Posted: Dec 11, 2009 15:35
Draft Meeting Minutes For The Kootenai Valley Resource Initiative
Committee Members in Attendance:
Dave Anderson, Mayor of City of Bonners Ferry, KVRI Co-Chair
Dan Dinning, Boundary County Commissioners, KVRI Co-Chair
Jennifer Porter, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, KVRI Co-Chair
Bob Blanford, Business/Industry
Jim Cadnum, (alt.) Landowner/Industrial
Dave Wattenbarger, Soil Conservation District/Landowner
Ed Atkins, Jr., Corporate Agriculture
Chip Corsi, (alt.) Idaho Fish & Game Commission
Sandy Ashworth, Social/Cultural/Historical
Linda McFaddan, (alt.) U.S. Forest Service - Idaho Panhandle National Forest
Justin Petty, Environmental/Conservation
Patty Perry, KVRI Facilitator, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho
Kristin James, KVRI Recording Secretary, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho
Agency/Others in Attendance:
Karen Roetter, Senator Mike Crapo
Shelley Landry, Congressman Walt Minnick
Chan Nagel, Boundary County Citizen
Barbara Nagel, Boundary County Citizen
Wayne Wakkinen, Idaho Department of Fish & Game
Sue Ireland, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho
Sarah Canepa, Vital Ground Foundation
Kevin Kimp, Idaho for Wildlife
Laura Roady, Boundary County Citizen
Terry Rabot, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Jeff Foss, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Rich Torquemada, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Marie Hattaway, Congressman Walt Minnick
Sid Smith, Senator Jim Risch
Dianna Ellis, Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge
Brad Smith, Idaho Conservation League
Jennifer Porter opened by welcoming everyone to the meeting; introductions followed.
Minutes from October 19th meeting were approved by consensus.
Bull Trout Critical Habitat:
Rich Torquemada, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), presented information on the Bull Trout Critical Habitat and the process. His power point presentation will be available on the Kootenai Tribe's website, www.kootenai.org.
Q & A:
When referencing one of the maps on the slide, it was asked what was meant by the darker colored areas being more protected.
Rich stated all the factors that went into the threat analysis were population condition, current size, trends, habitat condition, threats such as land management and predation. All the factors are analyzed and then scored for the given area using the nationally-recognized NatureServe model.
Is there good historical information on what the size of the population was to begin with? Was there ever a good population?
The data on bull trout ranges from anecdotal to scientifically reproduced population estimates and everything in between. For the purpose of the review there were criteria on what information was used for population presence and absence. There is lots of information that determines what the range of the species is, but to determine where the current locations are and where critical habitat may be, USFWS uses a subset of the best information over the last 20 years. In some areas people have been studying bull trout for 15 years and other areas there isn't good reproducible scientific population estimates but there are catch estimates, records and photos including cultural information from tribes and other groups.
When referencing the map again, it was asked what the open area near the bottom part of the Kootenai Drainage.
It was unclear why it wasn't included in the critical habitat area. Rich speculated the reasoning behind its exclusion could be because it could have an impassible barrier or there could be a lack of suitable streams in the area. He stated when the critical habitat is published in the federal register there will be other maps with a lot more detail and the areas will be better defined and make it easier to make comments on the species, habitat conditions, etc.
What is the definition of a complex river channel?
Complex generally refers to having a variety of aquatic habitat components rather than a simple channel. Some of the components could include large woody debris, boulders, marginal habitats, trees, diversity of substrate, and associated mixtures of these components.
Would the stretch of the Kootenai River from the bridge up to Canada be considered complex?
The habitat itself probably wouldn't be considered complex, but the river in that area could have one or more of the other components of critical habitat like migratory corridor, feeding, have importance to a particular life stage or others. It doesn't mean the clean, cool, clear or complex conditions are there all the time, but the components for the particular primary constituent element need to be in the area. For example, if it's spawning habitat it needs to have a clean sediment substrate and be cold with clear water.
