Draft Meeting Minutes
Kootenai Valley Resource Initiative
November 15th, 2010 - 7:00 p.m., Boundary County Extension Office
Bonners Ferry, Idaho
Committee Members in Attendance:
Chris Clark, (alt.) City of Bonners Ferry, KVRI Co-Chair
Dan Dinning, Boundary County Commissioners, KVRI Co-Chair
Bob Blanford, Business/Industry
Dave Wattenbarger, Soil Conservation District/Ag Landowner
Tony McDermott, Idaho Fish & Game Commission
Pat Behrens, (alt.) U.S. Forest Service - Idaho Panhandle National Forest
Jim Cadnum, (alt.) Industrial Forest
Sandy Ashworth, Social/Cultural/Historical
Patty Perry, KVRI Facilitator, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho
Kristin James, KVRI Recording Secretary, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho
Agency/Others in Attendance:
Laura Roady, Bonners Ferry Herald
Rick Donaldson, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Alan Flory, Boundary County Contractor
Dave Gray, alt. Social/Cultural/Historical
Bryon Holt, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Karen Roetter, Senator Mike Crapo
Sid Smith, Senator Jim Risch
Kurt Pavlat, Bureau of Land Management
Kevin Greenleaf, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho & Pheasants Forever
Lon Postulka, U.S. Border Patrol
Wayne Wakkinen, Idaho Department of Fish & Game
Dan Dinning opened by welcoming everyone to the meeting; introductions followed. The group approved minutes of the October 18th meeting by consensus.
McArthur Lake Corridor Project - Bas Hargrove, The Nature Conservancy (by Tele-conf.):
Bas passed along an update from Robyn Miller, TNC, concerning the Forest Legacy project at McArthur Lake will close in early December. He continued by updating the group on the Proposal to form an Ad Hoc Technical Committee which would look at reducing wildlife vehicle collisions on U.S. 95 in the McArthur Lake Corridor. U.S. Highway 95 in Boundary County has one of the highest rates of wildlife vehicle collisions (WVC) in Idaho. From 2003 to 2009, the Idaho Transportation Department recorded nearly 500 deer, elk and moose road kill incidents between mileposts 490 and 505. Numerous partners in the community recognize the human safety concerns such collisions pose in addition to the loss of wildlife and damage to vehicles. In addition anecdotal evidence suggests that two railroad lines adjacent to U.S. 95 also cause significant wildlife mortality.
TNC is forming an ad hoc technical committee to assess the current understanding of WVCs in the McArthur Lake Corridor. The committee would have the following objectives:
- Gather and review existing information regarding the incidence of wildlife collisions on U.S. 95 and the railroads in the McArthur Lake Corridor.
- Identify collision hot spots with more precision.
- Explore potential causes for high WVC rates in hot spots (e.g. migration patterns, attractants, land features, etc.)
- Identify additional data needs.
- Develop recommendations for identifying and prioritizing the most cost-effective actions to mitigate WVCs.
Wildlife and transportation experts from a number of partner organizations will comprise the committee. TNC recommended inviting the following entities to participate:
American Wildlands Boundary County
Burlington Northern Santa Fe City of Bonners Ferry
Idaho Dept. of Fish & Game Idaho Transportation Department
Kootenai Tribe of Idaho The Nature Conservancy
Union Pacific University of Idaho
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service U.S. Forest Service
Western Transportation Institute
The technical committee will also seek review and comments from additional partners. The technical committee should meet at least once in person after conducting the data gathering and review. The desired timeline for completing the objectives is January 31, 2011. Anyone who is interested is welcome to join. The next meeting will be held the week of December 13th and will include a tour of the highway area.
Question & Answers:
The committee is being developed to make recommendations to ITD?
Yes, with ITD as an audience and other potential funders it will help make a strong case for the biggest hot spot in Idaho for the WVC.
A Value Engineering Study that was initiated by ITD in August the transportation department brought in an entire team to reanalyze the project at McArthur. The draft hasn't been received yet, but the group decided to use a box culvert rather than a bridge. The hits of animals happened on either end of the project and the estimate dropped in half for the cost if a culvert was used instead of a bridge. To get the project funded it needs to be placed in the State Transportation Improvement Plan and it will help with placement if the costs can be cut.
There are also other items that can help WVCs which include animal detections systems, fencing or vegetation management that would all be less expensive than a bridge project.
Selkirk Burn Project - Lee Colson, Fuels Tech. US Forest Service, B.F. Ranger District:
Lee provided information on a preliminary project for the U.S. Forest Service. The maps Lee used will be displayed on the Kootenai Tribe's website, www.kootenai.org
. The purpose is to get the idea out to the public and determine what kind of support there is within the KVRI group. The idea came about from the Myrtle Creek burn which was approximately 3500 acres. Historically most fires in the Selkirk's start in the drainage and the southwest wind blows them to the mouth of the drainage and the fires continue burn northward across the face to the mouth of the next drainage.
