Choate vegetation management project



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BIOLOGICAL EVALUATION
of the
CHOATE VEGETATION MANAGEMENT PROJECT

Bergland and Watersmeet Ranger Districts

Ottawa National Forest
15 May 2002

Prepared by: /s/ Robert D. Johnson 5-23-02

Robert D. Johnson Date

WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST


Prepared by: /s/ Ian Shackleford 5-21-02

Ian Shackleford Date

BOTANIST


Reviewed by: /s/ Tracy J. Tophooven 5/29/02

Tracy J. Tophooven Date

DISTRICT RANGER

Table of Contents


1. INTRODUCTION 6

2. LOCATION OF PROJECT 6

3. DESCRIPTION OF THE ALTERNATIVES 7

4. LISTING OF SENSITIVE SPECIES 9

5. HABITAT DOCUMENTED IN AREA, HABITAT NEEDS, SPECIES POTENTIAL FOR OCCURRENCE, AND ANALYSIS OF THE EFFECTS OF THE ALTERNATIVES ON SPECIES WITH POTENTIAL TO OCCUR AND/OR THEIR HABITATS 12

ANIMALS 12



Alasmidonta marginata Elktoe Mussel 35

Lasmigona compressa Creek Heelsplitter Mussel 36

Lasmigona costata Flutedshell Mussel 36

Ligumia recta Black Sandshell Mussel 36


The four miles of road maintenance (FR 6950) in this alternative will not have any effects on stream water quality because this road does not cross any permanent stream or river in the project area. This road will not contribute sediment to any permanent stream in the project area. There are some road crossing that will go unattended in this alternative and some of these crossings are contributing sediment to stream and rivers. Tthe most noteable is the FR 6987 crossing of Redlight creek. Sediment is entering the stream at this crossing and represents a negative impact to mollusks downstream of the culvert. The sediments may bury riffle habitat where the mollusks feed, or a large addition of sediment may actually bury the mollusks faster than they can move and end up killing them. Sedimentation in the stream can affect mollusks indirectly by changing habitat conditions for the host fish species in the stream, and without the hosts mollusks cannot successfully reproduce. There is also one small (currently an ATV crossing) on Choate creek. FR6975-E7 crosses Choate creek and the crossing is by ATVs. there is some potential for sediment to enter the stream at this crossing. The other road crossings are crossings at intermittant streams and drainages. Any sediment moving into these intermittant drainages will not have a direct impact on potential mollusk habitat in the permanent streams, the effect will be indirect as some of the sediment maybe trapped in the intermittant drainages, but some sediments may make its way to the perennial streams over a long period of time. 37

Cumulative effects 37

Cumulative effects were assessed at the project area scale. In the last fifteen years (1987-2002) approximately 214 acres of aspen has been harvested in the project area. These harvest were all clear cuts and this amounts to only 2 1/2% of the project area in 15 years. This is a minor amount of area and the harvests revegetate in a short period of time, about three years. The cumulative effects past harvest actions are thought to be indirect and minimal. 37


The maintenance of FR 6950 would not produce any cumulative effects because the road does not cross any streams. The greatest input of sediment into streams that has the potential to enter the streams are the undersized culverts associated with Redlight creek. There are other culvert needs associated with the exisitng transportation system that will not be addressed in alternative 1. These will continue to cause some cumulative effects to potential mollusk habitat in the project area. 37

Alterntive 2 (Modified Proposed Action) 37

Thinnings in 309 acres in in northern hardwood stands, and red pine plantations would open the canopy considerably, which would result in increased understory growth of trees, shrubs, and forbs. For the same reasons listed in the preceeding paragraph the 309 acres of thinning harvest cuts should not have any direct or indirect effects on potential mollusk habitat in the project area. 39

The maintenance of 362 acres of upland openings will involve the hand cutting and removal of woody shrubs and some tree saplings vegetation to maintain the open condition. The work will involve handcutting of woody. Surface disturbance would not part of the opening maintenance prescription and with no bare soil,there is no chance of soil entering any of the intermittant drainages or permanent streams. 39

There will be 162 acres of understory scarification for natural conifer regeneration. This work is ground disturbing, many on the seedling and sapling hardwood will be removed. The litter layer will be disturbed and mixed with underlaying mineral soil to provide a seed bed for conifer seed germination and seedling establishment. None of the proposed treatment areas are within the Wild and Scenic River corridor or near any other permanent streams. By following riparian design criteria and BMPs the indirect effects of soil reaching any intermittant drainage can be mitigated and avoided. 39