What does critical habitat do? Does it help to identify where to allocate habitat restoration funds? What will it do that's different than what's being done now?
It allows USFWS to do consultation in areas that are unoccupied. It describes the subset of the distributional range of bull trout that is critical. It could be used for recovery planning and help focus recovery efforts. Jeff Foss, USFWS, added that if the fish are present in an area they are already being addressed under section 7 consultation. If there is critical habitat it's likely the consultation and protection measures is covered under section 7 with federal agencies are in place but if the area is unoccupied but considered to be essential to the conservation of the species then there could be protective measures for projects with a "federal nexus" in that particular area that wouldn't otherwise be allowed.
Generally the economic impacts are not great because they are covered under section 7 throughout the distribution area. If the species are not there already and there aren't the primary constituent elements present it does not make any sense to add additional critical habitat. Critical habitat supplies an additional "insurance policy" more or less.
If a landowner has a stream running through their property that doesn't have bull trout present but it is designated for critical habitat if there are any management actions taking place the landowner will have to be permitted and go through consultation process?
The landowner will only need to go through the consultation process if they do anything that is connected to the federal government. For example, if they are planning to alter a stream, stream bank, stabilization project, etc. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) would work with the landowner to develop a biological assessment and then USFWS would work with USACE to address the impact or modify the project.
What is the likely effective change of the permitting process? Currently a landowner would have to go through a permitting process anyway for implementing a project.
If there was a project it would be a typical ESA Section 7 consultation process; define the project area, what are impacts, what are conditions, what's being proposed, etc. Biologists would determine the effect of the project, and either concur (minimal effect) or develop a Biological Opinion with measures to reduce the impact. Generally if it's a beneficial project and effects can be minimized then there usually isn't a problem but if there is an issue that can't be resolved then reasonable and prudent alternatives come into play.
Boundary County has a lot of drainage ditches with the water ending up in an area that may be considered critical habitat. Will this reach into activity that takes place in the drainage ditches?
Since they are not natural water bodies, the ditches themselves will not be designated as critical habitat. Depending on the connection to Critical Habitat, and a federal nexus or permitting activity activities may have to be assessed as to impacts. What is the source of the ditches? Where a they coming from? What are some measures that can be taken?
Dan expressed it would be helpful for the community to know more information on that topic so they can make informed comments if necessary.
A lot of times there have been economic analysis done and when the designation of critical habitat occurs it states there is no economic impact because that species was missing. Will this be a similar analysis or will it be a true economic analysis?
The economic analysis is a part of the designation of Critical Habitat and determines economic impact from the designation. Rich stated that he was unsure if the additional economic costs are being looked at, but the report will be available for public review and comment.
Dan stated the community is concerned because in the past when the listing occurs there is potential economic harm. With some of the other species there have been components that claimed huge land areas as critical habitat designation and was stated there is no economic impact to designation because it occurred when the species was listed. There is a mechanism in place that doesn't really analyze the economic damage that occurs.
Rich added it is important to share comments and concerns. He feels that the impacts Dan mentions as occurring when the species was listed mean critical habitat is designated after a species is listed, and therefore section 7 consultation has to be followed. All the costs embodied in section 7 are already considered. Designated critical habitat will only increase the cost in areas that may not have been covered under section 7 to begin with. Chip clarified it would be in places where the animal doesn't exist but is needed for recovery.
There is a debate of what the cost and benefits are of listing the species. They look at the significant impacts of the lands, benefits, etc.
The critical habitat doesn't effect land management above the high watered mark, its section 7 that effects that correct?
Rich confirmed that the critical habitat itself does not expand past those boundaries but the section 7 does.
