Breeding areas, known as leks, were active in the area until the 1970’s (D.W. Hays, M.J. Tirhi, D.W. Stinson 1998). Sage-grouse observations in the area are routinely made. Several radio- marked sage-grouse that were translocated to the US Army’s Yakima Training Center from Oregon and Nevada in 2004 and 2005 have moved to and occupied the WWA. Ongoing and proposed work to control invasive species, restore native bunchgrass and shrubs, rehabilitate closed roads, and fight wild fires will contribute to regional and statewide recovery efforts for sage-grouse (Yakima Subbasin Plan, 20-page Supplement, Table 5, page 20). Each year the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) reviews the status of federal candidate species including the Washington population of sage-grouse. Conservation efforts on the WWA and surrounding lands are recognized as partial reasons why the species does not warrant a listing as threatened or endangered in Washington. It is critical to continue protection and restoration work to prevent a future listing action. Restoration activities will also enhance habitat for the other two shrub-steppe focal species, mule deer and Brewer’s sparrow. WWA is an important winter area for mule deer migrating from the east slopes of the Cascades as well as non-migratory mule deer (Yakima Subbasin Plan, page 2-99). The control of invasive plant species through the restoration of native bunchgrass and shrubs will improve forage and cover for mule deer (Yakima Subbasin Plan, 20-page Supplement, Table 5, page 20). Wintering areas for mule deer are increasingly being lost to suburban sprawl and agricultural development throughout eastern Washington and the west. The continued maintenance and enhancement of the WWA will ensure that migratory mule deer in the Yakima Subbasin have a place to over winter and non-migratory herds have a place to rear and raise fawns. The designation of the Umtanum Creek Watershed and the Yakima Canyon as Important Bird Areas by the Audubon Society underscores the importance of the WWA to Brewer’s sparrows and other neo-tropical migrant landbirds. Invasive species control, protection of remaining high quality sagebrush and bunchgrass communities from wildfire, and restoration of degraded areas through seeding of native plant species (Yakima Subbasin Plan, 20-Page Supplement, Table 5, Page 20) will benefit Brewer’s sparrow. Riparian Wetland Riparian wetlands, which support a high diversity of fish and wildlife, have been lost on a large scale due to floodplain habitat conversions and degradation. These special habitats provide fish and wildlife with breeding habitat, movement corridors and seasonal ranges. The Yakima Subbasin Plan identifies the yellow warbler, mallard duck, and American beaver as representing key attributes related to the health of this focal habitat. FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 10
  11. 11. Ongoing and proposed riparian wetland restoration work addresses several of the protection and restoration objectives identified in the Yakima Subbasin Plan (20-Page Supplement, Table 6, page 22). Since 2003, seven (7) miles of stream-adjacent parallel roads have been abandoned or decommissioned. In addition, one of the two fish passage barriers on Umtanum Creek has been corrected and plans for correcting the second barrier are under development. Additional stream adjacent roads are under review for abandonment or relocation and riparian plantings have been completed on two streams and are under consideration on several other streams. Restoration of native woody and herbaceous vegetation in creeks will benefit focal fish and wildlife species (i.e. steelhead, yellow warbler, black-capped chickadee, mallard, and American beaver). Ongoing and proposed work on the WWA will ensure that the Umtanum Creek and Yakima Canyon IBAs are protected and enhanced for a high priority group of species including the yellow warbler and black-capped chickadee. There are several fish bearing streams and rivers on or bounding the WWA, including the Yakima River and Umtanum Creek, both of which contain federally listed anadromous stocks. Some of the proposed enhancement measures will improve habitat for salmonids. For example, reestablishing riparian vegetation will increase shade, cover, and large woody debris recruitment and increase macrodetrital inputs to support aquatic food webs. Ponderosa Pine Ponderosa pine/Oregon white oak habitat is identified in the Yakima Subbasin Plan as a focal habitat because it has experienced the strongest declines and degradation of any habitat type. Fire suppression and timber harvest has altered stand structures, favoring shade tolerant species and promoting dense, overstocked stands of small diameter trees. Species such as the white- headed woodpecker and western gray squirrel are dependent upon large diameter ponderosa pine for foraging, roosting and nesting. Acquisition of the perpetual timber rights on the WWA in 2008 will allow management towards this large diameter open stand habitat type. D. Relationships to other projects This project is part of WDFW’s statewide effort to establish and maintain viable populations of greater sage-grouse. Within the context of the Province, the work on the WWA is intricately tied to conservation efforts for sage-grouse and shrub-steppe recovery efforts throughout the Yakima Subbasin, other subbasins, and eastern Washington. Shrub-steppe recovery efforts are consistent with and compliment those being undertaken at WDFW’s LT Murray Wildlife Area, Oak Creek Wildlife Area, Quilomene/Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area, Sunnyside Wildlife Area (200201400), Asotin Wildlife Area (200600500), Sagebrush Flat Wildlife Area, (199404400), Scotch Creek Wildlife Area (199609401) and Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area (199106100). In addition, the Yakama Indian Nation, Hanford Monument Arid Lands Reserve, and Yakima Training Center are undertaking shrub-steppe recovery efforts in close proximity to the WWA. The protection, restoration, and maintenance of shrub-steppe habitat for obligate species such as sage-grouse is a high priority for WDFW throughout the Columbia Plateau Province and associated subbasins as well as other areas throughout the state. Shrub-steppe protection and restoration activities on the WWA complement similar activities occurring on the LT Murray and Oak Creek Wildlife Areas and, when taken in whole, these three wildlife areas comprise a FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 11
  12. 12. large contiguous landscape. For example, wildfire prevention and control abilities on WWA will directly affect the number and size of wildfires that spread onto surrounding wildlife areas. Likewise, invasive species control on the WWA will reduce seed sources that spread onto surrounding wildlife areas. Sage-grouse recovery efforts are occurring in several subbasins throughout eastern Washington. Protecting and enhancing shrub-steppe on WWA will provide habitat for an expanding Yakima Training Center population. The Yakama Nation is begun reintroductions of sage-grouse to the reservation. The WWA, along with Oak Creek WA, is recognized as an important habitat link between the Yakima Training Center (YTC) and the reservation. YTC land managers and WDFW staff have collaborated on trapping and monitoring sage-grouse, developing habitat suitability models for sage-grouse, standardizing shrub-steppe habitat measurement techniques, and sharing habitat/wildlife management information. Similar studies and collaborative efforts also occur between WDFW and habitat managers on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. By contributing to regional sage-grouse recovery efforts, the WWA will be contributing to the security of sage-grouse throughout eastern Washington. This may reduce the need for the species to be upgraded on the federal Endangered Species Act list from candidate to threatened or endangered. Migratory mule deer herds that occupy upper elevations of the LT Murray WA, Oak Creek WA, and the US Forest Service lands in the summer utilize the WWA in winter. Therefore, protection and habitat restoration on WWA will complement the mule deer conservation efforts on both state and federal lands. Riparian protection and restoration projects on the WWA will complement similar work occurring in the Yakima River drainage by the Yakama Nation (199206200 and 199705100) and WDFW (Sunnyside Wildlife Area, 200201400). E. Project history The 105,461-acre Wenas Wildlife Area (of which 74,212 acres is funded by BPA), located in Yakima and Kittitas Counties, was created in 1997 by combining the Wenas and Cleman Mountain Units from the Oak Creek Wildlife Area (WA) with the South L.T. Murray Unit, formerly part of the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area. The Oak Creek W.A. was originally established in the 1940s, with the L.T. Murray W.A. purchased in 1968. The entire Wenas Wildlife Area lies within the Yakima Sub-basin and is comprised of lands owned by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In October 2001 funding under the Memorandum of Agreement began for the Wenas W.A. work plan. Originally, the entire Wenas W.A. was BPA funded. However, in 2003 WDFW and BPA agreed to remove the North Cleman Mountain Unit (31,249 acres) from funding to allow the purchase of the Schlee Ranch in Asotin County. The current BPA-funded portion of the Wenas Wildlife Area encompasses 74,212 acres, including 54,149 acres of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife land, 16,514 acres of Department of Natural Resources holdings and 3,549 acres managed on behalf of the Bureau of Land Management. FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 12
