A program of the
                                                                                                         Natural Resource Information System,
                                                                                                                       Montana State Library
                                                                                                                                   in partnership with
                                                                                                                          The Nature Conservancy

               . optimo;locus .
 Number 9                      .The Newsletter of the Montana Natural Heritage Program                                                 Spring 2006
                NEW WEB PORTAL LAUNCHED                                                                             In This Issue
We are excited to announce the Natural              degree of latitude and longitude, consistent
                                                                                                         Web Portal Launched                       1
Heritage Information Portal, a new state-of-        with P.D. Skaar’s Montana Bird Distribution
the-art web tool for accessing information          publication (Lenard et al. 2003).                    Director’s Scope                          2
on Montana’s biological resources. The first             Using this new tool, anyone wishing to
version – now available on our website –            contribute data can enter precise locations          National Award                            2
serves the Montana Bird Distribution                for bird sightings in an easy-to-use, map-
database, which displays the statewide              based interface. Users can also view detailed        Database Updates                          3
distribution of bird species by quarter             information on sightings they have entered,
                                                                                                         Botany Updates                            4

     State wide display of bird observations by quarter lati-long (QLL) as well as the                   Strategic Plan                            5
     observation points within the QLL.
                                                                                                         SOC Search Tool                           5

                                                                                                         Ecology Updates                           6

                                                                                                         Zoology Updates                           7

                                                                                                         as well as general locations for all records
                                                                                                         statewide. Several different base maps can
                                                                                                         be selected, including the state highway map,
                                                                                                         topographic and shaded relief maps, and air

                                                                                                         The Future…
                                                                                                             The NHIPortal will expand to become
                                                                                                         our principle tool for disseminating Natural
                                                  Secure login for users to submit observations          Heritage Program data. As time and
                                                  for review and placement in the Montana Bird           funding allow, we will be adding data on
                                                  Distribution database and view all of their
                                                                                                         other animals, plants, and ecosystems.
                                                  previously accepted observations. Users
                                                  create their own on-line bird observation lists.       Among the datasets targeted for addition
                                                                                                         over the next year are:
Species lists by status (breeding,                                                                         • Amphibian observations and photos
transient, or over wintering) and                                                                            from the Montana Amphibian
geographic distribution.                                                                                     Inventory Project
                                                                                                           • Statewide aquatic data linked to our
                                                                                                             ecological classification of streams and
                                                                                                           • Animal observations from the NHP/
                                                                                                             MFWP Point Observation Database.
                                                                                                           • Element Occurrences for Plant and
                                                                                                             Animal Species of Concern, linked to
                                                                                                             Field Guide information.
                                                                                                                                 Contact: Allan Cox