Chip Corsi, IDFG, clarified that there is so much overlap between section 7 and critical habitat that it is easy to get wrapped up in designations. It is important to recognize that most of the process for bull trout habitat would have to be done under section 7 regardless of the critical habitat designation. The critical habitat designation was a step USFWS had to go through to obey the court order. It adds another layer. A frustration will be in areas that there are no bull trout present but may be important for the recovery will be hard for some people to come to terms with.
There has been a lot of talk about process, regulations, and section 7. It's easy to lose sight in the long term goal; bringing back the fish. Do you know what needs to be done in the Kootenai watershed to bring back the bull trout species? Do you know where there are strong populations opposed to areas where the species may have been present before but no longer are there?
Rich stated prior to listing there were studies that indicated bull trout were declining. Through the listing process USFWS had to determine whether information was correct. There have been people that have been working on the restoration projects throughout the period. As USFWS learn more they are able to focus their efforts. Species were listed and there are draft recovery plans. These gave USFWS an idea of the types of projects that needed to take place and the areas that were of particular importance. Projects from draft plans have been going on. A lot of work has been done across the entire range. Projects include improving fish passage, replacing culverts, stream habitat improvement, screening water diversions, negotiating for increased stream flows, etc. The final recovery plan will be more definitive as far as what is needed in each area.
Unfortunately people look at the critical habitat designation as a negative, but bull trout are an indicator species of the health of an environment. They need cool, clean water and we all need cool, clean water. If the species can be used to focus efforts for restoration of the stream system everyone will benefit.
Along the lines of the fishing opportunities, what is the delisting process? How do we move toward allowing a sporting activity to take place in our system?
There are mechanisms within the act that allow special provisions where the state has a management plan in place that insures protection. The management plan would be in the form of a fishing management plan that would state populations are robust if harvest or fishing takes place in a certain way it can be maintained as progress towards recovery. Under special conditions that are approved there can be fishing. There may be restrictions but there is some flexibility on an area by area basis.
The delisting would be in drainage or a unit?
From a managers standpoint it would be nice to delist by geographic unit. It's unclear whether USFWS has the ability to do that. It's constantly being tested in court, for example in the case of wolves and other species. One goal of the critical habitat and recovery effort for bull trout is to have the ability to delist within a smaller geographic unit.
Does the management fall under IDFG or is it still under USFWS?
For fishing, using the South fork Flathead River Drainage as an example, the species is still listed but there is a special 4d rule that allows this kind of management activity [fishing] to occur under strict guidelines. Monitoring is still in place to make sure recovery is still taking place.
The next meeting will be held on Friday, November 20th at 8:00 a.m. at the Kootenai Tribal Office. Patty asked those that collected the temperature monitors to please bring them to the meeting to give to Bob Steed so DEQ can get the information downloaded. There were approximately 20 monitors dispersed this season.
Boundary/Smith Creek Working Group:
The group decided to meet four times per year. Meetings will not necessarily be held quarterly. There will be a late winter early spring planning meeting, summer on site tour, late summer meeting for fall planning and late fall to early winter meeting for wrap up. The group will meet in January for budget planning and looking at ideas for new projects and funding.
For the new members at the meeting it was explained the idea of the group is to use the public as a resource to help the group with management direction. There were wheat farms that had been planted, drained and diked. The wheat was replaced with wetlands and is managed as so to provide habitat for fish and wildlife, primarily for waterfowl. Some of the projects that have been completed include trails for hiking, picnic area, weed management, and crops that would help bring in wildlife.
The idea of the group is to put ownership back to the community for lands that are in the community.
Congressman Minnick Collaborative:
Patty stated at the last KVRI meeting Congressman Minnick was willing to work with Bonner and Boundary County where there maybe opportunities for a collaborative that would determine if it could benefit both and move ahead projects or legislation to benefiting communities in the management of the federal forests.
During the meeting hosted earlier in the day in Sandpoint by Congressman Minnick's staff, there was a discussion regarding the opportunity. This was mentioned at the October KVRI meeting & the group felt it was a good idea to have someone attend and provide an update. Dan Dinning attended as a particpant, Jennifer Porter attended as an observer, and Patty Perry as an observer as well.