  13. 13. The Wildlife Area contains Umtanum, Roza and Wenas creeks, which are perennial fish-bearing streams, and is bordered on the east by the Yakima River. Intermittent streams such as Cottonwood Creek and perennial springs punctuate the landscape. The elevation climbs from 1,400 feet at the Yakima River to 4,060 feet at the highest point on top of Umtanum Ridge. The Wildlife Area is predominately comprised of shrub-steppe vegetation. Present habitat conditions were influenced primarily by past agricultural practices, extensive livestock grazing, and fires. Prior to WDFW’s ownership, flat sites containing better soil types were converted to agricultural fields as attempts were made to farm these fields with little to no irrigation. The Wildlife Area also had a long history of livestock grazing, which in many areas was intensive and year around. One of the largest domestic sheep operations in the State was located in the Cottonwood Creek area where livestock grazing occurred through the entire year. Livestock winter feedlots were also prevalent. In portions of the Wildlife Area with steeper topography, grazing impacts were not as pronounced, with the exception of the riparian areas. Years of soil disturbance, uncontrolled vehicle use, and fires have all contributed to degraded shrub-steppe and riparian habitats and widespread weed infestations throughout the Wildlife Area. The Wenas Wildlife Area management strategies address several critical landscape level limiting factors such as shrub-steppe habitat conversion, degradation, and fragmentation (Hays et al. 1998, Schroeder et al. 2000), as well as species-specific limiting factors. Management activities that have been implemented to address habitat conversion and degradation factors include seeding old agricultural fields to native and native-like vegetation, protecting and maintaining existing habitat, and controlling introduced vegetation (WDFW 2006). These activities and strategies also address factors that limit local populations of sage-grouse such as quality and availability of nesting, foraging and wintering habitat (WDFW 1995). The large project acreage and contiguous nature of the wildlife area reduces shrub-steppe habitat fragmentation within this portion of the subbasin. The following major enhancement, protection, and maintenance activities have been accomplished on the Wenas Wildlife Area. 1. Restoration efforts have occurred on approximately 377 ha (931 acres) of range and abandoned agricultural lands to return them to a native or native-like shrub-steppe community in the Sheep Company, Cottonwood, Roza and McCade areas. When restoration efforts began native species from local watersheds were not commercially available, so cultivars were chosen that had the closest resemblance to the native species. These cultivars are referred to as “native-like”. As locally-grown native species have become available they have replaced the native-like species. Currently our seed mixes are comprised of local bio-types of native species. 150 hectares (370 ac) seeded in 1998 in the Sheep Company and Cottonwood areas, have successfully established into native-like shrub-steppe, although weed control is ongoing and the re-establishment of forbs is just beginning. In the fall of 2004 and 2006, 40 and 60 acres respectively, were inter-seeded with a native grass seed mix to assist in the re- establishment of native species that weren’t available when the site was originally FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 13
  14. 14. seeded. In 1999 an additional 40 hectares (98 ac) were seeded to native-like vegetation. Seedling establishment was not as strong as in the 1998 seeding due to a low precipitation year and a high density of fiddlenecks (Amsinckia spp.). However, with weed control the native-like species are currently well established, although it occurred more slowly than in the 1998 seeding. 24 hectares (59 ac) in the Cottonwoods and 65 hectares (160 ac) in the Sheep Company area were seeded in 2001 after several years of drought conditions. Unfortunately, low soil moisture conditions continued, the soil was not packed, and spring 2002 conditions were favorable for blue mustard and Russian thistle. The seedings at the Sheep Company sites were able to establish at low levels and continue to be treated for noxious weeds. At the Cottonwood sites, the blue mustard came in very heavily and choked out the seedlings. These sites were reseeded with a native seed mix in fall, 2004 and are being treated for weeds. Both sites are currently well occupied with native grass species, although patches of weedy species are still scattered throughout, with concentrations in areas where human disturbance is occurring. The 24 ha (60 ac) Roza flat, aerially seeded in 1999, came back to cheat grass, bulbous bluegrass, Russian thistle and Russian knapweed. It is believed that there was a problem with the aerial delivery of the seed. It was reseeded in fall, 2003 with ground-operated equipment with a mix of native and native-like vegetation. A portion was inter-seeded with a native mix in 2004 and is continues to be treated for weeds. In 1996, 6 hectares (15 ac) were successfully seeded to native-like shrub-steppe at the McCade site. In 1999, an additional 55 hectares (135 ac), which were previously in cereal rye, were reseeded to native-like shrub-steppe. Approximately 12 hectares (30 ac) was successfully reseeded, the remaining 43 hectares came back heavily to cereal rye. Currently the cereal rye is being chemically treated to reduce its competition with the native-like seeding. This site is proposed for restoration to native shrub-steppe in 2010 to 2013. 302 ha (745 ac) of native and native-like seedings have been fertilized to date. Fertilizing enhances growth and seed production of the native species and helps with weed competition. It is anticipated that fertilizing will continue until all native and native-like stands have become well established. An additional 119 ha (295 ac) have been seeded with native grass seed after fires occurred in the Sheep Company, Cottonwood and Roza areas in 2005 and 2008. 4 ha (10 ac) of disturbed areas were reseeded 2005 after BPA power poles were replaced across the wildlife area. 18 ha (45 ac) with monocultures of weeds have been treated with herbicide and seeded with a native grass mix in an attempt to break of the cycle of replacing one weed species with another. 2. Over 1,917 ha (4,734 ac) of the uplands on the wildlife area have been treated for noxious weeds, including over 405 ha (1,000 ac) of Russian knapweed in the Roza and Umtanum drainages. In addition, 50-75 miles of roadside vegetation per year has been treated for noxious weeds since implementation of the Wenas Wildlife Area Plan began in fall, 2001, equaling another approximately 1,088 ha (2,688 ac). Furthermore, the 514 ha (1,270 ac) that have been rehabilitated continue to be treated for noxious weeds. GPS- based survey data are collected stored in long-term database for all treated areas. Data FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 14
