Biological opinion on the land and resource management plan wayne national forest, ohio prepared by




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BIOLOGICAL OPINION

on the


LAND AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT PLAN WAYNE NATIONAL FOREST, OHIO

Prepared by:
Angela L. Boyer

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

6950 Americana Parkway, Suite H

Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068



September 20, 2001



TABLE OF CONTENTS

APPLICABILITY OF BIOLOGICAL OPINION TO SITE SPECIFIC PROJECTS 47





INTRODUCTION
This document transmits the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (Service) biological opinion based on our review of the continued implementation of the Wayne National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, as amended (Forest Plan) and projects predicated upon it, and its effects on the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), and American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus), in accordance with section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). This biological opinion is based on information provided in the March 12, 2001 Wayne National Forest Programmatic Biological Assessment Land and Resource Management Plan. A complete administrative record of this consultation is on file at the Service=s Reynoldsburg, Ohio Field Office (ROFO).


CONSULTATION HISTORY
In 1986, the Wayne National Forest (NF) initiated informal consultation on their Forest Plan with ROFO, under the ESA. At that time, the management standards and guidelines in the Forest Plan stated that there were, "no Federally-listed endangered, threatened, or proposed species in the vicinity of the Wayne National Forest which might be affected by management activities on the forest" (USFS 1986). In July 1992, the Forest Plan was amended to recognize the presence or possible presence of four Federally-listed threatened or endangered species in the vicinity of the Wayne NF (Indiana bat, bald eagle, peregrine falcon and Kirtland's warbler) (USFS 1986). Until initiation of formal consultation on April 4, 2001, the effects of proposed actions on Federally-listed species have been addressed by the Wayne NF through informal consultation with the Service on a project-by-project basis.
In 1998, the Indiana bat was discovered on the Wayne NF. This new discovery, along with reports of several other Federally-listed species occurring near Wayne NF, prompted the Wayne NF to begin the process of amending their Forest Plan. On June 7, 2000, Wayne NF contacted ROFO with a letter from the Wayne NF Supervisor, requesting that informal consultation continue on Federally-listed species occurring on or near the Wayne NF. Nine Federally-listed species were identified in the June 7, 2000 letter as being present on or near the Wayne NF. The nine species identified were the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus), northern wild 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).

Subsequent meetings and telephone conversations took place between the Service and the Wayne NF to discuss the format of the pending biological assessment (BA) addressing Federally-listed species under the current Forest Plan. The Service has been provided with review copies of the numerous drafts of the BA.




On February 14, 2001, the Service met with the Wayne NF Supervisor and Wayne NF biologists to discuss the formal consultation process. On March 15, 2001, representatives of the Service and Wayne NF met at the Service=s Regional Office at Fort Snelling, Minnesota to discuss the formal consultation process with the Service. The final BA was completed by the Wayne NF on March 12, 2001 and received by the Service at the March 15, 2001 meeting.
In response to the Wayne NF=s June 7, 2000 letter, the Service sent a letter dated March 18, 2001 to the Wayne NF stating that we concur with the list of species noted in Mr. Zambrana=s letter. In this letter, the Service identified six species that could be addressed through the informal consultation process. These six species are northern wild monkshood, running buffalo clover, small whorled pogonia, Virginia spiraea, fanshell mussel, and pink mucket pearly mussel. In the Service=s March 18, 2001 letter, three species, the Indiana bat, bald eagle, and American burying beetle, were identified as species for which the Wayne NF should address through formal consultation with the Service.
In its request for formal consultation received by the Service on April 6, 2001, the Wayne NF determined that activities outlined in the Forest Plan are likely to adversely affect the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) and are not likely to adversely affect the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus), northern wild monkshood (Aconitum noveboracense), running buffalo clover (Trifolium stoloniferum), small whorled pogonia (Isotria medeoloides), Virginia spiraea (Spiraea virginiana), fanshell mussel (Cyprogenia stegaria), and pink mucket pearly mussel (Lampsilis abrupta).
The Wayne NF further requested our concurrence on these effect determinations. In a letter dated April 19, 2001, the Service: (1) concurred with the Wayne NF=s determination that certain actions to implement the Forest Plan would be likely to adversely affect the Indiana bat, (2) indicated that the initiation package associated with the Forest Service=s request for formal consultation was adequate, and (3) announced that formal consultation between the two agencies had begun. In the same letter, the Service concluded that activities outlined in the Forest Plan were also likely to adversely affect the bald eagle and American burying beetle.
The Service provided a draft biological opinion to the Forest Service on July 12, 2001 for review. The Service learned through discussions with the Wayne NF, that the Forest Service comments on the draft biological opinion would be received by the Service on August 20, 2001. Because the 135-day formal consultation period would conclude on August 17, 2001, the Service sent a letter dated August 8, 2001 to the Forest Service requesting an 30-day extension to the formal consultation period. On August 22, 2001, the Service received a letter from the Forest Service agreeing to the request for a 30-day formal consultation extension.
On August 20, 2001, the Service met with the Wayne NF Supervisor and Wayne NF biologists to receive and discuss the Wayne NF=s comments on the draft biological opinion. A revised draft biological opinion was provided to the Wayne NF on September 7, 2001. On September 11, 2001, the Service met with the Wayne NF Supervisor and Wayne NF biologists to receive and discuss additional comments.


