Ottawa National Forest records and available Michigan Natural Features Inventory data were consulted for Regional Forester Sensitive plants within the project area. There are no known occurrences within the project area. Field surveys for sensitive plants were conducted in the project area during the spring, summer, and fall blooming seasons of 1998, 1999, and 2001. Survey results, which include habitat descriptions and observed species lists, are in the project file. No sensitive plants were observed. Surveys for lichens have not been conducted in the project area.
The project area includes a diversity of upland and lowland plant communities. Knowledge of the different plant communities present within the project area is derived from ecological mapping, forest stand inventory, interdisciplinary team field reviews, and habitat descriptions taken during rare plant surveys. Habitat types include submergent marsh, emergent marsh, northern wet meadow, poor conifer swamp, rich conifer swamp, hardwood-conifer swamp, northern shrub thicket, mesic northern forest, dry-mesic northern forest, dry northern forest, riparian wetlands, upland openings, and disturbed sites such as along roads. See Chapman (1986) for a description of these different plant communities.
The entire project area has also been delineated into Ecological Landtype Phase (ELTP) units, following the Ecological Classification and Inventory System of the US Forest Service (Cleland et al., 1997). Each ELTP unit has been assigned one or more plant associations from the “Habitat Classification System Field Guide for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Northeast Wisconsin” by Coffman et al. (1980). Table 5 lists the different plant associations present within the project area, including the total acreage and total percent of the project area containing that habitat.
Table 5. Plant associations known to occur within the project area.
Portions of the Ontonagon River
Acer-Tsuga-Dryopteris. Sugar maple, hemlock, basswood, beech, yellow birch, red maple, American elm. Podzolized or well developed sand to loam textured soils. Generally morainic in origin, but may be covered by eolian deposit, or may occur on deep eolian deposits over outwash sands.
Acer-Viola-Osmorhiza. Sugar maple, basswood, white ash, yellow birch, ironwood, hemlock, American elm. Loam to silt loam soils. Landform is usually moranic in origin, rolling, and often loess capped.
Complex: AVO & FI
AVO and FI plant associations
Complex: TMC, ATD, TMC
TMC, ATD, and TMC plant associations
Fraxinus-Impatiens. White ash, red maple, sugar maple, black ash, balsam fir. Occurs on loam to clay texture soils with excessive soil moisture. Usually found in upland drainways within morainic landforms.
FI and TTP
FI and TTP plan associations
Fraxinus-Mentha-Carex. Black ash, American elm, red maple, balsam fir. Occurs on soils with excessive soil moisture of various textures.
Picea-Chamadaphne-Sphagnum. Black spruce, tamarack, white cedar. Occurs on deep organic soils.
Tsuga-Acer-Mitchella. Sugar maple, hemlock, red maple, basswood, white ash, yellow birch, ironwood. Found only on clay loam to clay texture soils. The landform is clay loam till (moraine) or a lacustrine clay deposit.
Tsuga-Maianthemum. Hemlock, sugar maple, red maple, yellow birch, white spruce, balsam fir, white pine, red oak, cedar, basswood. Sandy to sandy loam texture soils. Landform is generally moraine or outwash covered moraine.
Tsuga-Thuja-Petasites. Hemlock, white cedar, balsam fir, red maple, sugar maple. This type is limited almost exclusively to lacustrine clay soils with moderate surface drainage.
The above habitat information was used to determine, for each sensitive species, whether or not potential habitat is present within either the project area (Table 4) or the specific areas proposed for project activity. Table 6 lists the species for which there is no potential habitat within areas proposed for project activity. Some of the wetland habitats listed in Table 6 may be found adjacent to areas proposed for project activity. These sites would be protected from effects of project actions by riparian buggers and design criteria. Alternatives 1 and 2 would have no impact on the species listed in Table 6, and these species will not be evaluated further.