  15. 15. includes information on weed location, species, patch size and distribution, treatments, and follow-up data. 3. 42 km (26 miles) of existing boundary elk fence has been maintained, protecting shrub- steppe habitat and associated obligate species. Fencing protects habitat against trespass livestock grazing and vehicular traffic that reduce herbaceous cover used for nesting and foraging and/or creates disturbance, thereby promoting the spread of undesirable weedy vegetation, as well as controlling movement of elk onto private agricultural fields. 4. Approximately 15.4 km (9.6 mi) of new interior fence has been constructed to protect native-like shrub-steppe enhancement area and to restrict vehicular access into sensitive areas, thereby maintaining critical shrub-steppe habitat for obligate species. The new fences are constructed with “smooth” wire, and are only three wires high to reduce potential injury and entanglement to wildlife crossing the fence. Approximately 132 km (82 mi) of dilapidated interior stock fence have been removed to reduce potential wildlife injury/mortality due to entanglement and collision with unneeded barbed wire. 5. A 13.8 km (8.6 mile) firebreak has been established and maintained to reduce the risk of wildfire along the populated interface in the Sheep Company and Buffalo area. 6. Eleven (11) km (7 mi) of stream-adjacent roads (Hanson Pond, OK Corral and Black Canyon) have been abandoned or decommissioned. This included blocking the roads to vehicular traffic, ripping the road surface and seeding the roadbed with a native seed mix. 7. Twelve (12) km (7.5 mi) of project area roads were relocated or improved in the Kelley Hollow, Cottonwood and Roza drainages and the Umtanum Ridge and Sheep Company areas. 8. The native-like seed mix used on the enhancement areas included sagebrush to replace the shrub component that was severely impacted fires and by decades of livestock grazing that occurred prior to WDFW’s ownership and to increase vegetative diversity across the landscape. In addition, the WWA work plan called for planting shrubs and trees in wet areas and along streams; however, after monitoring shrub and tree response to elimination of livestock grazing over several years, project staff have determined that natural shrub/tree regeneration will occur in a timely manner in most of the areas identified in the work plan (WDFW 2001). Shrub/tree plantings will be initiated where no shrub/tree component remains, including several seeps/springs, and where the recovery rate is deemed insufficient to meet fish and wildlife needs (e.g. sediment delivery to fish-bearing waters; stream temperature concerns). Up to 5,000 shrubs/trees may be needed in the future to fill gaps on existing project lands and for future acquisitions. The actual number planted will be largely predicated on site specific edaphic features and water table, stream, and/or pond fluctuations/levels. 9. The seed mix used to restore range and agricultural land (599 ha; 1,479 ac) to native and native-like shrub-steppe did not include forbs species due to the lack of seed sources and the need to aggressively control weeds. However, literature indicates that the forb component may be the most important factor determining use of an area by sage-grouse. Therefore, WDFW is working with Jerry Benson, BFI Native Seed, and the BLM and Yakima Training Center to develop a coordinated approach to collecting, growing and planting of native forbs. Once seed has been collected and grown out for seed, plots will FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 15
  16. 16. be established in and the sites will be monitored to determine the best method of reestablishing each forb species (seeding vs. plug planting; fall vs. spring planting). Small areas will be used so they can be monitored effectively and so they can be protected when it is necessary to aerial spray for noxious weeds. 10. 125 permanent nested frequency plots were established beginning in 2002 to monitor establishment and success of native and native-like shrub-steppe rehabilitation seedings. 52 of the plots have been revisited. 11. 5 exclosures were constructed between 1968 and 2003 to monitor use by big game, elk particularly, on enhancement areas and the project area in general. In 2005, intensive vegetation sampling occurred in all five exclosures using fifty random placements of 0.5 m2 microplots to gather information on canopy cover (percent) and frequency of occurrence (percent) of vascular plants. Sampling will be repeated at three to five year intervals. F. Proposal biological/physical objectives, work elements, methods, and metrics Wenas Wildlife Area objectives and tasks for fiscal years 2010 through 2018 are consistent with Yakima Subbasin and WDFW wildlife program/mitigation goals, objectives, and strategies and support the overall project goals and strategies described below. WDFW’s primary biological goals are to protect, enhance, and manage shrub-steppe and forest ecosystem habitats and to maintain and/or restore riparian habitat and improve water quality on the Wenas Wildlife Area. Goal 1: Protect, enhance, and manage shrub-steppe on the Wenas Wildlife Area for greater sage-grouse, Brewer’s sparrow, western meadowlark, mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk, bighorn sheep, and other endemic/migratory wildlife species. This goal is consistent with the statewide goals of protecting, enhancing, and increasing shrub-steppe habitat (WDFW 2000) and of increasing the population size and distribution of Greater sage-grouse (WDFW 1995). This goal is also consistent with the Yakima Subbasin goals of protecting and enhancing shrub-steppe habitat and recovering sage-grouse populations within the subbasin. Goal 2: Maintain and/or restore riparian habitat and improve water quality and conditions for riparian-dependent wildlife species including yellow warbler, black-capped chickadee, mallard, American beaver and mink, as well as fish within the Wenas Creek, Roza Creek, and Umtanum Creek drainages. This goal is consistent with the statewide goals of protecting, enhancing, and increasing functional riparian habitats (WDFW 2000). This goal is also consistent with the Yakima Subbasin goals of protecting and restoring floodplains, wetlands, and tributary areas important to focal species (i.e. steelhead, yellow warbler, mallard, and American beaver). Goal 3: Protect, enhance, and manage ponderosa pine habitat on the Wenas Wildlife Area for mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk, white-headed woodpecker, Lewis’ woodpecker, black-capped chickadee, western gray squirrel and other endemic/migratory wildlife species. This goal is consistent with the statewide goals of protecting and enhancing old-growth forests, as well as protecting breeding locations and regular occurrences of white-headed and Lewis’ woodpeckers (WDFW 2000). This goal is also consistent with the Yakima Subbasin goals of protecting and FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 16
  17. 17. restoring large tree overstory in ponderosa pine habitats and connecting functional core habitats across the subbasin. Biological objectives for the WWA support one or more of the goals. Biological objectives are linked directly to work elements as follows. Biological Objective 1: Protect and enhance shrub-steppe and restored shrub-steppe habitat (Yakima Subbasin Plan, Supplement Table 5, S-20). Work Element 1.1: Maintain Vegetation – Maintain extant plantings and seedings (shrub-steppe habitat enhancements). Methods: Maintain previously developed habitat enhancements through chemical, mechanical or cultural control of undesirable vegetation. Apply fertilizer and replant or reseed as needed. Monitor vegetation robustness/composition using nested frequency plots, and manipulate habitat, if needed, based on adaptive management principles. Result will be successful establishment of seedlings and improved habitat condition. Currently, the approximate acreage of habitat plantings is 1,270. Metrics: None Work Element 1.2: Maintain Vegetation – Weed Treatment. Methods: Control introduced vegetation using integrated pest management (IPM) techniques (herbicides, mechanical methods, overseed with native species mix, and/or introduce biological agents i.e., insects) to control noxious weeds on 74,212-acre wildlife area. Evaluate prior efforts to assess condition and trends of vegetation. Result will be successful management of noxious weeds and improved habitat condition. On average, 1,100 acres are treated for weeds on an annual basis, including 60-90 miles of roadside spraying. Metrics: None Work Element 1.3: Plant Vegetation – Seed degraded shrub-steppe habitat Methods: Protect and enhance shrub-steppe habitat by seeding 50 acres per year of weed infested habitat with a native seed mix through FY12. Identify additional areas of abandoned cropland or degraded shrub-steppe that is in need of rehabilitation. Metrics: # of upland acres treated Work Element 1.4: Plant Vegetation – Integrate forb seedings into restoration sites. FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 17