 Optimolocus, pronounced “op-tih-moe-lo-cus,” from Latin optimo - best and locus - place; after Enallagma optimolocus, a damselfly found only in Montana.
                  Director’s Scope: Changes Behind the Scenes
                                                      3.   The great diversity of partnerships            The option that best met these
For more than 20 years, the Montana                        and funding.                             Guiding Principles was to transfer the NHP
Natural Heritage Program benefited from a             4.   The highly dedicated and                 contract from TNC to the University of
unique partnership between the Montana                     entrepreneurial staff.                   Montana. This approach would keep the
State Library and The Nature Conservancy,             5.   A relatively high level of               program within the State Library and retain
with the Conservancy operating the                         independence and autonomy.               all services, funding and partnerships. In
program under contract with the state. This                                                         addition, because of the University’s
will change on July 1, 2006, as the University         Based on this input, we identified           flexibility, this option would result in the
of Montana takes over that contract to            several “Guiding Principles” for evaluating       least disruption for staff. The University
administer the Natural Heritage Program.          alternatives, to ensure that any changes          has been enthusiastic about taking on
Fortunately, this change will be virtually        would maintain the Program’s strengths            administration – and providing additional
invisible to most partners and users, as          and record of success. Included in these          support – for the NHP, with endorsements
great care has been taken to ensure that all      principles were:                                  from several academic departments, all the
the program’s services, staff and other           • Ensuring no change in NHP products              way up to the President’s Office.
strengths will remain in place.                        and services to partners and users.                Negotiations are nearly complete
      This decision resulted from a thorough      • Retaining existing staff talent and             between TNC, the State Library and the
study that began in the fall of 2004. Several          expertise.                                   University, and the transfer is scheduled for
options were considered, including                • Keeping all components of the                   July 1, 2006. The NHP will be operated as a
transferring staff and full operational                program together as a unit under single      special program under the Office of the Vice
responsibility into state government, or               management.                                  President for Research & Development.
transferring the contract to a university or      • Retaining all funding sources and levels,       The current NHP program and staff will
other non-profit. Since the NHP is                     and increasing financial security.           remain in place, ensuring full continuity of
assigned by statute to the State Library,         • Maintaining diversity of partnerships           partnerships and services. All projects and
management by another entity can occur                 and flexibility in partnering, with no       funding agreements will be transferred to
only under a contract with the Library.                increase in administrative costs.            the University and carried out as planned.
Continued management by TNC was also              • Maintaining the program’s political                   As a result of this assessment, we’ve
considered, although political and financial           neutrality and autonomy, and its focus       formed an NHP Partners Committee to
factors have lessened the benefits of that             on providing high quality scientific         provide ongoing input and to improve
arrangement over the years.                            information.                                 communication with and among partners.
      We gathered extensive stakeholders          • Keeping the program within the State            The Partners Committee will also help
input through a Web survey and the NRIS                Library’s Natural Resource Information       ensure that we stay on-target in meeting the
Advisory Committee, which identified                   System.                                      needs of our constituency.
several factors key to the Heritage Program’s     • Finding a managing institution that                   I want to say a special “Thanks!” to the
success:                                               strongly desires and values the              many agencies and individuals who
      1. The politically neutral setting and           program, will advocate effectively for it,   provided input and participated in meetings
          information-focused mission of               and is committed to sustaining it.           and spirited discussions to help us work
          the State Library.                                                                        through this major challenge. It would not
      2. The strong methodological                                                                  have been possible without your honest
          framework shared with the larger                                                          input and good advice!
          Heritage Network.                                                                                                 Contact: Sue Crispin

                                                 MTNHP Wins Major Award
Montana received the 2006 “Outstanding                our holdings from 6,000 to 12,000                  All the achievements recognized
Technological Advancement Award” for a                records in just one year; and                 through this award have focused on
natural heritage program at NatureServe’s         •   adding quality ranks to all of our plant      delivering more accurate, comprehensive
International Leadership Conference in                Species of Concern EO’s.                      and current information to our users – in
April. This award recognizes an impressive                                                          formats that are easy to access and utilize.
array of ground-breaking accomplishments               The Montana Natural Heritage Program         We’re far from satisfied, however – our new
by MTNHP staff, including:                        was selected for this award from the              Strategic Plan (page 5) reaches even higher,
 • innovative new tools for accessing data        network of 75 natural heritage programs           as MTNHP staff continue innovating to
     via the web,                                 and conservation data centers in the Western      meet Montanan’s needs for information
 • new, more objective ranking procedures         Hemisphere, which are coordinated by our          about our unique natural heritage.
     for species’ status assessment,              international affiliate, NatureServe.
                                                                                                                           Contact: Sue Crispin
 • automating the creation of Element
     Occurrence records, thereby doubling