Table 6. Sensitive plant species for which no suitable habitat is present within areas proposed for project activity. All aternatives would have no impact on these species. Habitat information is taken primarily from Chadde (1999) and Voss (1972, 1985, and 1996). RFSS = Regional Forester Sensitive Species for the Ottawa NF, RFSS-L = Regional Forester Sensitive Species for some other National Forest in Region 9, but considered likely to occur on the Ottawa NF.
The species discussed below are all those for which suitable habitat is believed to be present within the areas proposed for project activity. Where several plants share the same habitat, analysis is done once for that habitat and suite of plants. Lichens are analyzed separately from plants.
ALTERNATIVE 1 – NO ACTION The no-action alternative is determined to have no impact on any sensitive plant species or habitat. This is based on there being no known locations of sensitive plants within the project area and the observation that the current condition of project area provides suitable habitats for many rare plant species. Ongoing activities within the project area, including recreation, vehicle use, and road maintenance, would be expected to have no impact on any sensitive plant species. Not undertaking fish habitat and watershed improvements listed in Table 2 would have no effect on sensitive plants. The only adverse consequence to sensitive plants that could result from taking no action could be indirect effects from natural forest aging and succession. This could adversely affect species that require open, disturbed, or early successional habitats, and benefit species that require older forests. These effects are discussed under cumulative effects of Alternative 2, since these processes would also occur within portions of the project area that are not proposed for any management activity.
ALTERNATIVE 2 – MODIFIED PROPOSED ACTION
The direct and indirect effect analyses for all listed plant species were conducted at the project area scale because this is where the direct and indirect effects would occur. Direct and indirect effects are addressed for each habitat suite or individual species below. One exception is that indirect effects from the movement or spread of invasive plants are discussed separately, since these effects are not specific to any species or habitat. The analysis area for cumulative effects for the plants is the entire Ottawa National Forest since habitat occurs across the Forest and the plants are so sparse and widely scattered. All past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions that are known or suspected to be contributing to the viability of native flora were considered in the cumulative effects analysis. Cumulative effects are discussed for sensitive plants in one section at the end, since most of the cumulative effects are not specific to particular species or habitats.
Sensitive Plants associated with mesic northern hardwood forest Botrychium mormo - Goblin Fern Botrychium mormo is restricted in range to the northern forests of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, with one site in Quebec (Casson et al., 2002). In general, habitat for B. mormo consists of a rich duff layer in shaded forest floors under mid-aged or older deciduous forest, dominated by northern hardwood species and with a relatively closed canopy (Casson et al., 2002; Chadde, 1999; Wagner and Wagner, 1993). The fern grows in the duff and leaf litter, and is dependent on mycorrhizal associations that allow it to grow whether or not it emerges above the surface. Under some habitat conditions, the fern can remain below ground or below the duff surface for several years (Johnson-Groh et al., 1998). This makes observing the fern very difficult. There are four known sites on the Ottawa National Forest, all from mesic northern hardwoods. Threats include habitat loss from forest management practices and exotic earthworms (Casson et al., 2002).
Botrychium oneidense - Blunt-lobed Grapefern
Wagner and Wagner (1993) give the rangewide habitat for Botrychium oneidense as, “In moist, shady, acidic woods and swamps.” Little is known of this species’ habitat preferences in Michigan because it is not tracked by the State and ferns have not been treated in State floras. The Botrychium oneidense Conservation Assessment (Chadde and Kudray, 2001b) lists 48 occurrences with specific site information from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and two Hiawatha National Forest sites in Michigan. 34 sites are from northern hardwoods, often near a pool or low area, 5 are from mixed woods, 4 are from riparian forest, 2 are from pine habitat, 1 is from a boxelder grove, and 1 is from an odd meadow-woodland. There is one unconfirmed site on the Ottawa National Forest, observed in a low area in northern hardwood habitat. Botrychium oneidense may occur in the same northern hardwood habitat as B. mormo, except that B. oneidense seems to specifically favor ephemeral pools or low areas within northern hardwood habitat.