  18. 18. Methods: Establish forb seeding plots and monitor sites to determine the best method of reestablishing each forb species (seeding vs. plug planting; fall vs. spring planting). Metrics: # of upland acres treated Work Element 1.5: Operate & Maintain Habitat/Passage/Structure – Maintain boundary fence. Methods: Check and repair 42 km (26 mi) of existing boundary fence, gates, and cattle-guards to protect habitat from trespass livestock grazing and vehicle encroachment. Metrics: None Work Element 1.6: Operate & Maintain Habitat/Passage/Structure – Maintain interior smooth wire fence. Methods: Check and repair 15.4 km (9.6 mi) of smooth wire fence and gates installed to protect shrub-steppe enhancement areas and to restrict vehicular access into sensitive areas. Metrics: None Work Element 1.7: Operate & Maintain Habitat/Passage/Structure – Install smooth wire fence for habitat protection. Methods: Install smooth wire fence to limit vehicular traffic to open roads. Place barrier rock to limit vehicular traffic to open roads. Work is done as needed when a problem area is identified. Fencing and/or barrier rock are installed to protect shrub-steppe enhancement areas and to restrict vehicular access into sensitive areas. Metrics: # of fence miles treated in an upland area – Up to 1 mile per year Work Element 1.8: Provide Access & Public Information – Maintain project roads and parking areas. Methods: Maintain project roads and parking areas as needed, including treatment of weeds and litter removal. Metrics: None FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 18
  19. 19. Work Element 1.9: Provide Access & Public Information – Maintain Informational Signs, Reader Boards and Kiosks. Methods: Check and replace, as needed, boundary/informational signs and update information on reader boards and kiosks. Maintain physical appearance and structural integrity of reader boards and kiosks. Metrics: None Work Element 1.10: Lease Land – WDNR Grazing Leases. Methods: Annual renewal of the grazing leases for 16,430 acres of Washington Department of Natural Resources lands that are interspersed with WDFW ownership within the wildlife area boundary. Metrics: # of riparian miles protected – 25 miles # of upland acres protected – 16,430 acres # of wetland acres protected – 20 acres Also See Work Element 7.1, 9.1, 9.2, 9.4, 9.5, and 9.6. Biological Objective 2: Protect and enhance riparian/wetland habitat (Yakima Subbasin Plan, Supplement Table 6, S-22). Work Element 2.1: Maintain Vegetation – Maintain shrub and tree enhancements. Methods: Maintain previously developed habitat enhancements through spot planting, control of weeds and monitoring survival. Monitor vegetation robustness/composition and manipulate habitat, if needed, based on adaptive management principles. Result will be successful establishment of riparian vegetation and improved habitat condition. Metrics: None Work Element 2.2: Plant Vegetation - Seed native herbaceous vegetation and plant hydrophytic shrubs and trees within riparian zones as needed. Methods: Protect and enhance riparian habitat through monitoring and identification of areas where natural revegetation of native species is not occurring or needs to be enhanced. These areas will be planted with native vegetation. Follow-up will include control of weeds, monitoring survival, and as necessary, spot planting. Result will be successful establishment of riparian vegetation and improved habitat condition. Metrics: # of riparian miles/acres treated FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 19
  20. 20. Work Element 2.3: Operate & Maintain Habitat/Passage/Structure – Install temporary fence as needed for riparian habitat protection. Methods: Temporary fences will be installed as required to protect tree/shrub plantings from human and wildlife depredation. Plantings will be monitored and fencing will be constructed when a problem area is identified. Metrics: # of fence miles treated in a riparian area Work Element 2.4: Planning & Coordination –Coordinate replacement of fish passage barrier crossing structure. Methods: Coordinate with WDFW Engineering Program to replace the Durr road ford crossing at Umtanum Creek with a bridge or bottom-less arch structure and block the existing ford crossing location. Engineering Program, TAPPS, is taking the lead on this project. They will apply for permitting as well as providing the funding for the crossing structure, using State funds. Umtanum creek contains resident fish as well as threatened steelhead. Project will also reduce sediment entering Umtanum Creek by replacing the ford with a crossing structure. Metrics: 1) Was barrier full or partial? - Partial 2) # of miles of habitat accessed to the next upstream barrier(s) or likely limit of habitable range – 2.5 miles 3) Does the structure remove or replace a fish passage barrier? - Yes Also See Work Elements 1.1, 1.2, 1.5, 1.6, 1.8, 1.9, 1.10, 7.1, 9.2, 9.4, 9.5, and 9.6. Biological Objective 3: Maintain and enhance large tree ponderosa pine habitat (Yakima Subbasin Plan, Supplement Table 4, S-18 & S-19). Work Element 3.1: Maintain Vegetation – Maintain Ponderosa pine habitat. Methods: Inventory WDFW lands within the project area on which the perpetual timber rights were re-acquired in 2008. Identify areas that contain ponderosa pine habitat and are in need of understory thinning, prescribed burning, and/or weed control. Develop a plan for restoring these areas to a large tree ponderosa pine habitat with appropriate size, spacing and density of large overstory trees. Work with WDFW forester on an understory thinning prescription and an associated timber sale put the stands on a trajectory towards large tree habitat. Metrics: None FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 20
  21. 21. Also See Work Elements 1.2, 7.1, 9.4, and 9.6. Biological Objective 4: Protect Microbiotic crust (Yakima Subbasin Plan, Supplement Table 5, S-21). Work Element 4.1: Maintain Vegetation – Protect Microbiotic crust. Methods: Protect areas with existing intact microbiotic crust. Protect restored areas from degradation so crust can develop over time. Metrics: None Also See Work Elements 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9, 1.10, 7.1, 9.1, 9.2, and 9.5. Biological Objective 5: Reduce invasive species in shrub-steppe habitat (Yakima Subbasin Plan, Supplement Table 5, S-20). Work Element 5.1: Maintain Vegetation – Reduce invasive species in shrub-steppe habitat. Methods: Control introduced vegetation using integrated pest management (IPM) techniques (herbicides, mechanical methods, overseed with native species mix, and/or introduce biological agents i.e., insects) to control noxious weeds on 74,212-acre wildlife area. Protect areas with existing intact microbiotic crust. Evaluate prior efforts to assess condition and trends of vegetation. Result will be successful management of noxious weeds and improved habitat condition. On average, 1,100 acres are treated for weeds on an annual basis. Metrics: None Also See Work Elements 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9, 1.10, 2.1, 2.2, 7.1, 9.1, 9.2, 9.4, 9.5, and 9.6. Biological Objective 6: Reintroduce sage grouse onto the Wildlife Area (Yakima Subbasin Plan, Supplement Table 5, S-20 & S-21). Work Element 6.1: Reintroduce Sage Grouse Methods: Protect and enhance existing habitat necessary for sage-grouse life requirements. Establish reintroduced populations into formerly occupied areas, where habitat has recovered from past land use. Work with WDFW sage- grouse biologists, Yakima Training Center, and Yakama Indian Nation to coordinate reintroductions. FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 21
  22. 22. Metrics: None Also See Work Elements 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.7, 1.10, 7.1, 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 9.4, and 9.5. Biological Objective 7: Restore natural fire regime return interval by reducing the annual rate of unplanned shrub-steppe burning (Yakima Subbasin Plan, Supplement Table 5, S-20). Work Element 7.1: Operate & Maintain Habitat/Passage/Structure – Fire Protection. Methods: Pay Forest Protection Assessments. Maintain fire protection contract with WDNR for 16,431 acres of shrub-steppe habitat to provide adequate fire protection, including surveillance and fire fighting. Maintain 13.8 km (8.6 mi) of fire breaks along the populated interface in the Sheep Company and Buffalo area to reduce risk of wildfire. Metrics: None Also See Work Elements 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9, 1.10 and 7.1. Biological Objective 8: Restore natural fire regime &/or thin stands (Yakima Subbasin Plan, Supplement Table 4, S-19). Work Element 8.1: Maintain Vegetation – Thin and/or burn appropriate stands to restore appropriate stand density and species composition. Methods: Inventory WDFW lands within the project area on which the perpetual timber rights were re-acquired in 2008. Identify areas that are in need of understory thinning and/or prescribed burning. Develop a restoration plan with appropriate size, spacing and density of large overstory trees. Work with WDFW forester on an understory thinning prescription, prescribed burning plan and an associated timber sale put these stands on a trajectory towards large tree habitat. Metrics: None Also See Work Elements 1.10 and 3.1. Biological Objective 9: Monitor wildlife and habitat response to protection, maintenance, & enhancement measures annually (Yakima Subbasin Plan, Supplement S-vi, S-3, Table 5, S-20-21). Work Element 9.1: Collect/Generate/Validate Field Data - Assess/monitor shrub- steppe restoration habitat conditions Methods: Continue to assess vegetation trends on shrub-steppe restoration sites through use of nested frequency plots on key plant species and exotic vegetation and planting/seeding survival. Assess weed treatment success FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 22
