|(614) 469-6923/ FAX (614) 469-6919
November 3, 2005
Acting District Ranger
Wayne National Forest
13700 US Hwy 33
Nelsonville, OH 45764
Dear Mr. Clark:
This letter is in response to your October 20, 2005, request for site-specific review, pursuant to section 7 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, regarding the Monday Creek Trailhead Project in Ward Township, Hocking County (39º 29’ 30”N and 82º 12’ 44”W) on the Athens Ranger District of the Wayne National Forest (WNF). The Forest Service is proposing several recreation projects associated with the Monday Creek Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) Trail including, relocating a concessionaire, rerouting an existing ORV trail, constructing approximately 50 feet of new trail, and removing 1/3 acre of white pine near the ORV trail entrance. The overall project will impact approximately 0.35 acres. This review represents a Tier 2 consultation, as explained below.
On September 20, 2001, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a programmatic biological opinion (PBO) for the Wayne National Forest 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 “tiered” biological opinions when it is determined that site-specific projects are likely to adversely affect federally listed species. When “may affect” but “not 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 (Trifolium stoloniferum), 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 “not likely to adversely affect” for northern monkshood (Aconitum noveboracense), running buffalo clover (Trifolium stoloniferum), 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 “likely 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 Monday Creek Trailhead Project is a Tier 2 consultation under the September 20, 2001, PBO. We have reviewed the information contained in the Biological Evaluation (BE), submitted by your office on October 20, 2005, describing the effects of the proposed project on federally listed species. We agree that the proposed action will have no effect on the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus), fanshell mussel (Cyprogenia stegaria), pink mucket pearly mussel (Lampsilis abrupta), bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), northern monkshood (Aconitum noveboracense), running buffalo clover (Trifolium stoloniferum), small whorled pogonia (Isotria medeoloides), and Virginia spiraea (Spiraea virginiana), and thus, consultation is not required for these species for this project.
We concur with your determination that the action is likely to adversely 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.
That is, this letter serves as the Tier 2 biological opinion for the proposed Monday Creek Trailhead Project. As such, this letter also provides 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 3-4 of your Wildlife BE include the location and a thorough description of the proposed action. The action as proposed involves creating 50 feet long by 9 feet wide of new ORV trail, re-routing an existing ORV trail, relocating a concessionaire out of the parking lot into a shrubby site, and removing a small white pine stand near the entrance to the trail. Up to 0.35 acres of trees may need to be removed.
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 closest known summer occurrence for the Indiana bat is at Dorr Run, 3 miles west of the proposed project. Fall swarming surveys have detected Indiana bats at three abandoned coal mines all located within 2 miles of the proposed project site. Since issuance of the Service’s PBO, additional surveys of the abandoned limestone mine in Lawrence County recorded 208 Indiana bats using the mine in 2003 and 333 Indiana bats in 2005. Rangewide status estimates of the Indiana bat based on hibernacula censuses in 2005 are up slightly from 2001 and 2003 at about 458,332 bats.
Since the issuance of the PBO in 2001, the environmental baseline in the WNF has changed due to two notable events: 1) In February 2003, a major ice storm damaged over 47,000 acres of the WNF in the Ironton District. The storm damage to trees included: uprooting, splitting in two, and entire tree tops breaking off. The ice storm created a tremendous amount of new Indiana bat roosting habitat through creation of crevices and splits and through increased exfoliating bark through tree death; therefore, use of the area by Indiana bats is expected to remain stable or increase into the future, and 2) the completion of a consultation on the U.S. 33 Nelsonville Bypass Project in the Athens Unit of the Athens Ranger District that is expected to permanently remove 637 acres and fragment an additional 1050 acres of habitat, much of which occurs on the WNF.
On the WNF, 7,815.06 acres have been applied towards your incidental take, of which only 1,477.03 acres are for projects that have been implemented. Much of this anticipated incidental take is for prescribed fire projects that are planned to be completed before 2006.
Effects of the Action
Based on our analysis of the information provided in your BE for the Monday Creek Trailhead Project, we have determined that the effects of the proposed action are consistent with those contemplated in the PBO.
Adverse effects to the Indiana bat from this project could occur due to the removal of potential roost trees. Although white pine is not a preferred tree species for roosting Indiana bats, it is possible that Indiana bats could find a suitable roost within an unknown dead or dying tree. Impacts to the Indiana bat may result in direct mortality or injury to individuals or small groups of roosting bats during the felling of trees that may harbor undetected roosts. Although direct impacts may not be avoided, implementation of the terms and conditions associated with the reasonable and prudent measures (RPMs) provided on pages 36-40 in the programmatic biological opinion will minimize adverse effects. More specifically, the WNF will adhere to term and condition numbers 5 and 7 for this project.
We believe the proposed issuance of a permit to allow the Monday Creek Trailhead Project is consistent with the PBO. After reviewing site specific information, including 1) the scope of the project, 2) the environmental baseline, 3) the status of the Indiana bat and its potential occurrence within the project area and surrounding Wayne NF land, 4) the effects of the action, and 5) any cumulative effects, it is the Service’s biological opinion that this project is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the Indiana bat.
Incidental Take Statement
The Service anticipates that the proposed action will result in the incidental take of 0.35 acres of forested habitat through activities associated with pine removal. This anticipated level brings the cumulative total of incidental take for the implementation of the WNF’s Forest Plan to 2,415 acres for hardwood and pine harvest. This level is well within the 7,365 acres of incidental take anticipated in the PBO through September 2006 for this activity. As explained above, we determined 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 WNF 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, specifically conditions 5 and 7, stipulated on pages 36-40 of the PBO. These measures will minimize the impact of the anticipated incidental take.
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.
Mary M. Knapp, Ph.D.