BPA Fish and Wildlife FY 1997 Proposal

Section 1. Administrative
Section 2. Narrative
Section 3. Budget

see CBFWA and BPA funding recommendations

Section 1. Administrative

Title of project
South Fork Snake/Sand Creek Wildlife Mitigation

BPA project number   9505700

Business name of agency, institution or organization requesting funding
IDFG

Sponsor type   ID-State/Local Agency

Proposal contact person or principal investigator
 NameJerome Hansen
 Mailing addressIdaho Dept of Fish and Game
600 S. Walnut Street
Boise, ID 83707
 Phone208/334-3098

BPA technical contact   Allyn Meuleman, EWP 208/334-1005

Biological opinion ID   Interim Wildlife Agreement

NWPPC Program number   11.3F.5

Short description
Continue implementation of measures identified in the South Fork Snake/Palisades Wildlife Mitigation Environmental Assessment. Address wildlife losses in riparian habitats due to Palisades Dam. Complete planning and implementation of Sand Creek and related projects. Protect habitats through acquisition /easement tools and enhance wildlife habitats on public lands.

Project start year   1995    End year   

Start of operation and/or maintenance   1997

Project development phase   Implementation

Section 2. Narrative

Related projects
This project is related to Remaining Palisades Wildlife Mitigation, a new project being submitted for funding by the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes [ NPPC Program Number 11.3D.8 ]. Idaho Fish and Game and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes have been and will continue to coordinate on planning and implementation of all Palisades wildlife mitigation, including the South Fork Snake, Sand Creek, and Remaining Palisades projects.

Project history
Construction of Palisades Dam was completed in 1958 impacting 18,565 acres of wildlife habitat, including the 15,600 acre reservoir. The Palisades Wildlife Loss Assessment, completed in 1985, estimated 37,068 Habitat Units were lost. The Palisades Wildlife Mitigation Plan was completed in 1986, with the South Fork Snake project ranked as the highest priority by the interagency work group. The South Fork Snake project was also ranked as one of the highest priority projects in the Columbia Basin by the Wildlife Scoping Group. The South Fork Snake Programmatic Management Plan was completed in 1993, and a Final Environmental Assessment for the project was released in October 1995.

Local stakeholders, including landowners, interested publics, and other government agencies have long been involved in developing this project and are expecting implementation to continue. Although many implementation opportunities were missed in the past ten years, exciting opportunities remain to protect one of the largest remaining and most important cottonwood forest ecosystems in the west. As South Fork Snake habitat protection and enhancement projects are implemented in 1996, a proportion of 1997 funds will be necessary for operation and maintenance.

Implementation planning for the Sand Creek project is expected to be completed in 1996. As land values continue to escalate in this area, it is imperative that the Sand Creek and remaining Palisades wildlife mitigation projects move into the implementation phase in 1997.

Biological results achieved
We are currently working with several landowners interested in placing conservation easements on their property along the South Fork Snake and Henrys Fork Rivers. We are exploring several potential acquisitions of riparian habitat. We are also working with other government agencies and counties to implement wildlife habitat enhancement projects on existing public lands. These projects will produce benefits to several target species, especially bald eagle, and will contribute to the integrity of the South Fork Snake riparian corridor.

Annual reports and technical papers
Wildlife Impact Assessment, Palisades Project, Idaho. June 1985.
Wildlife Protection, Mitigation and Enhancement Plan, Palisades Project. November 1986.
South Fork Snake River Programmatic Management Plan, Implementation Phase I. May 1993.
South Fork Snake River / Palisades Wildlife Mitigation Project, Final E.A. and FONSI. September 1995.
South Fork Snake / Sand Creek, Palisades Mitigation; Progress Reports

Management implications
The Programmatic Management Plan and E.A. for the South Fork Snake project addressed a somewhat restricted geographic area. Mitigation opportunities currently exist outside of the South Fork planning area but within the overall Palisades mitigation plan area. As the implementation planning has not been completed for these other areas, we are somewhat limited in our ability to act on these opportunities. This is, in part, why we are hoping to combine implementation planning for the Sand Creek project with the remaining Palisades projects, concurrently tiering to BPA’s Programmatic Wildlife EIS. This is expected to greatly improve planning efficiency.

In general, we have found the interagency work group process to be of tremendous value to coordinate the wildlife mitigation program with other wildlife and natural resource management programs. In the Palisades planning area, the Natural Resources Conservation Service has also assisted us in working with landowners to find common ground between agricultural land uses and protection and enhancement of wildlife habitat. We have found that coordination/cooperation with local interest groups and governments is critical in building public support of the wildlife mitigation program. Some publics have become disillusioned by the long delays between planning and implementation

Specific measureable objectives
Full implementation of the highest priority South Fork Snake project is expected to produce over 9,000 Habitat Units (HUs), the majority of these for bald eagle and other riparian species. Proposed Sand Creek projects are anticipated to produce 4,000 HUs, primarily for elk and mule deer. The remaining Palisades projects would ultimately replace the remaining 23,800 HUs impacted by Palisades construction.

Testable hypothesis
This is not a research project. Long-term monitoring of protection and enhancement projects will allow wildlife and land managers to gain a better understanding of wildlife-habitat relationships.

Underlying assumptions or critical constraints
*Principles of adaptive management would be used throughout the implementation and long-term management of these projects.
* We are assuming there will be willing sellers and landowners interested in participating in this project
* We are assuming local public and governmental support of this project will continue.
* We are assuming funds will be available to implement this project in a reasonable timeframe, and that funds committed to this project would not be jeopardized by other wildlife mitigation projects in the Columbia Basin.
* Funding availability, funding certainty, and funding stability are all critical constraints for this project.

