This letter is in response to your April 28, 2003, request for site-specific review, pursuant to section 7 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, regarding the implementation of the Ice Storm Damage Fuels Reduction project in Gallia, Scioto, and Lawrence Counties, Ohio, on the Ironton Ranger District of the Wayne National Forest (NF). Two alternatives and a no action alternative are proposed to remove woody debris on 200 feet on either side of the roads at locations identified as high fire risk on the Ironton District. We support alternatives 1 or 2, which will affect approximately 560 acres of the National Forest. This review represents a Tier 2 consultation, as explained below. We have prepared a separate letter addressing your BE on potential effects to Federally-listed plant species.
On September 20, 2001, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a programmatic biological opinion (PBO) for the Wayne National Forest (NF) Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan). This PBO established a two-tiered consultation process for Forest Plan activities, with issuance of the programmatic opinion being Tier 1 and all subsequent site-specific project analyses constituting Tier 2 consultations. Under this tiered process, the Service will produce Atiered@ biological opinions when it is determined that site-specific projects are likely to adversely affect federally listed species. When Amay affect@ but Anot likely to adversely affect@ determinations are made, we will provide written concurrence and section 7(a)(2) consultation will be considered completed for those site-specific projects.
In issuing the PBO (Tier 1 biological opinion), we evaluated the effects of all Forest Service actions outlined in your Biological Evaluation on the Federally listed Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus), northern monkshood (Aconitum noveboracense), running buffalo clover (Trifoliumstoloniferum), small whorled pogonia (Isotria medeoloides), Virginia spiraea (Spiraea virginiana), fanshell mussel (Cyprogenia stegaria), and the pink mucket pearly mussel (Lampsilis abrupta). We concurred with your determinations of Anot likely to adversely affect@ for northern monkshood (Aconitum noveboracense), running buffalo clover (Trifoliumstoloniferum), small whorled pogonia (Isotria medeoloides), Virginia spiraea (Spiraea virginiana), fanshell mussel (Cyprogenia stegaria), and the pink mucket pearly mussel (Lampsilis abrupta). We also concurred with your determination of Alikely to adversely affect@ for Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), and American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus).
Your current request for Service review of the Ice Storm Damage Fuels Reduction project is a Tier 2 consultation under the September 20, 2001, PBO. We have reviewed the information contained in the Biological Evaluation, submitted by your office on April 28, 2003, describing the effects of the proposed project on the above federally listed species. We concur that the proposed action Awill have no effect@ on the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), fanshell mussel (Cyprogenia stegaria), pink mucket pearly mussel (Lampsilis abrupta), and American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) and thus, no further consultation is required for those species. We also concur with your determination that the action Amay affect@ the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). As such, this review focuses on determining whether: (1) this proposed site-specific project falls within the scope the Tier 1 PBO, (2) the effects of this proposed action are consistent with those anticipated in the Tier 1 PBO, and (3) the appropriate terms and conditions associated with the reasonable and prudent measures identified in the Tier 1 PBO are adhered to.
The project alternatives, as proposed, will not remove suitable Indiana bat roosting trees, with the exception of hazard trees. Only trees that are laying on the ground or parallel to it will be removed, unless they are posing a hazard. Therefore, we concur that this project with the exception of hazard tree removal, is not likely to adversely affect the Indiana bat. If hazard trees with suitable Indiana bat habitat cannot be avoided, the NF may refer to the incidental take statement provided below. That is, this letter serves as the Tier 2 biological opinion for the proposed removal of hazard trees for the purpose implementing the Ice Storm Damage Fuels Reduction project. As such, this letter also discusses the level of incidental take that is anticipated and a cumulative tally of incidental take that has been authorized and exempted under the PBO.
Description of the Proposed Action
Pages 1-3 of your Biological Evaluation includes the location and a description of the proposed action.
Status of the Species
Species descriptions, life histories, population dynamics, status and distributions are fully described on pages 11-14 for the Indiana bat in the PBO and are hereby incorporated by reference.