Page 2                                                       . optimolocus .                                                      Spring 2006
            Huge Database Updates Underway
                                                                                                            New Reports at
Major changes have occurred, and more are              Taking advantage of these new               
coming, in the NHP databases. Over the            procedures, our zoologists and data
past year, NHP staff have mounted a huge          management staff have completed EO
push to enter new information on species          processing for 40 animal Species of                • Aquatic Surveys and Assessment
occurrences and observations. As a result,        Concern, including 20 that had no previous           within the Middle Powder River
our Element Occurrence (EO) database has          records in the database. We now have nearly          Watershed, May 2006
more than doubled in size since this time         12,000 animal EO records (compared to
last year — going from 6000 to over 15,000        4,000 just a year ago).                            • An Integrative Biological Assessment
records — and another 25,000 records were              Despite these great advances in                 of Sites in the Custer National Forest
added to the Point Observation Database           efficiency, there’s still a large volume of data     Ashland District, April 2006
(POD)! Major enhancements to various              to be processed. Over the coming months
datasets are summarized below.                    we will be working through this backlog,           • Riparian Bat Surveys in Eastern
                                                  and applying new procedures and standards            Montana, April 2006
Plant Occurrence Database                         to fully review and update virtually all of
     Over 300 new occurrence records have         our animal occurrence records. As a result,        • Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front:
been added to the Plant Species of Concern        you will continue to see major                       Vegetation Map and Type Descrip-
database, primarily from field surveys, but       improvements in our animal distribution              tions, February 2006
also from herbarium records. In addition,         data.
about 750 existing EO’s were remapped                                                                • Birds of Blaine County, Riparian
with greatly improved precision; many were        New Inferred Extent                                  Point Count Surveys 2005, January 2006
old records formerly represented on our                 Another addition to our Element
maps by very large circles denoting “general”     Occurrence database over this past year is         • Bat Surveys on USFS Northern
locations. Using collection and habitat data,     Inferred Extent. This feature expands the
                                                                                                      Region Lands in Montana: 2005,
staff were able to narrow the potential area      Element Occurrence, which is based strictly
                                                                                                      December 2005
of occurrence to, say, a lakeshore or roadside.   on where a plant or animal was actually
                                                  observed, to include the surrounding area
Animal Observation and                            that is likely occupied based on home range        • Inventory of Plants, Plant Comm-
Occurrence Databases                              and/or habitat. This adds a new level of            unities, and Herpetofauna of Concern
      The Montana NHP maintains two               biologically meaningful information to our          in the Vicinity of the Snow-Talon
primary databases on animal species               Element Occurrences. Inferred extent has            Burn, Helena National Forest,
distributions: Observations and                   now been mapped for Sage Grouse and                 December 2005
Occurrences. The Point Observation                black-tailed prairie dogs, as well as several
Database (POD) tracks observations of             other species. You will see Inferred Extent        • Watershed Assessment of the Cot-
species — the most basic type of locational       on our data request maps and agency data            tonood and Whitewater Watersheds,
data. Over the past year, we have added           portals. These new polygons cover a much            December 2005
25,000 new POD records and cleaned up an          greater area than was mapped for just the
additional 26,000 records! (Special credit        Element Occurrences.
                                                        Montana is the first state in the heritage
                                                                                                     • Surveys of Significant Plant
goes to Scott Blum, for much of the heavy
                                                  network to implement Inferred Extent as a           Resources and Related Vegetation
lifting on this massive effort!)
                                                  new level of information for our users. We          Types for the Butte Office of the
      Observations form the raw material for
                                                  feel that it will be extremely valuable and         Bureau of Land Management,
creating Occurrences – areas of confirmed
                                                  provide a more accurate representation of           November 2005
breeding. In the past, creating Element
Occurrence records for animals was a time         Species of Concern on the landscape.
consuming, one by one process. Montana            Inferred Extent is part of a comprehensive         • Aquatic Community Classification
NHP staff have led the heritage network in        new mapping hierarchy that MTNHP has                and Ecosystem Diversity in Montana’s
modernizing this process, by developing           developed for animal species. This hierarchy        Missouri River Watershed, September
new semi-automated procedures for batch-          is comprised of – going from small to large         2005
loading validated records from POD directly       scale – observations, Element Occurrences,
into the Element Occurrence database. This        Inferred Extent, predicted habitat and state       • Conservation strategy for Silene
creates a huge time savings and makes it          range. Staff will be working over the next
                                                                                                      spaldingii (Spalding’s catchfly) in
possible to add hundreds of records at a          year to add Inferred Extent as EO’s are
                                                                                                      Montana, September 2005
time. For example Database Coordinator            updated on a species by species basis. We
Karen Walker was able to create 638 new           hope to begin mapping predicted habitat
EO’s in a single day; in the past, each EO        areas by 2008.                                     • Bat use of highway bridges in south-
could take up to several person-hours to                    Contact: Bryce Maxell (444-3655) or       central Montana, August 2005
process.                                                              Allan Cox (444-3989)