Methods
This is a wildlife habitat protection and enhancement project, not a research project.

We will continue working with landowners to develop mutually agreeable conservation easement terms. Landowners will be compensated for the fair market value of the easement, based on federally qualified appraisals. Habitat Evaluation Procedures will be used to determine HU benefits of each site-specific project. We will also continue to explore opportunities to acquire lands for wildlife habitat. Local county commissioners and other local groups will continue to be coordinated with and kept informed on the status of all mitigation projects.

We will continue working with other agencies and local groups to implement wildlife habitat enhancement projects on existing public lands. Typical habitat enhancement activities include developing conservation plans compatible with wildlife habitat objectives for farming and grazing uses, noxious weed control, fencing, plantings, thinning, and erosion control projects. We are working closely with the Bureau of Land Management, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, Natural Resources Conservation Service, county weed supervisors, and local land trusts to implement the various mitigation projects.

Brief schedule of activities
South Fork Snake project: We will continue working with landowners to develop conservation easements and explore/pursue habitat acquisition opportunities. Annual monitoring of conservation easements acquired in 1996 will begin in 1997. Habitat enhancements on acquired lands would likely be started in 1997. Enhancement projects on existing public lands, such as noxious weed projects, would be ongoing. New enhancement projects would continue to be developed and implemented. As projects are implemented, the focus will shift from project implementation to Operations and Maintenance by 2001.

Sand Creek project: We expect to complete implementation planning for Sand Creek and the remaining Palisades projects (see related ‘Remaining Palisades’ new project submitted by Shoshone-Bannock Tribes) by late 1996 and begin implementation in early 1997.

Biological need
The riparian habitats along the South Fork Snake River represent one of the largest remaining cottonwood ecosystems in the western U.S. The primary threat is recreational home development. This results in fragmentation of the riparian corridor and associated loss of bald eagle breeding and wintering habitat. Although much of the river corridor is currently under BLM management, there are several key sections which remain unprotected.

The Sand Creek project will protect big game winter habitat which is under threat of loss to both agricultural development (conversion of rangeland to cropland) and recreational home development.

Critical uncertainties
Funding. Cooperating agencies, local interest groups, and landowners quickly lose interest in participating in the mitigation projects when we cannot assure them funding is available to implement the project. This also applies to long-term operation, maintenance, and monitoring.

Summary of expected outcome
In cooperation with ongoing BLM and Forest Service land management, also Natural Resource Conservation Service programs with adjacent landowners, the South Fork Snake and Henrys Fork Rivers may truly be able to be managed as functioning ecosystems. The mitigation projects will be able to address some of the critical gaps in these ecosystems. Concurrently, the mitigation obligation of BPA will be significantly reduced.

We have found one of the big concerns of local residents in the project areas is loss of open space and loss of the agricultural base. As many agricultural practices are compatible with wildlife habitat objectives, a side benefit of the wildlife mitigation projects is likely to be long-term protection of agricultural lands and communities. Another side benefit will be additional lands available for the general public to use and enjoy.

Dependencies/opportunities for cooperation
We are working cooperatively with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes on all Palisades wildlife mitigation projects as this area is culturally and historically important to the Tribe. We are currently working out a wildlife mitigation agreement between Idaho Fish and Game and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.

We are currently working in partnership with several other groups to implement mitigation projects. These include the Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resource Conservation Service, High Country Resource Conservation and Development Area, Bonneville, Jefferson, and Madison County weed supervisors, and Teton Valley Land Trust. These groups have already contributed countless staff hours to develop site-specific mitigation projects. We are exploring partnership opportunities with The Nature Conservancy, Idaho Soil Conservation Commission, local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Madison County Parks and Recreation Dept., Henry’s Fork Watershed Council, Ducks Unlimited, and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

We are planning to tier the Sand Creek (and remaining Palisades) implementation plan to BPA’s Programmatic Wildlife EIS. Timely completion of that EIS in 1996 will be important.

A key parcel of cottonwood riparian habitat critical to the integrity of the South Fork Snake River may become available in 1996 or 1997. The cost of this parcel is estimated to be over two million dollars. The 1997 budget estimate reflects this potential funding need.

Risks
The credibility of BPA, Idaho Fish and Game, and the NPPC Columbia Basin Wildlife Program would be at risk if funding does not allow us to follow through with implementation and long-term maintenance of mitigation projects.

Monitoring activity
A monitoring plan will be developed for each mitigation project as part of the site-specific management plan. Habitat Evaluation Procedures (HEP) will be used to determine the HU benefits of each project. The HEP methodology may also be used for long-term monitoring and to determine benefits of habitat enhancements.

Section 3. Budget

Data shown are the total of expense and capital obligations by fiscal year. Obligations for any given year may not equal actual expenditures or accruals within the year, due to carryover, pre-funding, capitalization and difference between operating year and BPA fiscal year.

Historic costsFY 1996 budget data*Current and future funding needs
1995: 105,257
New project - no FY96 data available 1997: 3,000,000
1998: 1,000,000
1999: 1,000,000
2000: 800,000
2001: 800,000

* For most projects, Authorized is the amount recommended by CBFWA and the Council. Planned is amount currently allocated. Contracted is the amount obligated to date of printout.

Funding recommendations

CBFWA funding review group   Wildlife

Recommendation    Tier 1 - fund

Recommended funding level   $3,000,000

BPA 1997 authorized budget (approved start-of-year budget)   $3,000,000