The environmental baseline for the species listed above was fully described on pages 18-21 of the PBO and is hereby incorporated by reference.
Effects of the Action
Based on our analysis of the information provided in your April 28, 2003, site-specific Biological Evaluation for the proposed removal of trees for the purpose of implementing the Ice Storm Damage Fuels Reduction project, we have determined that the adverse effects of the proposed action are consistent with those contemplated in the PBO.
Specifically, adverse effects to the Indiana bat from this project could occur due to the removal of hazard trees that are potential roost trees. Direct impacts to the Indiana bat may result in direct mortality or injury to individuals or small groups of roosting bats during the felling of hazard trees, that may harbor undetected roosts.
However, implementation of the terms and conditions associated with the reasonable and prudent measures (RPMs) provided on pages 36-40 in the PBO will minimize adverse effects to the Indiana bat by maintaining suitable Indiana bat roosting and foraging habitat and protecting Indiana bats from the potential effects of tree removal activities.
We believe that the portion of the proposed project detailing the removal of hazard trees is consistent with the PBO. As such, and for the reasons fully explained on pages 22-28 of the PBO, we believe the proposed project is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the Indiana bat, when considering the baseline status of the Indiana bat, the effects of the action, and any cumulative effects. We understand that the project alternatives, as proposed, will not remove suitable Indiana bat roosting trees. Only trees that are laying on the ground or parallel to it will be removed. Therefore, we concur that this project is not likely to adversely affect the Indiana bat. If hazzard trees with suitable Indiana bat habitat cannot be avoided, hazard trees will be applied to the NF=s incidental take statement.
Incidental Take Statement
The Service anticipates that the proposed action will result in the Aincidental take@ of no more than 115 potential Indiana bat roost trees. This anticipated level would brings the cumulative total of incidental take for the implementation of the Wayne NF=s Forest Plan to 125 trees for hazard removal. This is the level of incidental take anticipated and exempted for hazard tree removal through September 2006 in the PBO. If this activity takes more hazard trees than the level provided in the incidental take statement, formal consultation must be reinitiated.
We determined in the PBO that this level of anticipated and exempted take of Indiana bats from the proposed project, in conjunction with the other management actions taken by the Wayne NF pursuant to the PBO to date, is not likely to result in jeopardy to the species (for further information, see pages 22-28 in the PBO).
We understand that the Forest Service is implementing all pertinent Indiana bat RPMs and implementing terms and conditions (TCs) stipulated on pages 36-40 of the PBO. As explained in the PBO, these measures will minimize the impact of the anticipated incidental take. We do not believe that additional RPMs or TCs, other than those currently specified in the PBO, are necessary.
This fulfills your section 7(a)(2) requirements for this action; however, should the proposed project be modified or the level of take identified above be exceeded, the Forest Service should promptly reinitiate consultation as outlined in 50 CFR 402.16. As provided in 50 CFR '402.16, reinitiation of formal consultation is required where discretionary Federal agency involvement or control over the action has been retained (or is authorized by law) and if: (1) the amount or extent of incidental take is exceeded; (2) new information reveals effects of the continued implementation of the Wayne National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (as amended) and projects predicated upon it may affect listed species in a manner or to an extent not considered in this opinion; (3) the continued implementation of the Wayne National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (as amended) and projects predicated upon it is subsequently modified in a manner that causes an effect to Federally-listed species not considered in this opinion; or (4) a new species is listed or critical habitat designated that may be affected by the action. In instances where the amount or extent of incidental take is exceeded, any operations causing such take must cease, pending reinitiation. Requests for reinitiation, or questions regarding reinitiation, should be directed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service=s Reynoldsburg, Ohio Field Office.
We appreciate your continued efforts to ensure that this project is consistent with all provisions outlined in the PBO. If you have any questions regarding our response or if you need additional information, please contact Sarena Selbo at extension 17.