BIOLOGICAL OPINION

DESCRIPTION OF THE PROPOSED ACTION
The action considered in this biological opinion is the continued implementation of the existing Wayne NF Forest Plan, as amended. The goal of Forest Plan is to provide for multiple-use and a sustained yield of products and services in a way that maximizes long-term net public benefits in an environmentally sound manner (USFS 1986). The Wayne NF will undertake a host of management actions to achieve this goal. Detailed descriptions of the proposed actions are provided in the Programmatic Biological Assessment Land and Resource Management Plan (BA); these descriptions are hereby incorporated by reference.
Wayne NF estimates the following activities may benefit the Indiana bat and its habitat:


  • Timber harvest

  • Reforestation/Timber stand improvement

  • Prescribed fire

  • Special Area and Research Natural Areas

  • Land exchange/purchase

  • Creation of lakes, ponds and marshes

  • Closing of underground entrances (gating and fencing)

Wayne NF estimates the following activities may affect but are not likely to adversely affect the Indiana bat and its habitat:




  • Prescribed fire

  • Land exchange/purchase

  • Special used (agriculture permits and utility corridors)

  • General recreation use

  • Pesticide use

Wayne NF estimates the following activities may adversely affect the Indiana bat and its habitat:




  • Timber harvest

  • Creation of wildlife openings

  • Special Areas and Research Natural Areas

  • Mineral development

  • Road construction , maintenance and use

  • Recreation facility/trail construction, maintenance and use

  • Closing of Underground Entrances (backfilling)



Wayne NF estimates the following activity would have no effect on the Indiana bat and its habitat:


  • Maintenance of wildlife openings

  • Grazing

Table 1. Wayne NF estimates the following management activities that could modify Indiana bat habitat modification may occur over the next five years.






MANAGEMENT ACTIVITY


Forested acres affected



DESCRIPTION OF ACTIVITY




Timber harvest

(2,500 total acres)

2250

hardwood thinning and uneven-aged cuts

250

pine thinning and uneven-aged cuts

Timber stand improvement


2500

treatments to improve the composition, structure, health and vigor of the trees in a stand

Prescribed fire


2500

management of plant communities

Road construction

(94 total acres)


32

permanent road construction

37

temporary road construction

25

oil/gas well road construction

Trail construction


160

hiking, horse, and ORV trails

Creation of wildlife openings


352

forest openings construction

Mineral development

(2125 total acres)

25

oil/gas well development

2100

Strip mining

Special Use Permits


125

utility corridors and special use roads

Hazard Tree Removal


125 trees


hazard trees that must be cut between April 15 and September 15.