Spring 2006                                                      . optimolocus .                                                Page 3
Botany Updates                                                                                      Observations Wanted!!
                                                                                                   Remember to send us new observations for
         Spalding’s Catchfly Status Assessment                                                     Species of Concern, so we can improve our
                                                                                                   databases. You can enter observations with our
Spalding’s catchfly (Silene spaldingii) is one of and north slopes where moisture remains
                                                                                                   on-line Form or download field survey forms
only three Montana plant species listed as        available a little longer into the growing       to complete and send in. Now you can also
“threatened” under the U.S. Endangered            season compared to adjacent drier slopes.        submit information on areas of high quality
Species Act (USFWS                                                          These sites often      habitat or ecological significance!
2001). It is restricted                                                     occur near the lower       Click “Submit Data” on our homepage:
to the inland Pacific                                                       treeline or with             
Northwest, ranging                                                          scattered Ponderosa
from eastern Wash-                                                          pine.                       Unfortunately, Montana populations
ington and northeast                                                              A range-wide     continue to be vulnerable to invasive weeds;
Oregon to north-                                                            status assessment of   habitat loss and fragmentation, particularly
central Idaho,                                                              Spalding’s catchfly,   in the Tobacco Plains; and to impacts
northwest Montana                                                           written in 2004,       associated with grazing, fire exclusion and
and just into adjacent                                                      contained relatively   small, isolated populations. Based on
British Columbia.                                                           outdated information   current information, successful conservation
      While Montana                                                         for Montana. Thanks    will depend on protecting existing popula-
supports just 15% of                                                        to survey work in      tions, improving habitat condition,
this species’ total                                                         2004 and 2005 by       rebuilding populations, mitigating impacts
range-wide popula-                                                          MTNHP botanist         of invasive weeds and grazing, and renewed
tions, we do host the Spalding’s Catchfly (Silene spaldingii)               Scott Mincemoyer       monitoring and survey efforts.
largest population at                                                       (funded by the US           For now, the MTNHP rank for this
The Nature Conservancy’s Dancing Prairie          Fish & Wildlife Service), we now have an         species remains S1 due to its combined
Preserve. Estimated at 10,000 plants              up-to-date Montana Conservation Assess-          rarity and the level of threats to popula-
minimum, this population alone comprises          ment (available on our website). Scott used      tions. However, opportunities for beneficial
a significant percentage of the total plants      predicted habitat modeling to help him           management in Montana should be high
known range-wide. Other sizeable popula-          locate two new populations, bringing the         since the majority of populations are on
tions in Montana occur on the Flathead            number of extant occurrences in Montana          lands administered by state or federal
Indian Reservation and the Lost Trail             to eleven. Survey work is challenging            agencies, the Confederated Salish and
National Wildlife Refuge.                         because Spalding’s catchfly can stay below-      Kootenai Tribes or The Nature
      Typical Montana habitat for this plant      ground, especially during dry years, resulting   Conservancy.
                                                                                                                  Contact: Scott Mincemoyer
is rough fescue grasslands on rolling kettle/     in populations being overlooked or                                       (444-2817)
drumlin topography, swales, minor draws,          undercounted.

                                      EO Ranks Now Available for Plants
“Element Occurrence Ranks” provide                 a strategy for assigning EO ranks to 99% of     A “D” rank for those with less than 10
information on the quality and viability of        our nearly 3000 vascular plant EO’s!            individuals.
an Element Occurrence. For example, an                  How did he do it? “Sometimes the           A “Historical” rank to occurrences that had
“A” rank indicates a large, high quality, viable   available data is less than optimal for         not been visited for 40 or more years.
occurrence; a “B” rank a good quality              assigning an EO Rank,” said Scott, “but in           When available data didn’t fit one of
occurrence, a “C” rank only fair, and a “D”        most cases enough data is available on          these categories – e.g., an abundance
rank poor. EO Ranks are extremely useful           abundance and habitat quality to make an        statement like “500+ plants” or where the
for conservation planning and                      educated guess.” In general, he used            assessment was qualitative, such as
environmental review. However, until now,          abundance as the main criterion, followed       “Abundant” or “Occasional”, he assigned a
this information has been available for only       by habitat quality (keeping in mind that        range rank such as “AB” or “C?” Another
about 10% of our plant records, because of         some species can cope with habitat              complication was whether the collector or
the difficulty in assigning consistent and         disturbances better than others).               surveyor had counted genets or ramets. As
meaningful ranks with often-sparse                      General guidelines for assigning EO        with any data set, users of EO ranks need
information.                                       ranks were:                                     to understand the limitations of the data
      Botanist Scott Mincemoyer noticed this       An “A” rank if abundance was greater than       and the process used to create them.
problem as he reviewed information to              1,000 individuals.                                   Thanks to Scott’s efforts, EO ranks for
update ranks for Plant Species of Concern,         A “B” rank for those with 100-1,000             plants are now being provided in all Species
since the status of individual populations is      individuals (or as low as 50, depending on      of Concern data requests.
central to determining a species’ biological       the species).                                                     Contact: Scott Mincemoyer
status. Never one to get discouraged easily,       A “C” rank for occurrences with 10-50                                      (444-2817)
Scott went to work and soon came up with           individuals.