There was much discussion about needs, ideas, and what folks would like to collaborate on. In the afternoon the group had hoped to round up some goals or a focus, but nothing in particular was brought together. The next steps agreed to are meet in January, and some direction for that meeting included mapping by the USFS that would show the federal ownership in the two county area, along with any current designations, look at habitats that would help give folks a picture of what is on the map and where there could be potential for active management and then if there is a need. The group also discussed have a presentation from KVRI to providing an overview of what the group has been working on for the last 9 years, and how the group operates. Congressman Minnick's staff will be putting together a survey to be distributed to those around the who have been participating, in order to get a better understanding of what people are bringing to the table.
Another component that was discussed was economic development. There is a big emphasis on federal lands, but there were discussions on ways to drive economic development in the two counties.
Is this a group that will continue to meet?
Patty stated the future of the group is unclear at this point, but the people see there is a benefit of talking together. It's undetermined how the group will take shape, but there is an agreement to meet in January. By the next meeting or two, people will possibly be ready to decide if they are willing to stick with the group and for a focus/direction. It's a large landscape and a diverse group. It takes time to shape an effort of this magnitude. There isn't much time if the group wanted to catch legislation that would get on any bills coming in the next year to two years. The group doesn't have to get legislation it's simply an opportunity Congressman Minnick is giving to the two counties, but if it takes a longer term to develop, he's not opposed to that either.
The next meeting may be held in Boundary County.
How did the group feel about the current timeline given the diversity at the table?
Pretty much anyone who has been involved in collaboration before felt it was an impossible timeline, and anyone who was a newcomer felt they could get it done. With some of the map overlays available, it's conceivable that there are some areas of general forest where there could be activities going on. There could be some restoration work that could be done and produce by products from that, but there may not be funding to have that completed. Instead of locking the group into legislation that would define what would be done with specific land bases. There is plenty of opportunity for both counties to look at their areas and say there could be some economic development done in these areas, but projects may not be completely rounded together. It could be worth considering the development of legislation that would focus on funding for pilot project type work on for specific activities in the two Counties. It depends on how much the group wants to be boxed in or leeway they want to give. Patty stated in groups she's worked with it always good to try to get some small successes on the ground and build confidence among the people working together. The group discussed at length that Boundary County has a great mechanism in place (KVRI) and there is no intent to break that, but to build on how Boundary County could use the opportunity to make it better or how others could look at what KVRI is doing and that doesn't quite fit what they want to do but it could be tweaked to make it work better in that area.
Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC):
Wayne Wakkinen, IDFG, stated the meeting was held in Troy, Montana on November 4, 2009.
Mike Herrin, Chairman of the Information & Education Task Force, gave a report. They have a lot of coloring books to get out. The main IGBC has $36k in grant money available which is dispersed among all ecosystems. Grant proposals are due December 4th. There will be a proposal submitted for this area, if there are any ideas for a grant proposal please contact Wayne Wakkinen.
Linda McFaddan gave a short overview of the Access Task Force Report that KVRI group has already seen.
Kim Annis, Bear Mitigation Specialist from Montana, gave a short update. The funding for her position runs out in February without additional money she will be gone and the position will be gone. She does have a grant proposal out that will hopefully extend her position, but nothing is certain. She conducted a public electric fence workshop in Libby, Montana. If the Grizzly Bear subcommittee would like to follow up on that it might be good to have Kim give a presentation to the group before February.
One of the programs Kim has is the Loaner Bear Resistant Trash Cans for residential folks. Instead of trying to get a bear resistant trash can for everyone she has a stock pile of trash cans that she keeps to loan out to residents on an as needed basis. IDFG has 40 residential bear resistant trash cans that are at the Priest Lake Ranger District currently. A loaner program may be a good way to get people to use them. Kim was also able to use electric fencing to reduce sanitation in the Boulder Creek area.
