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Weekly Fish and Wildlife News
March 4, 2011
Issue No. 565

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Table of Contents

* ESA-Listed Steller Sea Lions Munching Away On Non-Listed White Sturgeon; Management Options Few

* States Seek Delisting Of Steller Sea Lions; NOAA To Decide By Aug. 30 Whether Warranted

*Predator-Prey Relationships, Other Lake Billy Chinook Issues Focus Of Bull Trout Study

* Summer Steelhead Run Expected To Be About Average; Data For 2010 Return Shows Wild At 37 Percent

* NMFS’ Delivers Draft Proposal To EPA On Protecting Listed Salmon From Certain Pesticides

* Climate Change: Study Says Lodgepole Pine In PNW Could Nearly Disappear By 2080

* More Imnaha Wolves Collared, Pack Count Now At 14; One Wolf Found Dead March 1

* Appeals Court Ruling Ends Potential Of Natural Gas Terminal Plan In Estuary Moving Ahead

* Idaho Fish and Game Commission Announces Six Candidates For Director Position

* IDFG Evaluates Whether Taking Broodstock From South Fork Clearwater Will Help Boost Steelhead Run

* Oregon Releases Revised Draft Of Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan


* ESA-Listed Steller Sea Lions Munching Away On Non-Listed White Sturgeon; Management Options Few

Steller sea lion predation on white sturgeon in the waters below Bonneville Dam this year has continued its rapid growth and in the process left fish and wildlife managers with a problem for which there are really few answers.

Over the past few years populations of white sturgeon in the lower Columbia River have been slumping. Fishery managers estimate the abundance of legal-size fish (38-54-inch fork length) has declined from averages of 131,400 during 1998-2007 and 91,100 during 2008-2010 to a projection of 77,000 this year.

Concerns have forced the states of Oregon and Washington to cut the lower river harvest allocation from 40,000 in 2009 to 24,000 in 2010 to 17,000 in 2010.

The lower river population has to this point been considered robust and not in need of protections under the Endangered Species Act. Thirteen salmon and steelhead stocks, bull trout, Kootenai River white sturgeon in north Idaho and other Columbia River basin fish species are ESA listed.
“White sturgeon aren’t listed, and hopefully they won’t get listed,” said Charlie Corrarino, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation and Recovery Program manager.

From Jan. 7 through Feb. 23 the Stellers had been observed taking 1,136 white sturgeon compared to the previous record -- 1,100 last year for the entire winter-spring season. In 2010 observers atop the dam noted that 676 sturgeon had been taken through Feb. 24.

Research has been ongoing since 2002 at the dam, which is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to evaluate the behavior of marine mammals that swim up the Columbia to feast on, primarily, salmon and white sturgeon. The observations begin in January and continue through May when most, if not all, of the Steller (SSL) and California (CSL) sea lions have left for the Pacific about 146 river miles downstream.

The study was launched because of concern about the impacts of California sea lions on ESA-listed spring chinook salmon and steelhead stocks. Around the start of the century the dam workers and fish and wildlife officials began to notice an increase in CSLs making the trip to Bonneville to feed mostly on spawning salmon that mill around below the dam in search of a passage route – the fish ladders.

The SSLs likewise discovered an all-you-can-eat banquet, white sturgeon that have in recent years congregated literally in the thousands in areas below the dam to idle through the winter.

The vast majority of the salmon take is by CSLs, and the vast majority of the sturgeon take is by SSLs.

The number of SSLs seen visiting the dam each winter-spring has climbed steadily: Zero in 2002 to 3, 3, 4, 11, 9, 39, 26 and then doubled to 75 different animals last year. And last year’s record could be surpassed. Already researchers have documented at least 34 different individual SSL’s since Jan. 7, compared to 21 through Feb. 24 a year ago.

Observers have also seen SSL’s prey on 508 fish of unknown species, as compared to only 100 by this time last year.

“It is likely that at least 90 percent of the unknown fish caught by Steller sea lions were sturgeon,” according the Oct. 25 weekly status report prepared by Corps researchers Robert Stansell, Bjorn van der Leeuw, and Karrie Gibbons. “The Steller sea lions are catching many of the fish at the downstream range of our viewing area, making fish identification very difficult.”

A record daily high of 122 fish were observed caught by SSLs on Jan. 11. Most sturgeon caught are in the 2- to 4-foot-long range.

“Few fish are passing the count stations (1,024 steelhead, 8 Chinook) since January 1, slightly less than last year. Total salmonid catch to date (96 expanded by interpolating for weekends) is less than last year (138) but similar to 2009 (82), mostly by Steller sea lions,” the report says.

Through early this week only 3 CSLs had been spotted at the dam. A total of 89 CSLs were identified at the dam last year and the number has ranged from 54-104 since 2002. The numbers of California sea lions at the dam typically starts to build as the numbers of spring chinook salmon arriving at the dam mount. Peak spring chinook counts at the dam are usually in late April to early May. A total of 12 chinook had been counted in the dam’s fish ladders through March 1.

Federal, state and tribal entities have over the years attempted to “haze” the sea lions with cracker shells, seal bombs and other pyrotechnics and well as acoustic devices but have had little success at reducing predation.

The states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington sought and received authority under Section 120 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act to trap and permanently remove, to zoos and aquariums or by lethal means, CSLs that had been observed eating salmon and the dam. Section 120 provides an option for removing pinnipeds that are having a “significant” impact on listed stocks.