Page 4                                                       . optimolocus .                                                     Spring 2006
     2006 Field Projects                                              New Strategic Plan for MTNHP
                                                  The Mission of the Montana Natural                           Land stewardship mapping and
                                                  Heritage Program is to be Montana’s source             species/habitat management studies were
• Wetland Mapping: The Status and Trend
                                                  for reliable, objective information and expertise to   also top priorities for some user groups.
  of Wetlands in Montana’s Developing
                                                  support stewardship of our native species and                Improving and expanding top-ranked
  River Valleys (Location: Bitterroot Valley)
                                                  habitats, emphasizing those of conservation            services will be a big priority over the next
                                                  concern.                                               four years. Right now, we’re working
• Watershed Assessments: Lewistown
                                                        This statement kicks off our new 4-              particularly hard on a major update of our
                                                  Year Strategic Plan. It was created with               species distribution databases (see page 3)
                                                  broad input from partners and information              and on ecological mapping and
• Sagebrush Succession in Southeast
                                                  users, thanks to a Web survey that drew                documentation – focusing especially on
                                                  over 170 responses in the spring of 2005,              wetlands and aquatic systems.
                                                  including state & federal agencies and                       We feel that having a clear strategic plan
• Montana Gap Mapping, Ecological
                                                  businesses, as well as non-profit                      is important to keep us focused on meeting
  Support (Location: central and eastern
                                                  organizations, academia, tribes, and private           the top needs of our partners and
                                                  citizens. According to this survey, the                information users. By making our plan
                                                  biggest needs for biological resource                  public, we also hope to build more
• Enhancement of National Wetlands
                                                  information are:                                       awareness and understanding about what
  Inventory Classification and Mapping
                                                        • Data that is current, accurate and as          we’re doing, and invite ongoing dialog
  (Location: Gallatin Valley)
                                                              comprehensive as possible                  about key information needs as well as our
                                                        • Improved information on species                effectiveness in meeting them. Although
• Grassland Bird Response to Grazing in
                                                              status, including changes, trends,         this plan is intended to direct only the
  North Valley County
                                                              and key risks                              activities of the Natural Heritage Program,
                                                                                                         its success clearly depends on extensive
• Filling Data Gaps in Small Mammal                     • More extensive information on                  cooperation with and major contributions
  Distributions in Montana (Location:                         vegetation and habitats                    from our many partners. Thanks to
Statewide)                                              • Greater availability of information            everyone who provided their insights!
                                                              via the Web                                      The full 4-Year Strategic Plan is available
• Inventory of Bats and Terrestrial Mol-
                                                                                                         on our website.
lusks on U.S. Forest Service Lands (Loca-         Our top-ranked products and services are:                                 Contact: Sue Crispin
tion: USFS Region 1)                                  1. Species of Concern Ranks / Lists                                             (444-3019)
                                                      2. Field Surveys and species
• Amphibian and Aquatic Reptile Inventory                  inventories
  Program (Location: Statewide)                       3. Staff expertise and consultation
                                                      4. Field Guides: on-line information
• Goshawk Status Assessment on the                         about species and habitats
  Kootenai National Forest