  23. 23. through use of photo monitoring. Data collected will be used to assess effects of habitat maintenance, weed control and enhancement efforts on focal species. Analysis of data will guide adaptive management strategies implemented on wildlife area. Metrics: Primary R, M, and E Type [Status and Trend Monitoring, Action Effectiveness Research, Uncertainties Research, Project Implementation/ Compliance Monitoring]: Action Effectiveness monitoring Work Element 9.2: Collect/Generate/Validate Field Data - Monitor recreational use of project lands Methods: Wildlife area staff will note and report non-consumptive use (type of use) of project area based on encounters with public while performing other duties. Identify illegal activities and impact to habitat. Metrics: Primary R, M, and E Type [Status and Trend Monitoring, Action Effectiveness Research, Uncertainties Research, Project Implementation/ Compliance Monitoring]: Project implementation/compliance monitoring Work Element 9.3: Collect/Generate/Validate Field Data – Monitor for use of project area by Sage-grouse Methods: Wildlife area staff will look for and report any incidental sightings of birds or fecal pellets. Sightings will be followed up on by grouse experts. Metrics: Primary R, M, and E Type [Status and Trend Monitoring, Action Effectiveness Research, Uncertainties Research, Project Implementation/ Compliance Monitoring]: Status and trend monitoring Work Element 9.4: Collect/Generate/Validate Field Data - Monitor and Evaluate WDFW Mitigation Projects Methods: This work element will help fund M&E efforts on all WDFW mitigation projects. Collect habitat and wildlife data on mitigation projects including response of key indicator species to enhancement and O&M activities. Data collected will be used to assess effects of habitat maintenance, weed control and enhancement efforts on focal species. Analysis of data will guide adaptive management strategies implemented on wildlife area. WWA staff will assist Agency staff and mitigation biologists as appropriate. Metrics: Primary R, M, and E Type [Status and Trend Monitoring, Action Effectiveness Research, Uncertainties Research, Project Implementation/ Compliance Monitoring]: Status and trend data collected on mitigation projects Work Element 9.5: Analyze/Interpret Data – Assess monitoring data FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 23
  24. 24. Methods: Assess data collected in monitoring habitat conditions and recreational use on the Wildlife Area. Assess and summarize nested frequency plot vegetation monitoring data including number of plots, frequency of each plant species within a transect and within the treatment type, and how species frequency compares between treatment type and controls. Data collected will be used to assess effects of habitat maintenance, weed control and enhancement efforts on focal species. Analysis of data will guide adaptive management strategies implemented on wildlife area. Metrics: Primary R, M, and E Type [Status and Trend Monitoring, Action Effectiveness Research, Uncertainties Research, Project Implementation/ Compliance Monitoring]: Status and trend monitoring; Action effectiveness research Work Element 9.6: Analyze/Interpret Data – Assess mitigation project species monitoring data Methods: This work element will help fund analysis of M&E efforts on all WDFW mitigation projects. Habitat and wildlife data collected on the mitigation projects will be used to assess effects of habitat maintenance, weed control and enhancement efforts on focal species. Analysis of data will guide adaptive management strategies implemented on wildlife area. Metrics: Primary R, M, and E Type [Status and Trend Monitoring, Action Effectiveness Research, Uncertainties Research, Project Implementation/ Compliance Monitoring]: Status and trend data collected on mitigation projects Biological Objective 10: Manage and Administer the Wenas Wildlife Area Work Element 10.1: Produce Environmental Compliance Documentation – Prepare NEPA/ESA/Cultural Resource Documentation. Complete annual herbicide report. Methods: Select, evaluate, and comply with NEPA, ESA and Cultural Resource regulations. Obtain all necessary permits and receipt of environmental compliance clearance from BPA. Provide BPA environmental lead with actual and proposed herbicide use each year on form provided by BPA. Metrics: Are herbicides used as part of work performed under this contract? – Yes, over 1,000 acres are treated annually. Work Element 10.2: Operate & Maintain Habitat/Passage/Structure – Operate and Maintain Facility and Physical Improvements. FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 24
  25. 25. Methods: Maintain project infrastructure and physical improvements including office buildings, residence, shop, storage structures, roads, signs, culverts, and wells. Maintain all project related vehicles, equipment and machinery. Replace state-purchased project pickups with leased vehicles as necessary. Metrics: None Work Element 10.3: Manage and Administer Projects – Administrative duties and professional development and licensing. Methods: Coordinated and responsive actions consistent with the Wildlife Area management and mitigation goals and objectives, implement the current SOW, ensure compliance with pesticide application requirements, and monitor employee performance. This element includes: addressing personnel issues, learning new management techniques, answering information requests from the public, WDFW, and BPA, tracking expenditures, providing material control, seeking additional funding sources, maintaining pesticide applicator licenses/training requirements, assisting with other BPA mitigation projects, and responding to and/or addressing local concerns and unforeseen opportunities and issues. Metrics: None Work Element 10.4: Produce (Annual) Progress Report – Submit annual reports of accomplishments for each fiscal year. Methods: The progress report summarizes the project goal, objectives, hypotheses, completed and uncompleted deliverables, problems encountered, lessons learned, and long-term planning. Examples of long-term planning include future improvements, new directions, or level of effort for contract implementation, including any ramping up or ramping down of contract components or of the project as a whole. Metrics: None Work Element 10.5: Produce Pisces Status Report – Quarterly status reports for BPA. Methods: The Contractor shall report on the status of milestones and deliverables in Pisces. Reports shall be completed either monthly or quarterly as determined by the BPA COTR. Additionally, when indicating a deliverable milestone as COMPLETE, the contractor shall provide metrics and the final location (latitude and longitude) prior to submitting the report to the BPA COTR. Metrics: None FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 25