There was one mortality in the Cabinet Mountains on November 2nd. It was an adult female grizzly bear with two yearlings. The two yearlings were not found. The killing is under investigation but will likely be ruled as a self defense killing with no prosecution. The fate of the two yearlings is unknown but it was a good huckleberry crop and they may den up together for the winter. Unless there is information received through hair sampling and DNA studies it is likely the fate will not be known. There were no mortalities in the Selkirk Mountains this year.
Wayne Kasworm gave an update. He caught three grizzly bears in the Yaak this year that are fitted with GPS collars. He has two hair snare projects. One project is south of the Clarkfork River out of the ecosystem to look at possible recurrence of grizzly bears in that area. That project was done this summer. There were remote cameras on many of the sites. They didn't get any photos of grizzly bears so they can't confirm information yet. The samples will be sent off to the lab in Nelson, British Columbia. The second project was a hair snare site in the Cabinet Mountains with cameras too. There were pictures of three different grizzly bears. One of the grizzly bears was a female with two cubs which he believes was the female that was killed.
Charlie Robins, researcher with Washington State University, through hair analysis he looked at diet of the bear composition. Nitrogen and carbon isotopes and tell what component of their diet is from meat which is a nitrogen component as opposed to plants which is a carbon component. He has been able to gather samples from all the grizzly bear populations in the United States. He looked at predominance of meat versus plant material in their diet. The Selkirk and Cabinet Yaak bears are primarily plant eaters. When taking another look at the carbon component, it can be determined whether bears feed mostly on C3 or C4 plants. C3 plants are agricultural plants like corn or sunflowers where C4 plants are wild plants like huckleberries. It was stated that bears that showed up real high with a C4 component were known problem bears that were getting into sunflowers and corn feeders. There is an opportunity to tell the component of a possible problem bear.
There have been 6 different grizzly bears tracked north of highway 3 in British Columbia. All the bears were fitted with GPS collars. One of the males slipped the collar almost immediately because his neck was bigger than his head.
IDFG has been working with Michael Procter in Canada. He has been working on habitat modeling based on the GPS collars in Canada. It will validate the modeling south of the border with the GPS collars and the old telemetry. The hope is to gain a base for habitat modeling which will help lead to management decisions.
The group worked on the 2010 action plan.
The next meeting will be held on May 19th and 20th in Sandpoint. The first day will be the business meeting with the second day having the possibility of a field trip to the Lightning Creek Restoration area just outside of Clarkfork.
Sarah Canepa added there was discussion and concern with Kim's position being in jeopardy but also concern about the jeopardy of funding with folks that hold positions directly related to human bear complex and what the future is of those positions and how the community can express the need and value of those positions. There was also discussion of how to deal with the shortage of funding in general.
There was discussion about sanitation and food storage issues. There was an ad-hoc group formed to go over what has been done recently and what still needs to be done in terms of campgrounds and back country areas.
Chan Nagel brought up a news broadcast that he watched on an area in Montana where a fence had to be put up around a school to keep the bears out. They eventually had to put up electric fencing around it also.
There was discussion on who would continue with the upkeep of the fence in the Montana area. There wasn't anyone that was familiar with the situation Chan was speaking about.
Sarah wanted to add most of the sanitation efforts taking place in Northern Idaho and Northwestern Montana that have the human bear conflict positions receive money from private foundations and grants. A lot of the funding is not coming from state and federal agencies. Many of the sanitation projects are funded from non-profit organizations or donations going out and trying to support communities to reduce conflicts between wildlife and humans. The position that Kim Annis holds has only received private funding and is applying for private funding now. She is a Fish, Wildlife and Parks employee but she has only been funded through private sources because the state has been unable to secure the position.