Cardamine maxima ( = Dentaria maxima) - Large Toothwort. This perennial spring ephemeral occurs in rich, moist deciduous woods and ravines with sugar maple and yellow birch. Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan represent the western edge of the species’ range. In the Upper Peninsula, sites are known only from Gogebic and Ontonagon Counties, including three sites on the Ottawa National Forest. The Michigan Natural Features Inventory Species Abstract for Cardamine maxima (Higman and Penskar, 1999) notes that there are only six known records in the State and that this species is considered extirpated in Maine and New Hampshire. Unlike other species of Cardamine in Michigan, D. maxima apparently does not produce viable seeds, reproducing only through vegetative propagation (Higman and Penskar, 1999), which may contribute to the threats to the species’ viability.
Disporum hookeri - Fairy Bells/Drops Of Gold
Disporum hookeri is primarily a western species, ranging from British Columbia to California and Idaho and Western Montana (Gleason and Cronquist, 1991). In 1968 the species was discovered in Michigan, and remains known outside the main western North American range from only approximately fourteen sites in Ontonagon County, Michigan. Nine of the known sites are on the Bergland and Ontonagon Ranger Districts of the Ottawa National Forest. This lily generally occurs on north-facing slopes in shaded, moist, somewhat rocky mesic northern hardwood habitats. Plants are often located in small depressions that contain more moisture than surrounding microsites, and also are associated with permanent and intermittent rocky drainages. Mladenoff (1990) suggests that Disporum hookeri has been overlooked due to its similarity to its common associate herbs in the genera Streptopus (twisted-stalk), Polygonatum (solomon-seal), and Smilacina (false solomon-seal).
Erythronium albidum - White Trout-lily Voss (1972) described the habitat in Michigan as “Rich deciduous woods and moist thickets.” A Population Viability Assessment (PVA) conducted by species experts in 2000 reported that white trout-lily is especially found in rich deciduous woodlands in low areas and along floodplains (PVA, 2000a). This lily is more common in southern Michigan and Wisconsin (although still occurring on a local basis [Voss 1972]) than in the northern parts of these states, but one site is known from Houghton County (Voss 1972) and sites are known from Bayfield, Ashland, and Iron counties in northern Wisconsin (Wisconsin Vascular Plants Database, 2002). No sites are documented on the Ottawa National Forest.
Panax quinquefolius - American Ginseng This herb occurs in rich, cool woods, on north-facing aspects, on slopes or into wetter woods and rich swamps, in full shade (Chadde 1999; Michigan Natural Features Inventory, 1996a). Soils are often heavy, with thick leaf mold or rotting wood (MNFI 1996). In the Upper Peninsula, ginseng is known only from 5 sites on the Ottawa National Forest, all in Gogebic County. Ginseng is harvested for medicinal purposes and past harvest likely contributed to its rangewide decline. Also, this species is thought to be actively sought by deer as forage, and over-browsing by deer has been implicated in its range-wide decline (Wisconsin DNR, 1995). In response to viability concerns, the Michigan Ginseng Act (Michigan Compiled Laws, 1994a) restricts harvesting of wild ginseng in the State.
Phegopteris hexagonoptera - Broad Beech Fern
This fern occurs in rich, moist woods, usually in full shade, often in moderately acid soils and often in rocky areas (Cody and Britton 1989; A. R. Smith, 1993). Its primary range is to the south and east of the Ottawa National Forest (A. R. Smith, 1993). Cody and Britton (1989) note that the fern usually occurs only on a local basis. There is at least one known site in the Upper Peninsula, from the Hiawatha National Forest (USDA Forest Service, 2000a). The Wisconsin Vascular Plants Database shows two locations in nearby Vilas County. There are no known sites on the Ottawa National Forest.
Tiarella cordifolia - Heart-leaved Foam-flower Chadde (2001) describes the habitat for Tiarella cordifolia as, “Rich deciduous woods of sugar maple, yellow birch, and basswood, often in moist depressions; also occasionally in wetter hardwood-conifer swamps.” There are several sites of Tiarella cordifolia in the lower peninsula, but the species is rare in the Upper Peninsula and in Wisconsin (Voss, 1985; Chadde, 2001; Wisconsin Rare Plants Database, 2002), near the edge of the species’ range. There is one known, but undocumented, site on the Ottawa National Forest, in Ontonagon County. Chadde (2001) shows another site in Gogebic County. Foam-flower is often seen only as a few scattered plants, and is believed to be declining range-wide due to herbivory by deer and habitat loss (PVA, 2000a).