  26. 26. Work Element 10.6: Coordination – Coordination with other entities. Methods: Coordinate protection, enhancement, and maintenance activities with BLM, DNR, adjacent landowners, Citizens Advisory Group (CAG) and public interests as necessary. Metrics: None Work Element 10.7: Other – Construct Office Building. Methods: 50% cost share for capital construction of an office building in FY12. The existing office, a small storage building moved onto the site and turned into office space over 30 years ago, is 220 square feet and functions only marginally for field staff. No space is available for the Wildlife Area Manager, who is currently 25 miles off-site. Upgrades to electrical, water and septic on the facility are necessary, as well as demolition of an existing building, and will be accomplished in conjunction with the building construction. Metrics: None G. Monitoring and evaluation The NPPC (2000) consistently recognizes the importance of monitoring and evaluation activities in their fish and wildlife program. For example, “the program includes procedures for monitoring and evaluating biological benefits gained by actions taken under the program. The evaluation process feeds information back into the program planning and project review process, with adaptive management mechanisms for revising program objectives or actions if what has been adopted proves unsuccessful” (NPPC 2000:11). “The purpose of the monitoring and evaluation strategies is to assure that the effects of actions taken under this program are measured, that these measurements are analyzed so that we have better knowledge of the effects of the action, and that this improved knowledge is used to choose future actions” (NPPC 2000:32). The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife strives to manage its wildlife areas to protect and provide habitat to achieve healthy and diverse fish and wildlife populations, and provide compatible recreational opportunities. Effective management of fish and wildlife, and habitats upon which they depend, requires an adaptive approach. The Northwest Power Planning Council has stated that “management actions must be taken in an adaptive, experimental manner because ecosystems are inherently variable and highly complex. This includes using experimental designs and techniques as part of management actions, and integrating monitoring and research with those management actions to evaluate their effects on the ecosystem.” Monitoring and evaluation are critical in this process because they provide the information necessary to evaluate management activities in the past and to improve management activities in the future. FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 26
  27. 27. Monitoring is a tool for detecting change and identifying problems in the early stages before they become obvious or a crisis. If detected early, these problems can be addressed while cost effective solutions are still available. For example, an invasive weed species is much easier to control at the initial stages than attempting to eradicate it once established. Monitoring is also critical for measuring management success. Good monitoring can demonstrate that management strategies are working and provide evidence supporting the continuation of management. Conversely, monitoring can also show a need to change current management strategies. Monitoring is a key component of “adaptive management”, in which monitoring measures progress towards or away from meeting management goals and objectives and provides evidence to continue or change current management strategies (Ringold et al. 1996). In practice, most monitoring measures change or condition of the resource – if objectives are being met, management is considered effective. Habitat protection and enhancement is the fundamental strategy used by the Bonneville Power Administration to compensate for habitat lost during the construction and operation of hydroelectric projects in the Columbia Basin. Habitat monitoring and evaluation procedures are used to make these determinations based on documented relationships between focal habitats and species. Focal habitats include shrub-steppe (grassland ecosystem in which shrubs usually contribute to the overstory), interior riparian wetlands (diverse mixture of herbaceous vegetation, shrubs, and trees in close proximity to water), and Ponderosa pine (relatively open and dry forest type with a variable density of Ponderosa pine, but usually characterized by an understory of bunchgrasses, forbs, and shrubs). The rationale for concentrating on focal habitats is to draw attention to ecosystems most in need of conservation (based on Northwest Power Planning Council, Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program published in 2000). Habitat Evaluation Procedures (HEPs) were developed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to quantify the quality and abundance of available habitat for selected wildlife species. HEPs are based on ecological principles and the assumption that habitat for selected wildlife species can be described as a numerical value based on a Habitat Suitability Index (HSI). This value is derived from an evaluation of the ability of key habitat components to supply the resource needs of focal species of fish and wildlife. The HSI values (ranging from 0.0 for no value to a maximum of 1.0) are multiplied by the area of available habitat to obtain Habitat Units (HUs), which are for mitigation purposes, the ‘currency’ used to measure/compare habitat losses and gains (Schroeder et al. 2008). Completion of baseline and periodic (preferably at 5-year intervals) HEPs is a fundamental requirement for management of the mitigation areas. Although HEPs certainly provide information that can be used in the monitoring and evaluation of wildlife areas, they are only a small part of a complete program (see Kalispel Tribe 2006 for illustration and discussion of this issue). A complete monitoring and evaluation program should include additional features; such as permanent reference points, restoration/treatment points, sampling efforts for wildlife species, and integration of wildlife and habitat data. Monitoring and evaluation will occur at different levels of intensity. At the simplest level, the progress of individual operations and maintenance projects will be assessed. Mitigation and enhancement projects will be monitored using designated sampling procedures developed and approved by WDFW. Focal wildlife and habitat will be monitored using sampling procedures FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 27
  28. 28. from national, subbasin, and WDFW regional level surveys, with application to each wildlife area. Monitoring and evaluation will be conducted to assure that mitigation and enhancement activities and overall management of BPA-funded wildlife areas is contributing to the continued health of the local ecosystem and its associated wildlife and habitats. PROTOCOLS STANDARD TO ALL WDFW MITIGATION PROJECTS A monitoring and evaluation strategy will be integrated across all WDFW Eastern Washington mitigation projects. The purpose of this strategy is to collect data on focal habitats and species that allows: 1) temporal evaluations of habitat suitability and species abundance; 2) tests of assumptions of the focal species concept; 3) examination of specific relationships between focal species and habitats; 4) determination of the habitat enhancement credits due to the Bonneville Power Administration; and 5) consideration of alternate methods for monitoring both habitat and wildlife. Although the WDFW currently depends primarily on HEPs for baseline and restoration/treatment habitat, additional habitat points will be randomly selected within each mapped habitat type and within specific management units. These additional points will help to increase the sample size within habitat/management types as well as providing a method for directly linking habitat data with wildlife data. Methodologies for collection of habitat data are consistent with established techniques (AFIWG 2001, Hallett and O’Connell 2005, Schroeder et al. 2008), including transects radiating out from center points (for evaluating shrubs) and microplots spaced along transects (for evaluating herbaceous plants). In the case of points in wooded areas or forests, the center points will be used for larger plots to assess tree density, composition, size, and height (modified from Schroeder et al. 2008). Center points will be the focal points for bird and mammal monitoring (Schroeder and Vander Haegen 2006). Because of the large number of wildlife areas and expansive acreage managed by the WDFW, monitoring of habitat will take place on a 5-year rotation, except for reference sites, which will be monitored annually. Breeding bird surveys will be conducted during the same year habitat data is collected, and likely annually, at least until annual variance in numbers is assessed. Small mammal surveys will be conducted every 5 years, using techniques that have already been established (West et al. 2007). Although surveys of reptiles and amphibians are also possible, our experience so far has been that observations of reptiles are relatively infrequent, and therefore difficult to quantify. Consistency of data collection will be improved by having the same individuals collect data on multiple wildlife areas within a year. Preliminary surveys have been conducted on many of the wildlife areas enabling a brief assessment of data collected to this point. Not all wildlife areas have been surveyed at this stage, primarily because of the time and money required to initiate surveys. In addition, other techniques have been used that are species-specific, such as surveys of traditional display grounds (leks) of sharp-tailed grouse and greater sage-grouse, aerial surveys of ungulates, counts of pellets, and other miscellaneous surveys (Schroeder et al. 2008). Although these techniques are different than standard breeding bird point counts, they are still standard and well-referenced in scientific literature. A substantial portion of the data has been summarized, including an examination of long-term trends (Schroeder et al. 2008). Habitat data is generally available only for HEP transects at this stage. Future data analyses will focus on comparison of treatment sites FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 28