The grizzly bear subcommittee has tried tackling some of the issues in the community related to grizzly bears. They have received funding to help fence dumpster sites and cleaned up a lot of the sanitation areas around the county. They have tried not to make an attractant and identify what attracts wildlife into community back yards. There hasn't been an issue where any agency has allowed the bear to become a threat to humans.
Wayne captured some remarkable pictures from the remote cameras he had placed for the hair snare project. He got some pictures in the apple orchards of some grizzlies that came in approximately November 19th.
Forestry Committee Discussion:
Patty stated at the last meeting the group discussed picking up after the Myrtle Creek project and trying a broader forestry effort and creating a Forestry Sub-Committee. There had been discussion about a federal program that may fit with the group's intentions. Linda McFadden, District Ranger, provided the information that was referenced at the last meeting in a handout - Collaborative Foest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLR). This program may or may not be helpful to the Forestry Sub-Committee…..it is a competitive funding opportunity that could help to accomplish some work on the ground.
The group talked further about forming the committee and how to do that. Patty will work on pulling a group together to discuss next steps; she'll send out a note with broad distribution-including folks that don't necessarily attend all the meetings but may have some knowledge and interest.
Is this the Forest Landscape Restoration Act?
Yes it is. It was stated by an attendee that the funding is offered on a competitive basis by Forest Service. There are a number of proposals in Montana for this year as well as central Idaho. It was recommended that some of the other proposals be looked at to see likelihood and competition of the funding.
Patty didn't believe the committee would be able to get a proposal in this year, but she had discussed is with Ranotta McNair would expressed the committee might be able to get in on the next process and have a good opportunity. In the meantime the group would look at other funding as well.
Patty will pull together a work group after the 1st of the year and discuss next steps. Dianna thought it was a good idea and was looking over the project description and felt there are benefits of the local economy and the proposal could include Myrtle Creek watershed and the refuge. There is bull trout present in Myrtle Creek. The refuge's fisheries resource office that surveyed earlier in the summer confirmed bull trout in Myrtle Creek.
How does it work to take all lands approach to forest restoration that includes close coordination with other landowners to encourage collaborative solutions through landscapes operations, but the money can only be used for national forest service lands?
In areas where there is more mixed ownership it would be more applicable, but where we are the group could take a landscape approach and be guaranteed it would be national forest. If there was an area where the Boundary Creek meets with the national forest or the refuge and different ownerships than a private land match could be used. The restoration activities have to be completed on forest lands.
Patty suggested first steps of the group would be to look at maps and look at areas based on the Idaho Roadless Rule and research each area independently for the values that are there and treatment needs.
A notice will be sent out to the entire group encouraging participation.
Futures Game & Speaker:
Sandy Ashworth mentioned a special event to be held on Thursday, November 19 from 6pm to 9pm in the Memorial Hall at the fairgrounds. The event is sponsored by the Horizon project steering committee, now the Boundary County Community Foundation. David Buerle, internationally renowned community revitalization specialist, will be returning to Bonners Ferry to introduce the "Futures Game". It's a game that has been designed by regional folks to give community members a method to look at what kind of drivers are impacting the region's economy, communities and environment. By playing the game it forces community members to look at the long view. When folks make decisions they are usually in support of decisions that have already been made and people tend to see immediate results without realizing there can be nasty results 10, 15 or 20 years later.
Boundary County was a Horizons community. A group came up with a community vision of what the people would like Boundary County to be in 10, 20, and 30 years into the future. The game helps all community members to look at how decisions are made within the community. As the game is played everyone is given options to make a variety of choices. As decisions are made within the small groups they are asked to evaluate their importance by the triple bottom line: economic, social and environmental impacts. It will generally allow the community to start a conversation on what they would like to see happen in the future and how to get there.
The game is open to anyone and everyone that is interested. Childcare may be provided for those that need it.
The next meeting will be held on January 25, 2010 at the Boundary County Extension Office; the meeting was adjourned at 9:07pm.