There is six miles of new road construction associated with the modified proposed action. Only a small portion of this new constructio will impact a permanent stream and that is where FR6980-D and crosses Redlight creek. This crossing will be designed to minimize the impacts to the stream at the point of crossing to reduce potential sedimentation in the stream. All road/stream crossings woould have cross drainage structures built to insure proper drainage and reduce sediment input into the stream. This project also proposes to fix the crossing of FR 6987 over Redlight creek, by removing the set of undersized culverts, ditching and stablizing the road bed and banks, and placing a ford in the stream suitalble for ATV crossing. This work will repir the crossing, reduce the road bed erosion, and reduce the amount of sediment entering Redlight creek. This alternative will also include road maintenance, reconstruction, and road decommissioning. In conjuction with the road maintenance and road re-construction there will be 23 culvert replacements. The road work in this alternative will improve the transportation system, and reduce the sediment entering Redlight creek, and reduce potential sedimentation for the rest of the transportation system in the project area. 39

The impacts to potential mollusk habitat as a result of the actions in the modified proposed action are considered to be small and indirect. In the modified proposed action sedimentation is expected to decline in comparison to the no action alternative. 39

Cumulative effects 39


Cumulative effects were assesed at the project area scale 39

There are perhaps three sets of cumulative effects that need to be identified or acknowledged. The first set of cumulative effects are the result of actions that took place during the settlement and logging era of the late 1880 into the first few decades of the 20th century. These actions set the historical context for the conditions of the Ottawa National Forest at the time the Forest was established. The road and rail road construction, logging, use of the streams and rivers as log transport systems, the slash fires, and land clearing for settlement and agriculture created large disturbances in the ecosystems of the Ottawa National Forest. The second growth forests, large amount of sediments in some of the streams and rivers, are just a couple of the residual after effects from this period. The effects on mollusks would have been to change water quality and sedimentation, increasing each. These changes may have elinimated many populations of mollusks and reduced the remaining populations and reduced the available habitat for mollusks. 39

The second set of effects are those effects that can be attributed to the establishment of the Ottawa National Forest in the mid thirties to about the mid to late eighties. A period of reforestation, managing the second growth forests, and timber harvests. 39

The third period of cumulative effects runs from the mid 80s to the current time. This a period of timber harvesting , ecological restoration, work in threatened and endangered species protection and re-estblishement. 39

The contingincies of history have provided the context for the exisitng situation in the project area. The actions in the modified proposed action principally the road decommissioning and fixing the stream crossings and culvert installations would cumulatively decrease the potential for sediment to enter the streams in the modified proposed action. With the curtailment or elimination of sediment inputs from the transporation system, sediment bedload would gradually be transported out of the project and the streams would be begin to provide improved quality mollusk habitat in the project area. 40


The majority of stream dwelling dragonfly larvae will be found along the margins of the stream or in backwaters. Undercut banks, snags, and soft muddy areas are the best places to look for larvae. A few species prefer gravelly areas in the mainstream channel, such as the Genus Ophiogomphus. With the possible exception of the mustached clubtail, all of the RFSS dragonflies would prefer areas of the stream with soft, organic bottoms. The mustached clubtail is a burrower and can be found in sandy areas. The main risk to larval dragonflies is the input of inorganic sediment into the stream. Increased amounts of sand and silt would cover or fill the natural hiding places of the larvae and force them into the open. This would make the larvae more susceptible to predation by fish, which are the main predators of larval dragonflies. Management practices that increase the numbers of fish, such as trout, are a potential threat to dragonfly larvae (NatureServe 2000). Adult dragonflies may or may not stay and forage near the streams they emerged from and typical Forest Service management activities may not have much effect on adult dragon flies. The effects analysis will concentrate on the larval stage which are probably more vulnerable to management activities. 40

In this section the effects discussion will be pooled, rather than discuss each species individually. Pooling the effects discussion is possible because there is some degree of overlap on habitat requirements for the four species discussed in this biological evaluation. As a group dragonfly larva are threatened by a similar set of risk factors. Dragonfly larva are affected by changes in water quality (i.e. changes in water temperature ,usually increasing water temperatures, changes in nutrient levels, changes in dissolved oxygen, and increases in stream sedimentation). Increasing fish populations in streams can, increase predation risk on dragonfly larva is another factor that can influence the distribution, abundance and viability of dragonfly larva populations in streams. There have been no dragonfly surveys conducted in the project area. None of the five species of dragonflies discussed in this biological evaluation have been found in the Choate VMP area. Somatchlora forcipata collected near Sylvania 7/4/84, Gomphus quadircolor from a small stream 15 miles to the southwest of the project area, and Somatchlora minor collected from a small stream about 6 miles northwest of the project site. It is possible that some or all five species of dragonflies may ocurr in the Choate project area and the effects discussion will deal with the streams in the project area as potential habitat for the five species of dragon flies listed in part 4 of this biological evaluation.. 40