A total of 40 CSLs, which are not ESA listed, were removed over the past three years. But late last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered that the lethal removal authority decision by NOAA Fisheries be vacated. NOAA Fisheries is now mulling whether it can, or should, correct the flaws noted by the appellate court panel and issue a new decision.

Section 120 is not an option for attempting to control SSL predation on the unlisted white sturgeon. And the big pinnipeds’ appetite for listed salmon does not likely reach that significant threshold as required in the MMPA. Last year the CSLs’ observed salmonid take was 3,276; the SSLs’ was 634. In its ruling the Ninth Circuit said that NOAA had not adequately explained how the CSLs impact on protected salmon were significant while deeming larger hydro and harvest impacts not significant.

Meanwhile the states have launched research under MMPA permits to trap SSLs, mark for identification purposes and “put instruments on them so we can track their foraging behavior,” said Robin Brown, the ODFW’s Marine Mammal Project leader and a veteran of more than 30 years of pinniped research. A total of eight were trapped and marked last year, and this year’s permit allows the trapping of 20.

A few Steller sea lions continue to be observed hauled out inside the Bonneville powerhouse two corner collector outfall at times, but none have been seen this year using three traps deployed below the dam, the research report says.

The hope is to trap 10 to 20 per year and, with the followup monitoring, build a data base chronicling the SSLs’ residency time in the river, their feeding habits, movements and other attributes.

The SSL trend is exactly following the trend set by the CSL. Until the past 10 years ago, few of the pinnipeds were seen upriver, much less all the way up at the dam. But in recent years the populations of both species that move inland during the late winter and spring has increased.

Brown said of the 1,200 or so CSLs marked since the late 1990s, 1,000 at Astoria, Ore., near the river mouth, only about 10 percent of them have been seen upriver.

The SSL research was launched to build a baseline of information on the animals, much like has been done for the CSLs, to help inform potential management actions to reduce the fish-pinniped interactions.

With building numbers of SSLs in the area below the dam, it is possible that their predation on salmon could grow to significant levels that would allow control actions under the MMPA’s Section 120, if the species was delisted. Oregon and Washington last year jointly requested the NOAA Fisheries Service delist the eastern population of SSLs, which live and breed along the coast from southeast Alaska down to central California.

“We don’t want that to happen,” Brown said of the prospect of significant SSL predation on salmon. But the state agencies want to be prepared when and if any management options emerge.

“Maybe someone in Congress will step up and realize we need more management tools,” Brown said.

The arrival of the first CSL at the dam last week is the latest since 2004. Stansell and Brown say that might be a sign that the removal program has had an impact.

“It’s got to be due to the removal program,” Stansell said of the late appearance of CSLs. In past years arrivals began as early as in January.

Brown said that last year’s removals in particular were animals that had a history of arriving early to begin their pursuit of salmon.


* States Seek Delisting Of Steller Sea Lions; NOAA To Decide By Aug. 30 Whether Warranted

The states of Oregon and Washington on Aug. 30, 2010, petitioned NOAA Fisheries to delist the eastern “designated population segment” of Steller sea lions. Two days later, the state of Alaska submitted a similar petition.

The eastern DPS, in a range extending from Cape Suckling in southeast Alaska east to British Columbia and south to California along the coast, is listed as threatened under the ESA. The average weight for an adult male is 566 kilograms or about 1,226 pounds and 263 kg (580 pounds) for females with maximum weights of about 1,120 kg (2,470) and 350 kg (772) respectively.

In a 90-day petition finding issued Dec. 13, NOAA Fisheries found that the petitions presented substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petition action “may” be warranted. Comments on the finding were accepted through Feb. 11.

The federal agency is now amidst the ESA process of determining whether or not delisting is indeed warranted. That decision is due by Aug. 30, one year from the date of the receipt of the first petition.

If NOAA Fisheries decides the delisting is warranted, another public comment period would ensue. Then the agency would take the information gathered through the process and launch into the development of a “final rule” – the actual listing determination. 

The process will be exhaustive scientifically, according to Lisa M. Rotterman, Steller sea lion coordinator for NOAA Fisheries’ Protected Resources Division, Alaska Region. As coordinator of the species’ status review and petition review processes Rotterman said she is conscious of the need to make an unbiased evaluation.

“We want to make sure we have a very valid scientific reason” if it is decided the eastern DPS is to be delisted, or if it is decided it is not, she said. Rotterman said at this point the jury is still out.

“We’ve gotten quite a few comments and a wide variety of opinions about what we should do,” Rotterman said. They include comments and information from states, tribes, fishing groups, conservation groups, animal rights groups and others.

The states say that 30 or more years of steady growth has lifted the eastern population to a level at which they are no longer in danger.

“We believe that, based on your review of this material and additional information others can provide, the Department of Commerce and NOAA Fisheries will find that the EDPS of Steller sea lions from central California through southeast Alaska has recovered to healthy and sustainable levels of abundance, faces no significant threats as defined under the law and no longer meets the criteria for listing as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act,” the Oregon-Washington petition concludes.