Closing Underground Entrances


250

Closing subsidence openings and old mine portals






TOTAL ACRES


10,606

10,606 acres + an additional 125 hazard trees






According to the Wayne NF Forest Plan, 5 dead or dying trees are to be left standing per acre when any timber is cut. Of these 5 trees, one is to be at least 18 inches in diameter or larger, two are to be 14 inches or larger and the remaining three are to be greater than 6 inches in diameter. In addition, 10 hickory trees between 2 and 6 inches dbh are to remain standing. Approximately 3,400 acres or 1.7 percent of the forest was harvested between 1988 and 1997, leaving the vast majority of the Wayne NF untouched.
In the next five years, the Forest Service estimates that prescribed fire may occur at the rate of 500 acres per year on the Wayne NF for the restoration of native communities. Fire may create additional snags for roost trees by killing large trees without completely burning them to the ground or removing all of their bark. These newly created snags could be useful to males for roosting (USFS 1998). Snags created through burning may also be used by female Indiana bats for maternity colonies. The trees must have a large diameter and contain the majority of their bark cover.
The Wayne NF currently has 8 designated Special Areas. The total acreage of Special Areas on the forest is 2,835 acres. The Wayne NF also has two designated Research Natural Areas (RNA). Reas Run RNA, located in the Marietta Unit, is 78 acres. Reas Run consists of an approximately 35-acre mature Virginia Pine stand surrounded by oak-hickory and maple-beech-birch stands, intermixed by younger, smaller Virginia Pine (USFS 1987). These areas would provide a substantial amount of large, mature trees and snags for male and maternity colony roosting during summer months. Depending on the density of the forest areas, these mature trees may not have the amount of sun exposure necessary for proper fetal and juvenile bat development.
Acquisition of land by the Forest Service, creating larger, contiguous areas of public ownership, would reduce potential disturbance to roosting or hibernating Indiana bats from private owner actions. These areas could then be monitored and surveyed for bat activity as well as managed to provide more advantageous forest conditions for the Indiana bat.
According to the Forest Plan monitoring reports, reforestation was conducted on 7,839 acres in the forest between 1988 and 1996. Between 1,000 and 1,500 acres of reforestation are projected to occur each year in the future. Reforestation and timber stand improvement would eventually create roosting and foraging habitats for the Indiana bat as the trees mature and create canopy cover.
Construction of approximately one acre of small lake, marsh or pond habitat per year is permitted by the Forest Plan in the future. Also, the standards and guidelines state that two waterholes per

square mile may be created on the Wayne NF.


Mineral exploration and development is on-going throughout the forest. The Wayne NF has controlling interest on approximately 28 percent of the mineral estates on the forest (USFS 1987). Currently, there are approximately 800 oil and gas wells on the forest in various stages of development, production, or abandonment. Per Forest Plan standards and guidelines, all surface-disturbing activities must assure that mitigation measures for protected species are complied with. In addition, an assessment of impacts to species must be completed before commencement of any specific forest activity.


The following measures are proposed by the Forest Service to minimize adverse effects from Wayne NF activities to the Indiana bat or its habitat on the Wayne NF (USFS 2001a). These measures are not in the current Forest Plan.
1. Protect hibernacula:
a. Prevent unauthorized entry to hibernacula using methods and designs approved by the Service.
b. Properly sign all sites.
c. Deter human access to areas surrounding hibernacula by closing or relocating trails that lead to or pass within easy viewing distance of hibernacula.
d. Retain, depending on local circumstances, one-quarter mile of undisturbed forested buffer surrounding all hibernacula on Wayne NF land.
e. When developing prescribed burn plans, ensure smoke management in the vicinity of hibernacula.
2. Protect potential roost trees:
a. Protect any known roost trees and coordinate with the Service if the tree must be removed for any reason.
b. During non-hibernation season, retain all standing dead trees greater then 9 inches diameter at breast height (dbh) unless they are a safety hazard or under special circumstances after coordination with a Wayne NF biologist.
c. Demolish buildings or other structures that can harbor bats only during the hibernation season or after coordination with a forest biologist, unless there in an immediate safely hazard.
d. During the non-hibernation season, retain all shagbark and shellbark hickory trees over 6 inches dbh and all trees over 6 inches dbh with large areas of loose bark, that are hollow, have major splits, or have broken tops unless they are a safety hazard or under special circumstances after coordination with a Wayne NF biologist.
3. Protect water sources:
a. Do not repair road ruts or natural depressions where water collects unless they are contributing to soil erosion or sedimentation problems or public safety is compromised.