Direct and indirect effects Table 5 lists the plant associations present within the project area. Plant associations within the project area appropriate for mesic northern hardwood species are ATD and AVO. Ecological mapping shows that approximately 31% of the project area is within either of these plant associations. Forest management within Management Area 1.1, however, emphasizes early successional forest habitats, so there are few areas within the project area that currently contain late-successional northern hardwood habitat. Within the areas proposed for project activity, the most likely habitat is found within one hardwood-basswood stand, three hardwood-hemlock stands, and seven mixed hardwood stands. Under Alternative 2, two of the mixed hardwood stands are proposed for thinning, the rest are proposed for selection harvest. All the road construction and other proposed activities tend to be within other, more early successional, forest types.
Thinning and selection harvest could favor habitat for potential sensitive plants by promoting mature forest characteristics. Thinning would promote mature forest habitat by reducing stand density and accelerating the growth of the remaining trees (Lormier, 1990). Selection harvest could favor habitat for mature hardwood-associated plants by hastening development of multi-storied stands with a diversity of age and diameter classes (Lormier, 1990), which are ostensibly favorable traits for hardwood-associated plants.
Thinning and selection harvest could adversely affect potential sensitive plant populations or habitat though (1) physical damage, (2) soil disturbance, or (3) effects from canopy opening. Physical damage could result from slash deposition or plants being trampled by machinery or workers, should harvest activity occur during a time of the year when the species are growing above-ground. Direct and indirect effects to habitat from soils disturbance and canopy opening are discussed below.
Habitat could be directly and indirectly affected by effects on the soil, and effects from canopy opening. Thinning and selection harvest could potentially affect soil conditions though erosion, compaction, rutting, and decrease in site productivity (Sather et al., 1998; Brady and Weil, 1999; Klock et al., 1984). An Ottawa National Forest soil scientist has reviewed the proposed actions and documented the potential effects in the “Soil and Landform” section of the Environmental Assessment. Potential direct and indirect effects of compaction, rutting, and site productivity are reasonably confined to the soil directly beneath where the disturbance factors are taking place (such as machinery operations or skidding of logs). Generally, knowledge of site conditions, soil monitoring of past timber harvests, and the use of design criteria (such as season of operation, restrictions on operations on steeper slopes, restrictions on activities in riparian areas, and revegetation of exposed soil) led to the conclusion the proposed actions would have minimal effects on soil resources. The greatest effects would be “incidental soil compaction” along skid trails and in landings, and effect which would occur on less than 5% of the sale area, and would be mitigated by seasonal freezing and thawing cycles.
Thinning and selection harvest would also temporarily increase the amount of light reaching the forest understory, which could affect more shade-dependent species such as Phegopteris hexagonoptera and Botrychium mormo. Such effects would be temporary, as the remaining canopy grows and fills in. Cardamine maxima and Erythronium albidum are spring ephemerals, species which complete much of their life cycles under light shade (when trees are first leafing out in spring), thus the partial canopy opening of the proposed harvests is not a particular threat to these species. These species would also likely be able to complete their life cycles before timber harvest operations are generally allowed to begin in mesic upland sites.
Soils of many northern mesic forests are vulnerable to effects from the spread of exotic earthworms (Langmaid, 1964; Alban and Berry, 1994; Berlinger, 2000). Exotic earthworms favor some species, but are detrimental to others, including Botrychium mormo (Casson et al., 2002). The presence or absence of exotic earthworms within the project area is unknown. Non-native earthworms or eggs could be introduced or spread by motor vehicles and indirectly by project activities, particularly by timber harvest equipment entering northern mesic hardwood habitats. The existing roads and lack of wetlands prevent any of the project area from being secure from future earthworm invasion.