The states note that a revised Steller recovery plan completed by NOAA Fisheries in 2008 reports that the EDPS has been increasing by 3.1 percent or more per year for the 25-year period ending in 2002 and has continue growing at the rate, more than doubling for the southeast Alaska, British Columbia and Oregon population. In 2002 the total EDPS population was estimated to number from 46,000 to 58,000. Much of the turnaround resulted from the near elimination of predator control kills and commercial harvest.

A 2007 study concludes that the “population is now probably as high as it has been in the past century,” the Oregon-Washington petition says.

The Stellers gained protection from commercial exploitation with passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972.

The states’ petition said that “none of the potential threats to recovery of sea lions identified in the recovery plan (predation, harvest, killing, human impacts, entanglement in debris, parasitism, disease, toxic substances, climate change, reduced prey biomass or quality, disturbance, or any cumulative effect of a combination of these factors) appear to be significant sources of mortality for EDPS sea lions, nor do they seem likely to prevent the continued population growth of the EDPS in the foreseeable future.”

“The recovery of the Eastern Steller sea lion DPS is an ESA success story and a good example of government and non-government agencies and other stakeholders working together to develop and implement conservation actions to recover a species from significant declines,” the Alaska petition says. “We offer our assistance in the delisting process. It is important to prioritize this delisting to document this ESA success story and accurately reflect the healthy status of this Steller sea lion DPS.”

“The Eastern DPS of the Steller sea lion is clearly not in danger of extinction now, nor is it likely to be in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future. Consequently, the State of Alaska respectfully requests that NMFS take immediate action to remove the Eastern Steller sea lion DPS from the threatened list under the ESA.”


* Predator-Prey Relationships, Other Lake Billy Chinook Issues Focus Of Bull Trout Study

It’s a whole new world in central Oregon’s Lake Billy Chinook where a new water withdrawal-juvenile salmon collection “tower” is stirring the reservoir’s temperature-stratified waters and recreating historic seasonal temperature conditions below the Round Butte-Pelton dam hydro project in the Deschutes River.

The $108 million tower, which began operations late in 2009, is intended provide reliable downstream passage for salmon for the first time since the dams were built in the 1960s. It also allows the temperature-selective withdrawal of water to be sent downstream and serves to stir the reservoir, bringing more cold water from the bottom toward the top.

The tower is part of an effort by Portland General Electric, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife – with the help other groups and volunteers -- to reintroduce salmon above the dams by providing passage and restoring habitat upstream and downstream.

Into the mix comes the bull trout, a piscivorous (fish-eating) species that can consume fish up to half of their body length, including young salmon, steelhead and smaller bull trout. The bull trout spawn in headwater streams but spend much of their adult life in the lake.

PGE, in particular, has been concerned that at a blossomed bull trout population may eat up the foundation of the salmon restoration effort – young hatchery salmon outplanted in the three rivers and their tributaries that must swim downstream and across the lake on their journey toward the Pacific Ocean. The hope is that those fish will return as adults to spawn on their own in the wild.

The spring-fed Metolius River has always been a stronghold for bull trout because its cool waters and clean spawning are just what the fish-eating species likes.

The population has thrived so well that, when bull trout were listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened in June 1998, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service judged that there were “sufficient populations to allow some fishing” in the Metolius “arm” of Lake Billy Chinook and elsewhere in the reservoir, according to Bianca Streif, Oregon bull trout coordinator for the USFWS. The Deschutes, Crooked and Metolius all drain into Lake Billy Chinook, which is backed up by PGE’s Round Butte Dam.

Fishing for bull trout is only allowed in Lake Billy Chinook “and a few places in Montana,” Strief said. A revised critical habitat designation created for the species under the ESA in September 2010 includes about 18,795 miles of streams and 488,252 acres of lakes and reservoirs in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Nevada. In Washington, 754 miles of marine shoreline also were designated.

PGE requested that the predator-prey relationship in the lake be investigated to determine if some management action might be taken, such as a loosening of the fishing rules to allow the removal of more bull trout. The USFWS decided that it was time to launch an evaluation of predator-prey relationships in the lake, stock status and other issues in the changing Metolius River-Lake Billy Chinook system. The federal agency convened a panel of five experts to explore the issues.

“I’m pleased this federal agency is taking a hard look at the situation because juvenile salmon and steelhead are very vulnerable to predation during the spring when they pass through Lake Billy Chinook on their migration to the ocean,” said Don Ratliff, senior PGE biologist.

The panel was formed in early February. Its input and other data will be used by the USFWS to compile a final report for release in April or May, The results from the science panel are advisory to the USFWS, which has jurisdiction over any changes in bull trout management because of the species threatened status. Other fisheries resources in the basin are co-managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Warm Springs Tribes, Branch of Natural Resources.

When the bull trout listing determination was made, it included ESA 4d rules that adopted the existing Oregon and tribal angling regulations for bull trout in Lake Billy Chinook. Since then, anglers have been allowed to harvest one bull trout a day in Lake Billy Chinook, provided it is longer than 24 inches. Bull trout fishing is allowed in the Metolius arm for eight months each year: March 1 to Oct. 31. The Deschutes and Crooked River arms are open year-round for bull trout and other trout species. The Metolius River and tributaries are closed to the harvest of wild trout, including bull trout.

Bull trout are the top predator in the Metolius River-Lake Billy Chinook system. The slow-growing fish become piscivorous at about age 2. A 25 incher is likely about 5 years old and weighs about 4.5 pounds, Ratliff said.