The following measures are proposed by the Forest Service to further the conservation and recovery of the Indiana bat or its habitat on the Wayne NF (USFS 2001a). These measures are not in the current Forest Plan.
1. Make the purchase of area with known hibernacula and willing sellers a high priority.
2. During timber harvest:
a. Retain at least three snags per acre over 9 inches dbh, girdling live trees if necessary to achieve the minimum number.
b. Retain enough live trees around large snags (over 12 inches dbh) to provide partial shading and to protect from wind throw.
c. Retain at least 10 to 15 square feet of basal area per acre of suitable roost trees (6 inches dbh or greater). A Wayne NF wildlife biologist will be informed if any of these trees are accidentally felled.
d. Leave all standing dead trees greater then 22 inches dbh and at least 8 standing dead trees per acre between 9 and 20 inches dbh during salvage harvests, where the majority of trees are dead or dying.
3. To improve foraging habitat, reduce canopy closure to 60 to 80 percent with thinning or uneven age harvests.
4. Inventory, monitoring, research, and outreach:
a. Continue to monitor Indiana bats and document their habitat needs.
b. Promote overall awareness of the species and its habitat requirements.

Wayne NF estimates that all activities permitted under the Forest Plan will have no effect on nesting Bald eagles based on the fact that there are no known nesting populations of the Bald eagle within the Wayne NF. However, the Forest Service recognizes that some Wayne NF activities could have an impact on potential Bald eagle habitat.


Wayne NF estimates the following activities may benefit Bald eagle potential habitat:


  • Reforestation and timber stand improvement

  • Land exchange/purchase

  • Lake/pond/marsh construction/maintenance



Wayne NF estimates the following activities may affect but are not likely to adversely affect Bald eagle potential habitat:


  • Timber harvest

  • Prescribed fire

  • Land exchange/purchase

  • Road construction, maintenance and use

  • Recreation facility and trail construction, maintenance and use

  • General recreation

  • Mineral development

  • Pesticide use

  • Agricultural permits and utility corridors

Wayne NF estimates the following activity would have no effect on Bald eagle potential

habitat:


  • Creation and maintenance of wildlife openings

  • Livestock grazing

There are no known bald eagle nests within the proclamation boundaries of the Wayne NF. Habitat for the eagle is present throughout the forest and would increase over time as forest stands mature, so long as sufficient foraging areas remain present. The Wayne NF has a forest cover of more than 95 percent or 201,214 acres. Of that forested acreage, mature hardwoods (80 years or older) are found on approximately 30 percent or approximately 63,000 acres (USFS 1987, USFS 2000a). These mature forest areas exist along the Ohio River, Little Muskingum River, Hocking River, Lake Vesuvius, and Timbre Ridge Lake. Large riparian corridors with open water are limited on the Wayne NF. The Little Muskingum River could potentially be used by the bald eagle, but the Ohio River, Hocking River, Lake Vesuvius, Timbre Lake, or Burr Oak Reservoir would be more likely.

Reforestation activities would provide additional habitat in the future, as the new trees mature. Standards and guidelines are in place to protect the stands surrounding these sites and all riparian resources where the bald eagle would likely roost and hunt. All snags and den trees will also be left in place in accordance with established guidelines. Although these requirements vary by management area, an average of 5 dead or dying trees per acre with a minimum snag size of 6 inches in diameter are to remain following timber harvest and timber stand improvement. Of these five trees, two per acre are to be of 14 inches in diameter or larger and one for every two acres is to be 18 inches or greater in diameter. Prior to conducting activities which would remove trees, an assessment will be conducted by the Wayne NF to ensure no adverse impacts to protected species would occur. If bald eagles or indications of eagle use are present on the site, coordination with the Service would occur to prevent impacts to the species.


Ridgetop waterholes and floodplain wetlands have been created in the Wayne NF and are projected to continue at a rate of one acre per year in the future. These waterholes and wetlands aid in the settling of sediment eroded from surrounding areas. Several standards are listed in the Wayne NF=s Forest Plan that create and protect marshes, waterholes, fish habitat and fish populations as well as preserve water quality (USFS 2001a). These standards would increase the bald eagle=s food supply and perhaps create a more attractive environment for eagles to roost and nest in the future.
Land exchange or purchase could be beneficial to the bald eagle. Forest Service acquisition of land from other owners could contain potential habitat for the species and create more consolidated areas of public ownership. The larger areas of ownership would afford the Forest Service the opportunity to manage these areas more efficiently for wildlife objectives.