• Missoula (BLM) Plant Surveys
                                                              Search Tool for Species of Concern
• Surveys for Globally Rare Plants (Location:
  state-wide)                                          We now have a web tool that enables               information and photos, and links to
                                                  you to generate current lists of Species of            NatureServe Explorer, where you can view
• Surveys and Monitoring for Silene               Concern directly from our internal                     rangewide status maps and obtain global
  spaldingii (Spalding’s catchfly) and Howellia   databases. Using this application, you can             summary information.
  aquatilis (Water howellia) (Location:           search for plant or animal groups using                     MTNHP still publishes updated
  northwest Montana)                              global and state ranks and/or federal agency           Species of Concern reports on a semi-
                                                  status (US Fish and wildlife Service, the US           annual basis, however this new tool allows
• Surveys for Plant Species of Concern in         Forest Service, and the US Bureau of Land              users to generate lists that reflect any changes
  Southeastern and Southcentral Montana           Management). You can then download the                 to species status ranks or agency
                                                  resulting lists into a text file or a                  designations in the interim between printed
• Predictive Modeling of Rare Plant Species       spreadsheet.                                           publications.
  and Vegetation Types (Location: southeast            The search report also includes links to               You can access the Species of Concern
  and southwest Montana)                          our Montana Plant and Animal Field                     Search at
                                                  Guides, which provide descriptive                      speciesofconcern/
                                                                                                                               Contact: Allan Cox

Spring 2006                                                       . optimolocus .                                                         Page 5
Ecology Updates
    Powder River Yields Rare Aquatic Insects                                                            New Vegetation Maps
The Powder River is a vast drainage                   alleni (G4, S2), a sand-dwelling species               Available
representing one of the last undammed,                Raptoheptagenia cruentata (G4, S2), a riffle-
large prairie river systems in the United             dweller. (Since mayflies haven’t earned the            It’s easy to understand why our recent
States. In southeastern Montana, it flows             notoriety of dragonflies, they don’t yet have     survey of data users and partners ranked
through a relatively intact natural landscape         common names – sorry!). Two other rare            improved vegetation mapping as their
with sweeping meanders                                                                                  number one priority for new MTNHP
across the valley bottom, side                                                                          services. Effective resource management is
channels, oxbows, shifting                                                                              very difficult without knowing the location
islands and a functional                                                                                and extent of various habitat types.
floodplain. The Powder also                                                                                  We recently developed new vegetation
provides key habitat for                                                                                maps for two of Montana’s nationally
several fish Species of                                                                                 important habitat areas, the Rocky
Concern, as well as important                                                                           Mountain Front and the Centennial Valley.
riparian habitat for many                                                                               While these maps show all vegetation
wildlife species that inhabit                                                                           communities, we focused special effort on
the prairie landscape. In spite                                                                         accurately portraying habitat types of
of their ecological                                                                                     particular interest to our funding partners,
importance, prairie rivers have                                                                         the USFWS (upland grasslands of the
received relatively little study                                                                        Rocky Mountain Front) and The Nature
in the past, compared to cold-                                                                          Conservancy (lower elevation ecosystems in
water streams farther west            One of several study sites along the Powder River                 the Centennial Valley). Maps were
that support the more                                                                                   developed by creating a classification model
popular sport fisheries.                              sand-dwelling mayflies were also found on         with Landsat satellite imagery, ground truth
     Last summer, MTNHP biological                    the Powder a few years ago by Dan                 plots, and environmental data.
survey efforts focused on the Powder River,           Gustafson (surveying earlier in the season)            Both maps and GIS data will soon be
with funding from the BLM, to provide                 – Analetris eximia (G2G4, S3) and Lachlania       available on our website. A Rocky
better information for resource                       saskatchewanensis (G4, S1).                       Mountain Front report with details on
management and decision-making in this                      The larger objective of Dave’s work is      vegetation descriptions and the mapping
increasingly important area for energy                to apply biological assessment measures to        process can be viewed at the publications
development. Our biologists’ work,                    evaluate the quality of aquatic biological        link on our website.
                                                                                                                                Contact: Greg Kudray
though by no means comprehensive, was                 communities in the Powder and its                                                  (444-0915)
very productive. Some of the biggest                  tributaries. His analysis found the reach
discoveries, predictably, focused on the              upstream of Rough Creek to be most
smallest and least-studies critters: aquatic          biologically intact (supporting the largest
invertebrates                                         number of species expected for that type of              Did You Know?
     Surveys by Aquatic Ecologist Dave                stream habitat), with the reach at the
Stagliano and Biologist Coburn Currier                Wyoming border and the Dry Creek                   Montana currently has 83 species of Odonates
turned up three mayflies of very limited              drainage also ranking high. If you want to         (53 dragonflies and 30 damselflies) either re-
distribution in Montana as well as a                  learn more about our aquatic classification        corded or reported in the state. Many of
dragonfly new to the state. The Brimstone             and biological integrity measures, check out       these species are fairly common and can be
Clubtail (Stylurus intricatus), a bright green        Dave’s report on our website (Aquatic              found easily in many areas of the state. How-
dragonfly with black stripes, was found at            Surveys and Assessment within the Middle Powder    ever, some are uncommon or rare including
                                                                                                         the Last Best Place Damselfly (Enallagma opti-
four sampling sites upstream of Broadus in River Watershed). A report on the larger
                                                                                                         molocus) - the species for which this newsletter
sandy gravel habitat. Although fairly                 survey effort that included other animal           is named - found only in Montana; the Sub-
widespread in central and western North               groups will be available later this spring.        arctic Darner (Aeshna subarctica) a dragonfly
America (G4 rank), this species had never                   Our aquatic ecology program has added        known only from Beaverhead and Granite
been documented in Montana. (For good                 a critical dimension to MTNHP’s survey             counties; and the Brimstone Clubtail (Stylurus
images, see efforts and will continue to expand our                       intricatus) a dragonfly only recently found in
     Even more exciting, one of the                   knowledge of Montana’s aquatic heritage –          Powder River county (see article above).
mayflies Dave found was Anepeorus rusticus            especially among the invertebrates. Thanks         Currently Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
a sand-dwelling species that is ranked G1,            to Dan Gustafson at MSU for help in                and the Montana Natural Heritage Program
                                                                                                         have identified seven Odonates as Species of
having been reported only from Montana,               identification and ranking, and to the BLM
                                                                                                         Concern and another 31 as Potential Species
Saskatchewan and Utah. Two other state-               for funding these surveys.                         of Concern.
rare mayflies turned up as well: Homoeoneuria                                Contact: Dave Stagliano