He said adjustments to fishing regulations might be needed, such as allowing 16-24-inch fish to be harvested. That is the size range at which a bull trout are most likely to zero in on juvenile salmon sized prey.

The bigger fish are “less apt to eat the small salmon,” Ratliff said.

Changing the 4d rule, a prerequisite for a change in state regulations, is a considerable undertaking since it would require an assessment of the species across its four-state range, not just the Billy Chinook system. And since because the system is experiencing much change -- water temperatures, food production, fish behaviors, etc. -- it might be best to wait until things settle out, until more is known about how the fish and environment react to the changes, Streif said. The report will help the federal agency decide what sort of actions, if any, are needed.

The bull trout are not in many areas because they require very cold water, which is often in limited supply. The Metolius Basin has extremely cold water plus good habitat, and abundant bull trout, thanks also to strict angling limitations and habitat protection measures.

Since 2002, the number of bull trout spawning in the Metolius Basin has been significantly higher than the federal recovery goal of 800 adults on a five-year average, according to Ratliff. Annual spawner counts rose to nearly 2,500 in 2004 and the recent five-year average (through 2010) is just under 1,500, though it has been declining in each of the past four years.

Ratliff points out that PGE, the Warm Springs Tribes, ODFW, the U.S. Forest Service and other partners are working on a myriad of projects to improve flows and habitats for salmon and steelhead. In addition to the new passage facilities at Round Butte, efforts are under way to improve passage at the Opal Spring Hydro Project on the lower Crooked River and at other smaller dams and diversions in the three river tributaries to Lake Billy Chinook.

In the long run, a healthy bull trout population will benefit from restored steelhead and salmon runs because of the increased prey base they represent, Ratliff said.

For more information about the Deschutes Passage project see: http://www.deschutespassage.com/index.html


* Summer Steelhead Run Expected To Be About Average; Data For 2010 Return Shows Wild At 37 Percent

Forecasts released early this week point toward an average upriver summer steelhead return to the Columbia River – an overall run that is expected to total 390,900 adult fish as counted at Bonneville Dam.

Such a return would be slightly greater than the most recent five-year average (2005-2009) of 383,500 fish. It would be slightly smaller than the actual 2010 return of 410,400.

This year’s return is expected to include 112,000 “wild” summer chinook. Last year’s wild return numbered 153,300.

Dam counts now reflect data on whether a passing fish had a fin clipped or is unclipped, which means it was either naturally produced or was released unclipped from a hatchery. Fisheries officials estimate that a relatively small portion, perhaps as little as 10 percent, of the unclipped steelhead are of hatchery origin.

But the U.S. v Oregon Technical Advisory Committee forecasts, like the one released Monday, involve the incorporation of run reconstruction data that allows a more accurate hatchery/wild comparison. TAC’s federal, state and tribal members use biological data collected from research facilities at Lower Granite Dam on the lower Snake River and at Bonneville Dam, located near river mile 146 on the Columbia, to adjust for unmarked hatchery fish.

Upriver summer steelhead returns to Bonneville Dam have been relatively stable for at least the past 26 years (1984-2009). During 1984-2009 Bonneville Dam passage has ranged from 160,800 fish up to 630,200 fish with an average of 309,000 upriver summer steelhead, according to the Jan. 27’s 2011 Joint Staff Report prepared by the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife.

The upriver summer steelhead forecasts include 24,100 (including 6,400 wild) Upriver Skamania index fish, 312,700 (92,700 wild) Group A-run Index fish and 54,100 (12,900 wild Group B-run Index fish in 2011.

The 2010 Skamania return was the largest return observed since 1984. Skamania stock steelhead passage at Bonneville Dam totaled 29,300 fish including 10,400 wild fish. The wild component typically accounts for 20 percent of the return on average, but in 2010 the wild component was 35 percent, according to the joint staff report.

Wild steelhead passing Bonneville Dam during April-October in 2010 totaled 153,300 fish, compared to the preseason expectation of 89,900 fish. The wild fish component in 2010 represented 37 percent of the passage, which is greater than the recent ten-year average of 26 percent.

Skamania stock hatchery summer steelhead are widely planted in the lower Columbia tributaries, including the Willamette Basin. Skamania stock hatchery fish are also released annually in some tributaries upstream of Bonneville Dam, according to the report. Wild lower river summer steelhead are present in the Kalama, Lewis, Wind, and Washougal rivers in Washington, and in the Hood River in Oregon. The lower Columbia River steelhead “designated population segment” was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act on May 24, 1999.

The middle Columbia DPS includes steelhead destined for Columbia River tributaries from upstream of the Wind and Hood rivers upstream to and including the Yakima River (listed as threatened in May 1999). The upper Columbia DPS includes steelhead destined for Columbia River tributaries upstream of the Yakima River (listed as endangered in May, 1999), and the Snake River DPS includes steelhead returning to the Snake River basin (listed as threatened in October 1997).

Summer steelhead passing Bonneville Dam between July 1 and October 31 represent an index count of steelhead which are considered to be either Group A or Group B stock. Group A steelhead are destined for tributaries throughout the Columbia and Snake basins, are characteristically smaller (less than 78 cm length) and spend one or two years at sea, says the report says. Group B steelhead return to the Clearwater and Salmon rivers in Idaho, are generally larger (at least 78 cm length), later-timed than the Group A steelhead, and typically spend two or three years at sea.