The following measures are proposed by the Forest Service to further the conservation and recovery of the Bald eagle or its habitat on the Wayne NF (USFS 2001a). These measures are not in the current Forest Plan.


1. Wayne NF will cooperate with the Service the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) on any reintroduction efforts that affect the Wayne NF.
2. Should the bald eagle be found on the Wayne NF, populations would be monitored and managed as directed by the species recovery plan.
3. Potential habitat for the bald eagle, if identified, would be managed to minimize activities that would threaten the habitat.
4. Continue and improve cooperation with State and private owners to conserve water quality and ensure healthy fish populations.

Wayne NF estimates that all activities permitted under the Forest Plan will have no effect on the American burying beetle since the beetles are not currently found on the forest. However, the Wayne NF recognizes that some Wayne NF activities could have an impact on potential American burying beetle habitat.


Wayne NF estimates the following activities may benefit potential habitat for the American burying beetle:
 Land purchase

 Maintenance of wildlife openings

Wayne NF estimates the following activities may affect but are not likely to adversely affect the potential habitat for the American burying beetle:


  • Timber harvest (site preparation)

  • Reforestation/timber stand improvement (site preparation)

  • Prescribed fire

  • Land exchange

  • Road construction and maintenance

  • Recreation facility and trail construction

  • Mineral development

  • Pesticide use

  • Special uses (agricultural permits and utility corridors)

Wayne NF estimates the following activity would have no affect on potential habitat for the American burying beetle:




  • Creation of wildlife openings

  • Livestock grazing

  • General recreation

  • Creation of lakes, ponds and marshes

  • Closing of underground openings

Even though the American burying beetle is not currently found on the Wayne NF, a reintroduction occurred at a nearby site bordering the Athens Ranger District. Since the beetle is heavily dependent upon the availability of carrion, activities that would improve habitat for their primary carrion source, the wild turkey, would be beneficial. The wild turkey prefers upland hardwood and mixed

forest habitats. The Wayne NF works with the ODNR to maintain upland wildlife habitats as

early successional maintenance, which benefits the wild turkey and ruffed grouse (King 2000c).


Land purchase could be beneficial to the American burying beetle. Wayne NF acquisition of land from other owners could contain potential habitat or better habitat for the species and create more consolidated areas of public ownership. The larger areas of ownership would afford the Wayne NF the opportunity to manage these areas more efficiently for wildlife objectives.
The following measures are proposed by the Forest Service to further the conservation and recovery of the American burying beetle or its habitat on the Wayne NF (USFS 2001a). These measures are not in the current Forest Plan.
1. Should the American burying beetle be found on the Wayne NF, populations would be monitored and managed as necessary to perpetuate the species.
2. Wayne NF will cooperate with the Service and the ODNR on any reintroduction efforts that affect the Wayne NF.
3. Potential habitat for the American burying beetle would be managed to minimize activities which would threaten the habitat, or threaten populations of potential carrion for the species.



To assess the landscape effects of the proposed actions and to facilitate Wayne NF=s section 7(a)(2) responsibilities, a tiered programmatic consultation approach will be implemented. As individual projects are proposed under the Forest Plan, Wayne NF shall provide project-specific information to ROFO that (1) describes the proposed action and the specific area to be affected, (2) identifies the species that may be affected, (3) describes the manner in which the proposed action may affect listed species, and the anticipated effects, (4) specifies that the Aanticipated effects from the proposed project are similar to those anticipated in the programmatic biological opinion,@ (5) a cumulative total of take that has occurred thus far under the tier I biological opinion, and (6) describes any additional effects, if any, not considered in the tier I consultation.
The Service will review the information provided by the Wayne NF for each proposed project and this project-specific review is appropriately documented. During this review if it is determined that an individual proposed project is not likely to adversely affect listed species, the Service will complete its documentation with a standard concurrence letter that refers to this BO, the tier I programmatic document (i.e., it Atiers@ to it), and specifies that the Service concurs that the proposed project is not likely to adversely affect listed species or designated critical habitat. If it is determined that the proposed project is likely to adversely affect listed species or designated critical habitat, then the Service completes a tier II biological opinion with a project-specific incidental take statement.
The Service has determined that action area for this consultation includes the entire Wayne NF lands. This biological opinion addresses only those actions for which the Service believes adverse effects may occur.

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