Page 6                                                          . optimolocus .                                                          Spring 2006
Ecology Updates - Continued
 Wetlands & Riparian                                                    Aquatic Ecosystem Guide
      Mapping                                           A Guide to the Aquatic Ecosystems of     stretches based on fish or macroinvertebrate
                                                  Montana’s Missouri River watershed is now      samples.
     The MTNHP has secured three years of         available on our website. Each major type,     Our next step, if we can secure $30,000 in
EPA funding to establish a wetland and            like the Great Plains Perennial Spring, is     additional funding, will be to provide web
riparian mapping center for Montana.              detailed with photos and comprehensive         access to our extensive aquatic ecosystem
Digital National Wetland Inventory maps           descriptions of the environmental setting,     database. A web-based map would allow
have never been completely available for          fish and macroinvertebrate communities,        users to select stream reaches and view all
Montana (unlike most other states), and           along with management considerations and       the biological and environmental data
those that are available are over 20 years old.   state and global conservation ranks. You       assembled from various sources for that
Additionally, our important riparian              can view the information at:        reach. By comparing actual sampling data to
habitats were never mapped. The initial           aquatics.                                      the reference conditions (expected species)
effort will focus on the rapidly developing             This information grew from a multi-      for stream types, managers will be able to
Gallatin, Bitterroot, and Flathead Valleys        year effort led by Dave Stagliano, our         directly measure the biological health of
and will be coupled with an analysis of           Aquatic Ecologist, and funded by The           aquatic systems.
wetland change from an early 1980’s baseline                                                                        Contact: Dave Stagliano
                                                  Nature Conservancy and the Bureau of
to current conditions.                                                                                                      (444-7329)
                                                  Land Management. Dave integrated
     With partner funding, we hope to             biological data from many sources with
expand this program to other Montana              environmental data to create an ecologically
regions and complete as much riparian and
wetland mapping as possible. The field
                                                  based classification of the Missouri River                Need Data?
                                                  and all its tributaries. The aquatic
work associated with this effort will also        classification system relates species
help build our database with more                                                                 Requests can be submitted using the
                                                  assemblages to stream types that can be         NRIS Request Tracker . Just click “Get
information on specific wetland sites.            mapped. This allows biologists to evaluate      Data” on our homepage: http://
                       Contact: Greg Kudray       the health of particular stream or river
                                                                                         You can also call at 444-5354
                                                                                                  or email directly at