The March 1 TAC update also includes a forecast return of 15,200 wild “winter” steelhead. The 2010 return totaled 20,000.

Winter steelhead enter the Columbia River from November through April and spawn from March through June.

The range of winter steelhead includes all tributaries of the Columbia River upstream to Fifteen Mile Creek on the Oregon shore and the Klickitat River on the Washington shore. All wild winter steelhead are ESA-listed, except those within the Southwest Washington DPS that includes populations in Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay and the Columbia River downstream of the Cowlitz River in Washington and in the Willamette River in Oregon.

Fisheries officials are predicting a run of 362,500 (ocean abundance) coho to swim toward Columbia River this late summer and fall. That is similar to last year’s projection.


* NMFS’ Delivers Draft Proposal To EPA On Protecting Listed Salmon From Certain Pesticides

The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking comment on the National Marine Fisheries Service’s draft plan to protect Pacific salmon from six pesticides.

EPA is seeking comments from pesticide users, registrants, and other interested parties on the draft Reasonable and Prudent Measures and Alternatives included in the 1,000-page draft biological opinion, which can be found at http://www.epa.gov/oppfead1/endanger/litstatus/biop4-march2011.pdf
The draft biological opinion, released this week, addresses the potential effects from six pesticides on 28 Pacific salmon and steelhead species listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The six pesticides are: captan, chlorothalonil, 2,4-D, diuron, linuron, and triclopyr BEE.

“After considering the status of the listed resources,” said NMFS in delivering the draft BiOp to EPA, “the environmental baseline, and the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of EPA’s proposed action on listed species, NMFS preliminarily concludes that pesticide products containing triclopyr BEE, linuron, and captan are not likely to jeopardize the continuing existence of any listed Pacific salmonids…”

But NMFS did conclude that the “effects of products containing diruron will destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat for some listed Pacific salmonids.”

And the agency concluded that “the effects of products containing 2-4-D, and chlorothalonil “are likely to jeopardize the continued existence of some listed Pacific salmonids and to destroy or adversely modify designated habitat . . . .”

EPA is also encouraging input from state, tribal, and local governments on the draft RPMs and RPAs to determine whether the alternatives or measures can be reasonably implemented and whether there are different measures that may provide adequate protection but result in less impact on pesticide users.

Comments on the draft RPMs and RPAs must be submitted by April 5.

Comments received by EPA on other aspects of the draft BiOp will be forwarded to NMFS for its consideration. No extensions to this comment period will be provided because NMFS has a legal deadline to issue the final BiOp by April 30.

Key elements in the draft BiOp include:

-- In the proposed RPA, NMFS does not attempt to ensure there is no take of listed species. NMFS believes take will occur, and has provided an incidental take statement exempting that take from the take prohibitions, “so long as the action is conducted according to the RPA and reasonable and prudent measures. Avoiding take altogether would most likely entail canceling registration, or prohibiting use in watersheds inhabited by salmonids. The goal of the RPA is to reduce exposure to ensure that the action is not likely to jeopardize listed species, destroy or adversely modify critical habitat.”

-- Do not apply pesticide products containing 2,4-D, diuron, or chlorothalonil when wind speeds are greater than or equal to 10 mph.

--  Do not apply pesticide products containing 2,4-D, diuron, or chlorothalonil when soil moisture is at field capacity, or when a storm event likely to produce runoff from the treated area is forecasted by to occur within 48 hours following the application.

--  Do not apply 2,4-D directly to salmonid habitats except to control non-native (exotic) invasive species; outside of timing windows to be developed by NMFS for each ESU/DPS; and when the control of non-native (exotic) invasive species cannot be accomplished without adverse effects to native aquatic plants. NMFS “reserves the right to make alterations to spray timing windows as new information becomes available on listed species spatial and temporal distributions.”

--  Within the ESU/DPSs boundary of Upper Willamette River Chinook, Central Valley Spring-Run Chinook, Sacrament River Winter-Run Chinook, Upper Willamette River Steelhead, Central California Coast Steelhead, and California Central Valley Steelhead. do not apply 2,4-D directly to riparian habitat where applications will decrease shading to aquatic habitat, decrease bank stability, or increase erosion.

--  EPA will implement NMFS approved risk reduction measures to address effects from turf and agricultural uses of chlorothalonil products.” 

-- Report all incidents of fish mortality that occur within the vicinity of the treatment area, including areas downstream and downwind, in the four days following application

-- Alternatively, these incidents may be reported to the pesticide manufacturer through the phone number on the product label.

-- In addition to the labeling requirements above, EPA shall develop and implement a NMFS-approved effectiveness monitoring plan for floodplain habitats, and produce annual reports of the results. The plan shall identify representative floodplain habitats prone to drift and runoff of pesticides within agricultural areas. The representative floodplain habitat sampling sites shall include floodplain habitats currently used by threatened and endangered Pacific salmonids, as identified by NMFS biologists. Sampling sites include at least two sites for each general species (i.e., coho salmon, chum salmon, steelhead, sockeye salmon, and ocean-type chinook and stream-type chinook salmon). Sampling shall consist of daily collection of surface water samples for seven consecutive days during three periods of high application for 2,4-D, diuron, and chlorothalonil. The report shall be submitted to NMFS OPR and will summarize annual monitoring data and provide all raw data.