  29. 29. with reference sites and with the probabilistic Jaccard (Chao 2004) as a way of measuring species similarity between sites. The specific list of tasks includes the following: 1. Conduct habitat/wildlife surveys on systematic basic. 2. Monitor habitat/wildlife response due to burns. 3. Monitor habitat/wildlife response to specific restoration efforts. 4. Monitor infestations and treatments of noxious weeds. 5. Compile habitat/wildlife data in databases for subsequent storage and analysis. 6. Analyze habitat – wildlife relationships in reference to management targets. 7. Re-evaluate management direction in terms of updated species-habitat evaluations (adaptive management). PROJECT LEVEL MONITORING VEGETATION: The following standardized vegetation/HEP monitoring protocols will be used on the Wenas Wildlife Area (WWA). As new information becomes available and /or monitoring needs change, the protocols will be modified to meet the new challenges. Habitat Evaluation Procedures Habitat Evaluation Procedures (HEPs) are designed to describe how well an activity meets the objectives or management standards for a particular cover/habitat type (Ashley and Stovall 2004a, b). In turn, the objectives for a particular cover/habitat type are determined by the resource needs for the focal species. Resource monitoring focuses on vegetation and/or wildlife and describes some aspect such as height, percent cover, density, frequency, population characteristics, and/or species response. Both general cover type/vegetation surveys and monitoring of site-specific enhancement and maintenance activities are examples of resource monitoring. ‘Optimum’ habitat suitability for a HEP model variable is the standard against which the effectiveness of management is measured. The primary concept behind establishing transects for monitoring and evaluation is to detect change. Permanent transects are recommended over temporary transects because the statistical tests for detecting change from one period to the next in permanent sampling units are much more powerful than on temporary sampling units. This advantage usually translates into a reduction in the number of sampling units that need to be sampled to detect a given magnitude of change. HSIs are available for many of the focal species in the Columbia Basin, but the effectiveness of these models in accurately predicting species’ responses has rarely been tested. Nevertheless, the models have been applied with actual HEP data and results appear to offer a technique for monitoring and evaluating habitat improvement. It is critical that the HEPs consider the type of data needed in the HSI procedures, and in some cases to anticipate the type of data that ‘might’ be needed as models are improved and developed. FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 29
  30. 30. Past Accomplishments HEP transects were conducted on the WWA between 1996 and 1998 (Table 1). A preliminary assessment of habitat shows that there were substantial differences in habitat characteristics. It remains to be seen if these habitats change over time. It is not certain at this stage if all the data that has been collected is currently available (see transect map for the WWA. Table 1. Preliminary summary of data from HEP transects on the WWA. Habitat parameter Shrub-steppe Grassland CRP Number of transects 32 18 2 VOR (cm) 7.2 3.7 12.4 Shrub cover (%) 24.0 5.5 0.6 Shrub height (m) 0.8 0.4 0.3 Herbaceous cover (%) 64.2 60.5 51.2 Grass cover (%) 28.8 29.7 45.7 Forb cover (%) 34.3 29.1 3.4 Exotic cover (%) 17.9 15.5 2.7 Nested Frequency Sampling Enhancement activities are being monitored to ensure that management strategies are accomplishing project objectives. If necessary, adaptive strategies will be implemented to modify existing enhancement activities to meet objectives. Monitoring establishment of native and native-like shrub-steppe rehabilitation seedings is an important component to our site specific monitoring. Nested frequency sampling is a simple approach that allows collection of data at multiple sized plots at one time by placing different sized plots within each other in a smallest to largest sequence in a ¼-m2 quadrate plot frame. An iron stake is used to permanently identify the transect location and a 50-meter baseline tape is laid out on a north bearing. Five transect tapes are run perpendicular to the baseline, with each transect originating at a randomly selected mark along the baseline. The randomization is restricted so that each transect occurs within a ten- meter distance with no overlap occurring. Each transect is 20 meters in length, with a quadrate placed at 1-meter intervals along the tape. There are five nested plots in a quadrate, numbered 1 through 5, with the largest plot size corresponding with the higher number. Each time the quadrate frame is placed on the ground, the smallest size plot that each species occurs in is determined and the plot number for that quadrate is recorded on the nested frequency form. Then the percent frequency by species can be calculated for each transect and/or for the total of all transects. The statistical package R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing is being used to if the change between sampling periods is significant as well as detecting changes in cover classes between sampling types. Past Accomplishments An evaluation of seedling establishment for the degraded shrub-steppe habitat re-seeded in the Cottonwood, Sheep Company, and Roza flat areas began in 2002 and is on-going. Nested frequency transects have been established in the 1998, 1999, 2001, and 2003 seedings and in control areas. The seedings have been further divided into portions that have had one or more of FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 30
  31. 31. the following occur: a wildfire burned through, received a fertilizer application, received additional herbicide applications, and/or were inter-seeded with local native grass species, or none of the previous items occurred. The control sites were divided into areas that received herbicide applications, received no herbicide application, had a wildfire burned through, or had no fire. Angle iron stakes have been placed at each baseline transect location and a photo is taken along the baseline. 125 transects have been established, with 64 of them having been visited in two different years, (data total = 189 transects). Preliminary results, based on the summarized data indicate very good success in seedling establishment in the 1998 seeding and improving establishment of seeded species in the 1999 seeding. The 2001 seeding still has a high percentage of weedy species and a lower percentage of seeded species than in the previous two seedings. In addition, microbiotic crust began to reappear on these sites at 5 years post- seeding, and annual weedy species densities begin to decline as the seedlings become well established. Big Game Exclosures Microplot Sampling There are five big game exclosures (Cottonwood Creek East, Cottonwood Creek West, Bel-Tel, Hessler Flat, and Kelly Hollow) on the WWA that were installed between 1968 and 2003. They were built to exclude big game, and potentially livestock, so the impact ungulates may be having on the vegetation could be monitored. The microplot protocol was selected for sampling the exclosures because it generates detailed information on the plant community (e.g., species composition and two measures of abundance: cover and frequency). Although it takes more time and expertise than some sampling methods, the scientific literature on plant community dynamics for similar vegetation commonly is based on microplot sampling. This is important consideration as we try to evaluate the effects of management activities in the future. This monitoring effort will be repeated at three to five year intervals or more frequently in the event of a significant disturbance like wildfire. Past Accomplishments An intensive vegetation sampling occurred in all five exclosures during spring and summer of 2005 using 0.5 m2 microplots to gather information on canopy cover (percent) and frequency of occurrence (percent) of vascular plants. At the Cottonwood Creek East, Cottonwood Creek West, Bel-Tel, and Kelly Hollow sites the sample consisted of fifty random placements of the microplot inside the exclosure and an equal number of random placements outside the exclosure. At the Hessler Flat site (which includes a livestock exclosure as well as the big game exclosure) there was an additional set of fifty random placements inside the livestock exclosure. Species cover and frequency (by species, plant growth form, and origin) from samples taken as described above has been summarized (Table 2). No further analysis of the data has been undertaken at this point, as this represents the baseline for future comparisons. Table 2. Summary of Vegetative Sampling of Wenas Wildlife Area Big Game Exclosures Half Perennial Annual Total Total Perennial Annual Shrubs Forbs Forbs Grasses Grasses Exotics Natives Location Shrubs Exclosure Site FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 31