Gomphus quadricolor Rapids Clubtail Regional Forester's Sensitive/Michigan Special Concern S2S3 40

Lycaeides idas nabokovi Nabokov's or Northern Blue Butterfly 40

Ophiogomphus anomalus Extra-striped Snaketail Michigan Special Concern S1 41

Ophiogomphus howei Pygmy Snaketail Michigan Special Concern S1 41

Somatochlora forcipata Forcipate Emerald Dragonfly 41

Somatochlora minor Ocellate Emerald Dragonfly 42

There would be no harvesting activities, no road construction, re-construction, maintenance, or decommissionsing of roads in the project area, there would be no connected actions including opening maintenance, tag alder regeneration, scarification for natural conifer regeneration, no watershed restoration work, and no fisheries stream habitat improvement work. There would be 4 miles of road maintenance (FR 6950). It is possible that potential habitat exists in the Cisco Branch of the Ontonagon River, the South Branch of the Ontonagon River, Sucker Creek, Redlight Creek and Choate Creek. 42

There are no proposed harvesting actions in this alternative in the Wild and Scenic River corridors for the Cisco Branch or the South Branch of the Ontonagon River, thus no increases in the level of risk, no increase in water temperature due to canopy removal, no expected hydrological changes in the streams due to human manipulation (i.e. additions fo structures or woody debris). Other conditions,like fish host populations, changes in dissolved oxygen, or nutrients are not expected to change in this alternatives. 42


Cumulative effects were assessed at the project area scale. In the last fifteen years (1987-2002) approximately 214 acres of aspen has been harvested in the project area. These harvest were all clear cuts and this amounts to only 2 1/2% of the project area in 15 years. This is a minor amount of area and the harvests revegetate in a short period of time, about three years. The cumulative effects past harvest actions are thought to be indirect and minimal. 43

Thinnings in 309 acres in in northern hardwood stands, and red pine plantations would open the canopy considerably, which would result in increased understory growth of trees, shrubs, and forbs. For the same reasons listed in the preceeding paragraph the 309 acres of thinning harvest cuts should not have any direct or indirect effects on potential mollusk habitat in the project area. 43

The maintenance of 362 acres of upland openings will involve the hand cutting and removal of woody shrubs and some tree saplings vegetation to maintain the open condition. The work will involve handcutting of woody. Surface disturbance would not part of the opening maintenance prescription and with no bare soil,there is no chance of soil entering any of the intermittant drainages or permanent streams. 43

There is six miles of new road construction associated with the modified proposed action. Only a small portion of this new constructio will impact a permanent stream and that is where FR6980-D and crosses Redlight creek. This crossing will be designed to minimize the impacts to the stream at the point of crossing to reduce potential sedimentation in the stream. All road/stream crossings woould have cross drainage structures built to insure proper drainage and reduce sediment input into the stream. This project also proposes to fix the crossing of FR 6987 over Redlight creek, by removing the set of undersized culverts, ditching and stablizing the road bed and banks, and placing a ford in the stream suitalble for ATV crossing. This work will repir the crossing, reduce the road bed erosion, and reduce the amount of sediment entering Redlight creek. This alternative will also include road maintenance, reconstruction, and road decommissioning. In conjuction with the road maintenance and road re-construction there will be 23 culvert replacements. The road work in this alternative will improve the transportation system, and reduce the sediment entering Redlight creek, and reduce potential sedimentation for the rest of the transportation system in the project area. 44


Cumulative effects 44

Cumulative effects were assesed at the project area scale 44

The second set of effects are those effects that can be attributed to the establishment of the Ottawa National Forest in the mid thirties to about the mid to late eighties. A period of reforestation, managing the second growth forests, and timber harvests. 44

The third period of cumulative effects runs from the mid 80s to the current time. This a period of timber harvesting , ecological restoration, work in threatened and endangered species protection and re-estblishement. 44

PLANTS 46


All of the sensitive species discussed above may be indirectly affected by the introduction and spread of non-native invasive plants (Westbrooks, 1998). Forest Service Manual 2081.03 directs that whenever any ground disturbing action or activity is proposed, the Forest Service must determine the risk of introducing or spreading noxious weeds associated with the proposed action. For projects having moderate to high risk of introducing or spreading noxious weeds, the project decision document must identify noxious weed control measures that will be undertaken during project implementation. This analysis has been conducted, is located in the project file, and is summarized here. 63

6. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR REMOVING, AVOIDING OR COMPENSATING FOR ANY ADVERSE EFFECTS 67

7. RISK ASSESSMENT 67

ANIMALS 67

PLANTS 70

8. DETERMINATIONS 72

ANIMALS 72

PLANTS 72

9. MONITORING 73

10. LITERATURE CITED 73

ANIMALS 73

PLANTS 76








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