For more information go to http://www.epa.gov/espp/


* Climate Change: Study Says Lodgepole Pine In PNW Could Nearly Disappear By 2080

Lodgepole pine, a hardy tree species that can thrive in cold temperatures and plays a key role in many western ecosystems, is already shrinking in range as a result of climate change – and may almost disappear from most of the Pacific Northwest by 2080, a new study concludes.

Including Canada, where it is actually projected to increase in some places, lodgepole pine is expected to be able to survive in only 17 percent of its current range in the western parts of North America.

The research, just published in the journal Climatic Change, was done by scientists from the College of Forestry at Oregon State University and the Department of Forest Resource Management at the University of British Columbia. It was based on an analysis of 12,600 sites across a broad geographic range.

Lodgepole pine ecosystems occupy large areas following major fires where extreme cold temperatures, poor soils and heavy, branch-breaking snows make it difficult for other tree species to compete. This includes large parts of higher elevation sites in Oregon, Washington, the Rocky Mountains and western Canada. Yellowstone National Park is dominated by this tree species.

However, warming temperatures, less winter precipitation, earlier loss of snowpack and more summer drought already appear to be affecting the range of lodgepole pine, at the same time increasing the infestations of bark beetles that attack this tree species.

The researchers concluded that some of these forces have been at work since at least 1980, and by around 2020 will have decreased the Pacific Northwest range of lodgepole pine by 8 percent. After that, continued climatic changes are expected to accelerate the species’ demise. By 2080, it is projected to be almost absent from Oregon, Washington and Idaho, some of the areas facing the most dramatic changes.

“For skeptics of climate change, it’s worth noting that the increase in vulnerability of lodgepole pine we’ve seen in recent decades is made from comparisons with real climatic data, and is backed up with satellite-observations showing major changes on the ground,” said Richard Waring, an OSU distinguished professor emeritus of forest science.

“This is already happening in some places,” Waring said. “Bark beetles in lodgepole pine used to be more selective, leaving the younger and healthier trees alone.

“Now their populations and pheromone levels are getting so high they can more easily reach epidemic levels and kill almost all adult trees,” he said. “Less frost, combined with less snow favors heavier levels of bark beetle infestation. We’re already seeing more insect attack, and we project that it will get worse.”

Some species are adapted to lower elevations, experts say, but lodgepole pine is predominately a sub-alpine tree species. Its new foliage can handle frost down to temperatures below freezing, it easily sheds snow that might break the branches of tree species more common at lower elevations, and it can survive in marginal soils.

But it makes these adaptations by growing more slowly, and as the subalpine environment becomes less harsh, lodgepole pine may increasingly be displaced by other species such as Douglas-fir, grand fir and ponderosa pine, which are also more drought-tolerant.

As lodgepole pine continues to decline, one of the few places on the map where it’s still projected to survive by 2080 is Yellowstone National Park – a harsh, high-elevation location – and a few other sub-alpine locations.

The species historically has played important ecological and cultural roles. It provided long, straight and lightweight poles often sought for tepees by Native American tribes, was later harvested commercially for poles and fence materials, and offers cover and habitat for big game animals.

Funding for this research was provided by NASA and the Natural Sciences Engineering and Research Council of Canada. A co-author of the study was Nicholas Coops with the University of British Columbia.


* More Imnaha Wolves Collared, Pack Count Now At 14; One Wolf Found Dead March 1
Three additional wolves from the Imnaha Pack were collared by state and federal biologists last weekend in Wallowa County.

On Feb. 25 a gray yearling male was captured and collared with a GPS collar, a device that will automatically record its location and send the information to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Also on Feb. 25, a gray yearling female was captured and fitted with a radio collar, a device that requires biologists to search for it with a radio. The following day, a gray 2-year-old male was fitted with a GPS collar.

All of the wolves collared were in good body condition, according to Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf coordinator. Further, all three wolves’ collars were located following the capture, indicating the animals had moved from the capture site.

Meanwhile, the yearling female collared on Feb. 25 was found dead on March 1. The wolf’s radio collar emitted a signal indicating it had been motionless for a minimum of four hours.

The wolf’s carcass is being transported to Washington State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for a complete examination. While recovering the carcass, ODFW staff observed no visible indication of foul play or any other cause of death.

“Wolves and other wildlife can die in the wild for a variety of reasons,” said Morgan. “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and ODFW are working together to evaluate the death of this wolf, but we will not speculate on the cause until we receive results from a complete forensic examination.”

“While this individual wolf’s death is unfortunate, it is not expected to change the status of the pack, which at last count, had 14 other wolves,” he added.

It is unknown when the forensic examination will be complete.

Wildlife biologists from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Wallowa Whitman National Forest assisted with the capture and collaring of the three Imnaha pack wolves. The wolves were found by locating radio collars already on the pack’s alpha female and another adult in the pack.

The alpha male was observed with the pack. He was originally GPS collared last February but his collar stopped working in May 2010.

“We did attempt to capture the alpha male but we were unable to get him to an appropriate location where we could safely dart him,” explained Morgan.

The wolves were darted from the air by Morgan in a helicopter operated by Quicksilver Air. Difficult terrain and below zero temperatures made capture conditions tough.

ODFW also tried to locate the Wenaha pack during the capture/collar effort, but did not find the pack despite a thorough search in the area where they had been most recently located. There have been no recent reports or sign of a new pack believed to be using the Walla Walla Unit so no attempt was made to capture and collar this pack.