  32. 32. ----------------------------Percent Cover-------------------------------- Cottonwood Creek East Outside - 1 44 19 2 4 53 17 Inside - - 72 11 5 4 53 39 Cottonwood Crk West Outside - - 66 33 T 0 68 31 Inside - - 50 40 0 3 76 17 Bel-Tel Outside 7 8 67 12 6 9 51 58 Inside 7 1 48 27 5 14 47 55 Hessler Flat Outside 27 19 16 14 4 0 14 65 Inside Elk 32 20 14 15 6 2 17 72 Inside L/S 37 10 18 13 9 2 14 75 Kelly Hollow Outside 20 3 13 9 2 11 7 49 Inside 10 1 16 6 7 3 4 38 WILDLIFE MONITORING: Elk The Yakima elk herd encompasses the WWA, but it is not a focal species within the Yakima Subbasin. Nevertheless the herd is monitored annually, and its management is a fundamental issue on the wildlife area. Past Accomplishments The Yakima elk herd is divided into two sub-herds, the Cascade Slope sub-herd and the Rattlesnake Hills sub-herd (WDFW 2002b). The Cascade Slope sub-herd is found over a broad area, but regularly winters in portions of the WWA. The Rattlesnake Hills sub-herd does not utilize the WWA. Aerial surveys are conducted in late winter to estimate population and bull:cow:calf. Surveys and populations are estimated using protocols established by Unsworth et al (1994). In addition, elk on feed sites are counted and classified into age and sex groups. Aerial surveys of the WWA portion of the winter range require about 6 hours of helicopter flight time in the winter and cover approximately 70% of the area. WDFW plans to continue conducting annual surveys of the Yakima elk herd. Harvest is estimated using results from mandatory harvest reporting. The average elk population estimate for the WWA for the last 5 years was 2,350-2,400. The 2007 harvest in GMU 342 was estimated to be 81 bulls and 151 cows. The bull portion of the population has been maintained within the goal of 12-20 bulls: 100 cows (WDFW 2008b). Mule Deer Mule deer are present on the WWA, and are considered a focal species in shrub-steppe. Surveys are regularly conducted in the region, not specifically associated with the WWA, to monitor populations and harvest. Both aerial and ground surveys are used to monitor populations and sex ratio (WDFW 2002a, 2003). The protocols for estimating deer populations are the same as those FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 32
  33. 33. used for elk (Unsworth et al. 1994). Harvest is estimated using results from mandatory harvest reporting. Past Accomplishments The average deer population on the WWA in the spring since 2003 was estimated at 725. The estimated harvest in 2007 in GMU 342 was 108 bucks in 2007. Harvest estimates are not specifically available for the WWA. Nevertheless, an HSI model has been applied to the units on the WWA (Table 3). Table 3. Estimated HSI measurements for focal species on the WWA, by unit and habitat (WDFW 2001b). Shrub- Riparian Species Shrub-steppe Riparian steppe - - tree Conifer WWA unit - grass - shrub shrub Mule deer South Umtanum Ridge 0.59 0.22 – 0.43 Umtanum Creek 0.38 0.17 – 0.33 Roza Creek 0.32 North Cleman Mountain 0.28 0.04 – 0.26 Mink South Umtanum Ridge 0.72 Umtanum Creek 0.72 Roza Creek 0.72 Greater sage-grouse South Umtanum Ridge 0.12 Umtanum Creek 0.20 Roza Creek 0.37 Western meadowlark South Umtanum Ridge 0.44 – 0.60 Umtanum Creek 0.46 Roza Creek 0.36 North Cleman Mountain 0.40 Black-capped chickadee Umtanum Creek 0.92 Roza Creek 0.25 North Cleman Mountain 0.92 Yellow warbler South Umtanum Ridge 0.81 Umtanum Creek 0.81 Roza Creek 0.81 Bighorn Sheep The bighorn sheep associated with the WWA is the California subspecies. Although it is not considered a focal species in the Yakima Subbasin, it is clearly important enough to warrant annual surveys. Aerial surveys are used to monitor the bighorn sheep population in the Yakima FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 33
  34. 34. River Canyon. Bighorn sheep on Cleman Mountain are ground counted during winter feeding. Surveys are used to estimate lamb recruitment, sex ratio, population size, and percentage of mature rams in the population. There is an objective to monitor herds at a level where a 20% change in population size can be detected within 3 years. Past Accomplishments The 2008 population the Yakima Canyon and Cleman populations were estimated at 275 and 180. The goals for the Yakima Canyon and Cleman Mountain are 250-300 and 150-160. Of the 455 bighorn sheep in the two herds, about 200 spend significant time on WWA. The 2007 harvest was 10-12 sheep from each herd. The Yakama Nation issues permits for both areas, but does not regularly report harvest to WDFW. Prairie Grouse Male greater sage-grouse congregate on traditionally-occupied lek sites during the spring to display to, and breed with, females. The WDFW and the Department of Defense annually survey almost all known leks, with at least 3 visits for each sage-grouse lek (Schroeder et al. 2000). In some areas of Washington, these surveys have been conducted since the 1950s. Because males are readily distinguishable from females, each sex is counted. The high counts for each lek within a year are totaled to estimate the total number of birds of each species. The population is estimated by multiplying the maximum counts by 2.6 (assuming that most males are counted and the sex ratio of females to males is 1.6:1.0). Although the technique has been questioned with regard to population estimation (Walsh et al. 2004), it has been shown to provide reliable information on long-term trends (Connelly et al. 2004). Fecal pellets for some species (e.g., greater sage-grouse) are identifiable by their appearance. Consequently, areas can be sampled for pellets to obtain an index of use (Collins and Urness 1981). This was tried in a pilot study on 24 areas in north-central Washington in 2004-2005. Sixteen circular sample plots (50m2) were sampled for each study area, which appear to provide enough data for statistical comparisons between study sites. Pellets were counted and attributed to different species based on size and shape. Avian pellets other than grouse were attributed to ring-necked pheasant, chukar, and gray partridge. It is also possible, that as technology for assessing DNA develops, fecal pellets could be used to actually estimate population size (Wasser et al. 1997, Pierce et al. 2001). Past Accomplishments The WWA was in the historic range for greater sage-grouse, but long-term declines in distribution and abundance have left the wildlife area almost empty of sage-grouse (Figure 1). An occasional sage-grouse is observed on or adjacent to the wildlife area, but there is no solid evidence of a breeding population occupying the wildlife area. The nearest population of greater sage-grouse is 10-20 km east on the YTC on land managed by the DOD. Greater sage-grouse have declined on the YTC, but at least there are still 7 confirmed leks and a 2008 population of about 200 (Figure 2). Nevertheless, declines in genetic heterogeneity and populations have prompted a management strategy where wild greater sage-grouse captured in southern Oregon and northern Nevada are brought in to the area to augment the genetics and demography of the local population. Approximately 45 birds (mostly females) were translocated to the YTC in FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 34
  35. 35. 2004 and 2005. Although the DOD appears will to continue annual surveys on the YTC, occasional searches for new, moved, or previously undiscovered leks will be conducted annually. The greater sage-grouse was also considered in an HSI model that was applied to the units on the WWA. Lek surveys were conducted on the South Umtanum Ridge unit of the WWA in 2006. No evidence of breeding greater sage-grouse was found. Any incidental sightings of birds or fecal pellets by field staff will be followed up on by grouse experts. Figure 1. Historic and current distribution of greater sage-grouse in Washington (Schroeder et al. 2000b). FY 2010+ Wildlife Category Review - Narrative Form 35

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