Lee looked into the first history from 1885 to 1929, about 45 years, and there were approximately 209,000 acres that burned within that timeframe. In 1930 the USFS started having an impact with wildland fire management. From 1930 to 2010, about 80 years, only about 29,000 acres burned.
The project would burn along the Selkirks, Boulder Creek, and the Keno and Spread Creek areas along the crest and Myrtle Creek drainage. The idea would be to simulate the fires that would have naturally occurred but in a controlled burn. All burns would not occur at the same time, but the idea would be to put the fire back into the environment where possible and model it after the historic burn maps, 1885 to 1929. The benefits of the project are:
- Return fire to the environment
- Protect WUI
- Limit potential fire growth by breaking fuel continuity
- Treating areas impractical to log
- Creating winter range for deer, elk, and moose (from my notes)
The areas being considered are not logistically practical to log because there is limited roaded access, timber productivity is very low, or both. FS is considering the following burn areas: Canida, Smith Creek, Long Canyon, Parker, Eneas, Farnham, Russell, Burton, Myrtle, Snow, Caribou, Ruby, Boulder, Katka, Spread Creek, and Keno.
Question & Answer:
What time of year would the burns take place?
USFS would try to find the right time of year to burn. Spring burns are more likely because they are more able to be approved through the airshed group. Fall burns would represent historically what would naturally have happened. The project is in a very early conceptual stage and there will be input from different disciplines on when the burns could take place and what the burn parameters would be before we proceed further.
Pat Behrens, USFS, added that the KVRI Forestry Committee meetings brought about the thought of the project. Fire is the biggest missing ingredient in our forested ecosystems. We need to incorporate prescribed fire with existing, and future, silvicultural treatments. There would be winter range created and fire protection provided on the west side. The project is still conceptual, but we know that fire is a large missing ingredient and needs to be incorporated on some scale.
Have you looked at the harvestable timber in those areas and if that could be achieved prior to a burn?
Most of the timber is not suitable for timber harvest, as stated earlier is due to poor access and low timber productivity. A lot of the timber is within private boundaries. It was suggested that if harvesting was an option the community may be more supportive of the project. The FS responded that the project would not preclude opportunities to harvest timber, but would actually be designed to incorporate timber harvest where feasible.
Why does it extend so far up Myrtle Creek so far?
The reason the block is so large is because it is the Bonners Ferry watershed. The area would be analyzed a lot more because of the importance of that resource area. Small sections would be burned within that study area rather than the entire area.
Patty summarized for the group: these are all areas where an action needs to be taken. There are potential areas that will be studied to see if there is an opportunity to introduce fire on a small scale in any of the project areas. In following a pattern of how the group has worked before, it is understood that at a landscape scale, these are places USFS wants to look at, but a representative from the District will come back to KVRI discussing the whole scope, the acreage, the soil types, the riparian areas, the protection areas, here's what we want to create and here's "X" amount of acreage that a prescribed burn could be completed.
Will a fire interval become an option?
Usually areas in the District with a southerly facing aspect and drier sites the return interval is average of 35-40 years and can be as frequent as 15 years. Myrtle Creek was 15-75 years on the southern faces. Those details have not been visited enough at this point but definitely are important.
If something occurs where it is economically feasible to helicopter log an area it could be used as another tool?
That's exactly right. Currently it just isn't feasible but is definitely still considered.
The committee met on October 19th and looked at the Integrated Report again. The committee made some initial recommendations which they revisited and added (5) more recommendations.
The group agreed by consensus to submit the Recommendations for the Integrated Report.
Smith/Boundary Creek Working Group:
The group is considering management decisions concerning harvesting/grazing/mowing in order to create spring and fall goose pasture for goslings. Grass land is not suitable for water fowl. There will be a meeting on December 8th @ 5:00 p.m. to discuss these issues with a state representative with NRCS. There are restrictions on dates for removal of vegetation should not occur and there are restrictions on sizes of areas too. After the meeting the group hopes to gain a better understanding.
Caribou Plan Review Status, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS):
The 5-Year Status Review was completed in 2009. FWS reviewed the status of caribou. Does it fit within the Distinct Population Segment (DPS) policy, if it is a DPS what are the threats, are there still threats operating on the species and are they on the magnitude the species should still be listed? Those were a few questions they addressed during the review. A presentation was given to the KVRI group by Suzanne Audet and Rich Torquemada from FWS. The 5-year status review draft was sent out and received back with comments. FWS incorporated the comments and the final recommendation for the status of caribou was released. FWS recommendation was that caribou is a DPS and should continue to be listed under the endangered species act. They were listed as endangered prior to the review.
The caribou was listed endangered in 1984, FWS is required by the act to make a determination whether it's prudent to designate critical habitat for the species. In 1984 it was not prudent to identify or designate any critical habitat at that time. In 1994 FWS came out with a recovery plan for caribou that identified designation of critical habitat as something that needed to be done to recover the species.
In 2009 FWS entered into a settlement agreement with several groups that had asked for FWS to revisit the original idea of critical habitat. The agreement was to make a prudency determination by 2011 whether designating critical habitat for caribou is a prudent thing to do. If it is, in November 2011 a draft proposed critical habitat rule will be published and open for comment for approximately 30-60 days. Around November/December 2012 a final document will be published.