ODFW and its partners will try to collar more members of the Imnaha and Wenaha packs this winter. Wolves tend to spend time in open country rather than timber cover during this season, and these conditions are necessary for a successful aerial capture. 

Wolves throughout Oregon were returned to federal Endangered Species Act protection in August 2010. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the lead management agency for wolves in Oregon. However, ODFW continues to conduct capture and monitoring operations as part of the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

For more information on wolves in Oregon go to http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wolves/


* Appeals Court Ruling Ends Potential Of Natural Gas Terminal Plan In Estuary Moving Ahead

The potential had remained that a Bradwood Landing liquefied natural gas terminal could be constructed at a proposed site 20 miles upriver from Astoria, Ore., but, in contrast, a pipeline to connect it to a transmission system could not legally be built.

Because of that disconnect, a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit panel decided this week that a license permitting construction of both is invalid, and a legal challenge to that license is moot.

“In cases where intervening events moot a petition for review of an agency order, the proper course is to vacate the underlying order,” the March 3 opinion says. “Accordingly, we dismiss the petition as moot and vacate FERC’s September 18, 2008 order” that allowed, with conditions, the construction of the LNG terminal and pipeline.

A host of Pacific Northwest entities had challenged the construction license in the courts and throughout the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licensing process. They include the states of Oregon and Washington, the Nez Perce Tribe, and a coalition of conservation and citizen groups (Columbia Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, Landowners and Citizens for a Safe Community, Wahkiakum Friends of the River, and Willapa Hills Audubon Society).

The petitioners said that the planned construction was in a significant, environmentally-sensitive area, and that it would affect the region’s land, water, fish, wildlife, recreation, and aesthetics, and create new risks to the safety of the region’s citizens.

FERC’s order incorporated two different authorizations. Under Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act FERC authorized Bradwood Landing LLC to site, construct, and operate a liquefied natural gas import terminal on the Columbia River shoreline in Oregon. FERC issued a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity under Section 7 of the NGA authorizing NorthernStar Energy LLC to construct and operate a natural gas pipeline that would connect the new Bradwood LNG terminal to the Pacific Northwest’s existing natural gas pipeline network. The pipeline would have traversed Clatsop and Columbia counties in Oregon, crossed the Columbia and proceed into Cowlitz County, Washington.

On May 4, 2010, however, the project backer sent out a press release that said it was "suspending" the development of the $650 million liquefied natural gas terminal.
Later in the day, the company behind the project, NorthernStar Natural Gas, Inc., and its subsidiary, Bradwood Landing filed for Chapter 7 total liquidation bankruptcy in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. NorthernStar headquarters in in Houston.

The press release blamed the suspension on a burdensome state and federal permitting process.

On November 5, 2010, another company, BL Credit Holdings, LLC purchased all permits and intellectual property owned by Bradwood at a foreclosure auction.

The states, tribe and groups that petitioned the Ninth Circuit to invalidate the FERC license wanted to make sure that BL Credit Holdings and anyone else could not proceed with the Bradwood project so they continued to push for a Ninth Circuit order vacating the FERC decision.

“While FERC may authorize a permittee to transfer a Section 3 permit to a new project proponent, the CPCN (the pipeline permit) ‘is not transferable in any manner,’” Wednesday’s Ninth Circuit opinion said in citing the NGA. “Once NorthernStar is liquidated in the bankruptcy proceeding, it will no longer exist….”

Petitioners were thrilled about the outcome.

"Bradwood LNG was a dominant environmental issue for 5 years and now it is officially over," said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper. "For all the families who were threatened by LNG, their work to protect their livelihoods paid off."

The company had said the shipping terminal and its associated 36.3-mile pipleine would have provided 450 jobs during three years of construction and 65 permanent jobs. It claimed support from the Oregon AFL-CIO, The Columbia Pacific Building Trades Council, the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, the Oregon Machinists Council, the Washington Machinists Council, Carpenters Local 1707, the International Longshore Workers Union and the Steamship Operators Union.

But many, including the states of Oregon and Washington, treaty tribes, conservation and fishing groups and others feared the potential impacts on the environment, and on species such as salmon that rely on the estuary.

Two other controversial LNG proposals remain in Oregon - Jordan Cove in Coos Bay and Oregon LNG at the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon. Both projects face strong opposition from fishermen, farmers, property owners impacted by the pipelines, and conservation groups. 


* Idaho Fish and Game Commission Announces Six Candidates For Director Position

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has announced six candidates for the position of director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Commissioners will interview each candidate during March and make an appointment by the end of the month to replace Director Cal Groen, who is retiring.

The candidates are:

-- Steve Ferrell: Most recently held the position of director for Wyoming Game and Fish Department and currently works as a policy advisor in the Wyoming Governor’s Office. Ferrell has worked in wildlife management for 36 years, holding the director position of Wyoming from 2008 to 2011. Before moving to Wyoming, Ferrell had a long and varied career with Arizona Fish and Game, reaching the position of deputy director before departing for Wyoming. Ferrell holds a bachelor of science degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Arizona. 

-- Sharon Kiefer: Assistant director of policy for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Kiefer has worked in wildlife management for 26 years and has worked within Idaho Fish and Game for 24 of those years, holding various management positions including inter-governmental policy coordinator and anadromous fishery manager. Kiefer holds a bachelor of science degree from Stephen F. Austin University and a master of science degree from Texas State University.