Zoology Updates
                    Bats and Mollusks: Big Findings about Little Critters
     Recent surveys have brought major       status-assessments and likely down-ranking          Lincoln County was the Fringed Myotis, a
advances in our knowledge of two             of some species in the state.                       state Species of Concern.
inconspicuous animal groups: bats and land        Bats surveys, funded by the US Forest               Other bats surveys focused on riparian
mollusks. Surveys funded by the U.S.         Service last summer resulted in 10 new              corridors of eastern Montana, and were
Forest Service turned up four new species    county records for nine species of bats,            funded by BLM. These resulted in new
of mollusks never before documented in       including four new species recorded in              records for four Species of Concern,
Montana – the Pale Jumping-slug (G3G4),      Gallatin County alone. One new record for           including Townsend’s Big-eared Bat (2
found at one locality; the Pygmy Slug                                                            capture sites, 2 vocalization sites), Spotted
(G1G2) found at four locations, the                                                              Bat (3 vocalization sites), Fringed Myotis (2
Reticulate Taildropper (G5), from one                                                            vocalization sites), and Eastern Red Bat (1
location; and the Smoky Taildropper                                                              capture site, 9 vocalization sites). The
(G2), found at 8 localities. In addition,                                                        capture site for Eastern Red Bat was near
surveyors found other new sites for                                                              Culbertson in Richland Co., and the
several mollusk Species of Concern – 5                                                           vocalizations came from scattered locations
for the Fir Pinwheel (G3), 6 for Berry’s                                                         along the Yellowstone and Powder rivers,
Mountainsnail (G5T2) and 1 for the                                                               increasing the likelyhood that these animals
Striate Disc (G5). Most were found west                                                          are breeding in Montana. Spotted Bat
of the Continental Divide, on the Lolo,                                                          locations were all from Yellowstone
Flathead and Kootenai Forests. This                                                              County, where this species was first
information, along with surveys                                                                  documented in Montana.
scheduled for 2006, will result in better Smoky Tailddropper (Prophysaon humile)                        Contac: Paul Hendricks (327-0792) or
                                                                                                                Bryce Maxell (444-3655)

Spring 2006                                                     . optimolocus .                                                 Page 7
P.O.Box 201800
1515 E. 6th. Ave.
Helena, MT 59620-1800

   Montana Natural Heritage Program
   Street Address                                      Mailing Address
   Montana State Library,                              P.O. Box 201800
   Natural Resource Information System                 Helena, MT 59620-1800
   P.O. Box 201800
   1515 East Sixth Avenue
   Helena, MT 59620-1800                                                           New Fish Poster
   Staff                                               Phone
   Scott Blum, Biological Information Specialist       (406)444-5354                  Available
   Steve Cooper, Vegetation Ecologist
   Allan Cox, Systems & Services Manager
   Sue Crispin, Director                                                       Just released:       a beautiful, full-
   Coburn Currier, Project Biologist                                           color poster of Montana’s Fish Species
   Paul Hendricks, Zoologist
                                                                               of Special Concern, featuring color
   Ryan Killachey, Assistant Zoologist, Amphibians
   Greg Kudray, Senior Ecologist                                               images, range maps and status ranks
   Susan Lenard, Zoologist                             Website                 for 16 native fish, from the Paddlefish
   Kathy Lloyd, Database Assistant           
   Bryce Maxell, Senior Zoologist                                              to the Pearl Dace. Posters are avail-
   Martin Miller, Data Assistant                                               able for pick-up from Helena NHP
   Scott Mincemoyer, Program Botantist
   Darlene Patzner, Finance/Grants Administrator                               and FWP offices, as well as field
   Dave Ratz, Web Developer                                                    offices of FWP, BLM and the USFS
   Tom Schemm, Wetland Digitizing Technician
                                                                               throughout Montana.
   Dave Stagliano, Aquatic Ecologist
   Linda Vance, Ecology Project Manager
   Karen Walker, GIS/Database Coordinator
   Lindsay Weaver, Finance/Office Assistant
                  For staff E-mail addresses and phone numbers,
                        see “Staff Contacts” on our Website

Page 8                                               . optimolocus .                                      Spring 2006

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