How does KVRI get to be a group that can make suggestions to FWS?
A petition was signed by Selkirk Conservation Alliance, Defenders of Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, and a few others. In 2006 FWS was petitioned by the named groups for critical habitat designation for caribou. FWS did not act quickly enough and the groups sued. In 2009 FWS entered into the settlement agreement.
In November 2010 FWS is in the process of what in regards to the critical habitat designation?
Bryan Holt, FWS, will be gathering information and beginning the process very soon.
The information that Wayne Wakkinen, IDFG, collected on the caribou movement would be very useful for the critical habitat designation?
There are two parts, there was habitat modeling completed. IDFG took the seasonal habitat maps and looked over the telemetry database for the caribou and used a combination to identify the movement quarters.
What other data will be used to designate the critical habitat for caribou?
Kinley studies, Wayne Wakkinen's movement studies, and any other relevant available science. Bryan is new to the caribou team and will be researching to find relevant information and studies to use.
The community does not have any standing in the process until the draft comes out. By that time there are only a few options to be considered. KVRI group is knowledgeable on these issues. There have been agencies that have been allowed in the past to have input that do not hold the governmental status and they should not have the same standing in this process that a government does. Is there anywhere that KVRI could have that ability?
When determining critical habitat, economics have to be considered. To the degree that FWS will have to consider the science, they will also come to the local communities of areas that may be considered for critical habitat and discuss the economic impacts, the hardships that may be created and other related topics. There is a place for KVRI to be involved earlier on for the critical habitat designations as opposed to 5-year reviews and similar processes.
The analysis will be done with critical habitat and the economic piece but it will state that the economics damage will have occurred with the listing therefore the habitat designation will have no greater impact than the listing created?
That may have been the finding for other critical habitat designations. Each case is considered independently.
The more FWS can understand the economics of the situation and some of the hardships that may or may not be as the process moves along it puts everyone in a better place when FWS comes out with a proposed rule.
Has any wolf control been considered as FWS as the rules continue to expand?
Yes it is considered, but it's difficult being one endangered species is being pitted against another. It is a tool in the toolbox. FWS controls depredating wolves on cattle in Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota and elsewhere. It will be considered if they are impacting caribou recovery.
U.S. Forest Service Regional Review Team - Forestry Issues:
On October 25th the KVRI Co-chairs, Patty Perry, Kristin James, Pat Behrens, Linda McFaddan, Mitch Silvers, and Sid Smith met with the U.S. Forest Service Regional Review Team which was meeting to review stewardship contracting. Patty presented information to the group with an understanding of what KVRI is, how we are different than other collaboratives and not solely focused on forestry issues but holistic issues from water quality to endangered species and everything in between. The group looked at the Myrtle Creek burn area and the projects taking place in that area.
Patty added the review team members thoughts maybe be helpful as the forestry committee is reconvened in January and looking over the possibility of the Collaborative Landscape proposal again. Mitch Silvers, Dale Harris, and Robyn Miller all of whom have been involved in the Clearwater Basin Collaborative have offered to help in that effort. Ranotta McNair has also committed her time to helping as the proposal moves ahead. It will be crucial that KVRI board members participate. The project proposal will need to be moved forward through all the individual contacts wherever they are. KVRI needs to make their presence known from here to the Regional Office to Washington, DC. There will need to be a significant amount of time sacrificed from the board members.
Chamber of Commerce North Idaho Legislative Tour:
Every few years the North Idaho Chamber hosts the entire newly elected State Legislators somewhere in the (5) northern counties. This year the site will be Coeur d'Alene - it's was determined that there was not enough time for the group to visit Boundary County. Tina Wilson worked hard with the City, the County, the Tribe and the community to pull together a presentation that would represent our community. There was an opportunity to host a banquet the Sunday evening the legislators were arriving. The Kootenai Tribe decided to host the banquet. That night was solely about Boundary County. Tina did a great job on her presentation and covering all the issues and projects in Boundary County.
Sue Ireland, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, asked Patty to update the group on the Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Project (KRHRP). The Kootenai Tribe of Idaho is ready to implement the first phase of a large-scale ecosystem restoration project in fall 2011 in the Idaho portion of the Kootenai River. The work includes implementing habitat restoration treatments to stabilize eroding banks, trap sediment and promote floodplain development, increase riparian vegetation, and increase channel margin and side channel complexity. The Tribe has pre-approved several general contractors and asked them to provide a preliminary construction cost estimate and project implementation approach for the Tribe to consider. A general contractor will be chosen to provide the Tribe's Habitat Project Management Team with pre-construction services. After the engineers have completed the Phase 1 Final Design, the Tribe will request a construction bid from the general contractor, with specific direction to bring in local qualified subcontractors to perform the work as appropriate.
The next meeting will be held on January 24th, 2010 at the Boundary County Extension Office; the meeting was adjourned at 8:48 p.m.