-- Virgil Moore: Deputy director for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game over field operations. Moore has 34 years of experience in wildlife management and before taking his current position in 2007, worked as the director for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Moore has held numerous executive management positions within Idaho Fish and Game including fisheries bureau chief, information and education bureau chief and various management positions within the fisheries bureau. Moore holds a bachelor of science degree in biology and education from Northwest Missouri State University and a master of science degree in zoology from Idaho State University.

-- Michael Senn: Assistant director of wildlife management for Arizona Game and Fish Department. Senn has been employed with the Arizona Game and Fish Department for nearly 23 years, with 11 of those years in executive level management positions including nine years as the assistant director over field operations. Senn holds a bachelor of science degree in wildlife management from Arizona State University and has been an Arizona certified peace officer for 21 years.

-- Edward Schriever: Fisheries bureau chief for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Shriever has 27 years of experience with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game holding various management positions including regional fisheries manager and regional fisheries biologist. Shriever holds a bachelor of science degree in fisheries science from Oregon State University.

--- James Unsworth: Deputy director for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game over Programs. Unsworth has 32 years in wildlife management and before his current appointment which he has held since 2008. Unsworth held several management level positions for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game including wildlife bureau chief and state big game manager. Unsworth holds a bachelor of science degree in wildlife management from University of Idaho, a master of science degree in fish and wildlife management from Montana State University and a doctor of philosophy degree in forestry, wildlife and range sciences from University of Idaho.


* IDFG Evaluates Whether Taking Broodstock From South Fork Clearwater Will Help Boost Steelhead Run

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will, once again, be seeking help from the public in early March to collect adult hatchery steelhead for brood stock from the South Fork Clearwater River.

The goal of this program is to evaluate whether brood stock collected from the South Fork will result in increased runs of steelhead to this river in the future. Currently, the brood stock for the South Fork Clearwater River is collected at Dworshak Hatchery.

IDFG hopes to collect nearly 120 hatchery steelhead in about a week.

Considering an estimated 8,000 hatchery adult steelhead headed toward the South Fork Clearwater River crossed Lower Granite Dam this season, removing 120 fish for brood stock should have little or no impact on anglers' chances of harvesting fish.

Last spring, the public assisted IDFG in collecting about 100 hatchery origin steelhead for brood stock. This effort produced more than 200,000 smolts that will be released into the South Fork Clearwater River this spring.

When the smolts released this year return as adults, IDFG will be able to evaluate whether they returned at a higher rate than returning adults whose parents were captured at Dworshak Hatchery.


* Oregon Releases Revised Draft Of Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife this week released a revision of the updated greater sage-grouse conservation plan. The draft plan, Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Assessment and Strategy for Oregon, was released in July 2010 as a five-year update.

Recent revisions to the July 2010 draft are based on input from county governments, stakeholders and public comments. The plan now includes expanded sections on climate change, further describes impacts of feral horses on sage-grouse habitat, clarifies that sustainable grazing practices are consistent with sage-grouse conservation and defines implementation of the Core Area approach to habitat conservation.

The updated draft plan and proposed administrative rules will be presented to the Commission for adoption at its April 22 meeting. The public is invited to attend the meeting.

Written comments will be accepted through the April 22 meeting, but to be included in the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission information briefing materials, comments must be received by April 6. They can be mailed to ODFW headquarter or e-mailed to sage.grouse@state.or.us.

Visit the greater sage-grouse section of ODFW’s website to view the plan, background information and related documents. Request a print copy from Wildlife Division, ODFW Headquarters, 3406 Cherry Avenue NE, Salem, OR 97303.

In March 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that protection of the greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act was warranted. However, listing the greater sage-grouse was precluded at the time by the need to address other species listings facing greater risk of extinction. The sage-grouse is now a candidate species for listing. The primary threats to the sage-grouse across its range are: habitat loss and fragmentation (including wildfire); invasive plants; energy development; urbanization and agricultural conversion and unmanaged grazing.

The Oregon Conservation Strategy identifies the greater sage-grouse as a species in need of conservation. Learn more about its critical habitats—sagebrush steppe and shrublands—in the habitat section of the Strategy.

For more information about the CBB contact:
-- BILL CRAMPTON, Editor/Writer, bcrampton@cbbulletin.com, phone:
541-312-8860 or
-- BARRY ESPENSON, Senior Writer, bespenson@msn.com, phone: 360-696-4005; fax: 360-694-1530

The stories in this e-mail newsletter are posted on the Columbia Basin Bulletin website at www.cbbulletin.com. If you would like access to the CBB archives, please consider becoming a Member of the CBB website for as little as $5 a month. Your membership will help support maintenance of the 10-year (1998-2008) news database and the production of trustworthy, timely news and information about Columbia Basin fish and wildlife issues.


Feedback comments should be sent by e-mail to the Editor at bcrampton@cbbulletin.com. Please put "feedback"in the subject line. We encourage comments about particular stories, complaints about inaccuracies or omissions; additional information; general views about the topic covered; or opinions that counterbalance statements reported.

The Columbia Basin Bulletin e-mail newsletter is produced by Intermountain Communications of Bend, Oregon and supported with Bonneville Power Administration fish and wildlife funds through the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program.


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