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Non-Native Invasive Plant Species by ouu11658

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									                     SUMMIT MOUNTAIN PINE BEETLE SALVAGE PROJECT
CHAPTER 3                                  THREATENED AND SENSITIVE PLANT SPECIES




         THREATENED AND SENSITIVE PLANT SPECIES

Introduction
Under provisions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) 1973, Federal agencies are directed to
conserve endangered and threatened species, and to ensure that actions authorized, funded, or
carried out by these agencies are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of threatened or
endangered species, or result in the destruction or adverse modification of their critical habitats.
In accordance with Section 7(c) of the Act, the USFWS (2008) has determined that the following
threatened listed species may be present on the Flathead National Forest:
    1. Water howellia (Howellia aquatilis) and
    2. Spalding’s catchfly (Silene spaldingii)
In addition, a letter received on December 4, 2001, from R. Mark Wilson, Field Supervisor, USFWS,
identified these threatened, endangered, and proposed species that may occur on the Flathead
National Forest. The letter states that the range of Spalding’s catchfly includes the Upper Flathead
River System and that areas below 5,000 feet are considered within the range of water howellia.
Water howellia (Howellia aquatilis), a vascular plant species in the family Campanulaceae, was listed
as threatened under the ESA by the USFWS on July 14, 1994 (FR 59(134): 35860-35864). No critical
habitat has been identified for the species. A draft recovery plan has been issued, but as of yet, no
recovery plan has been finalized. Spalding’s catchfly (Silene spaldingii), a vascular plant species in
the family Caryophyllaceae, was listed as threatened under the ESA by the USFWS on November 9,
2001 (FR 66(196): 51598-51606). Although the USFWS intends to identify critical habitat for this
species, critical habitat designation was precluded at the time of listing due to a lack of funding. No
recovery plan has yet been drafted. The USFWS has not listed any endangered plant species for the
Flathead National Forest.
Forest Service Sensitive Species Policy (FSM 2670) calls on National Forests to assist states in
achieving conservation goals for endemic species; complete Biological Evaluations (BE) of programs
and activities; avoid and minimize impacts to species with viability concerns; analyze significance of
adverse effects on populations or habitat; and coordinate with states, and USFWS. The FSM 2670.15
further defines sensitive species as those plant and animal species identified by a Regional Forester
for which population viability is a concern, as evidenced by significant current or predicted downward
trend in numbers, density or habitat capability that would reduce a species existing distribution. The
Regional Forester has designated 52 plants species as sensitive on the Flathead National Forest
(USDA Forest Service 2004; Appendix A).

Analysis Area
Spatial Bounds
    1. Threatened Plants
        Water howellia
        The analysis area for this proposed project is based on the area of the project’s influ-
        ence/impacts on known occurrences or potential habitat for water howellia. There are three
        known water howellia occurrences in close proximity to proposed units or haul routes. Water
        howellia occurs in glaciated ponds and old oxbows, which limits the analysis area to the di-
        rect, indirect, and cumulative impacts from project activities to these habitats. The analysis


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        area for the direct and indirect impacts to water howellia includes the pond habitat and the
        surrounding catch basin of the pond. Because the Swan Valley meta-population is the only
        location for water howellia in Montana and is the largest globally-known meta-population, the
        cumulative effects analysis area includes the entire meta-population for water howellia in the
        Swan Valley. Potential effects to a single pond occurrence or potential habitat may have cu-
        mulative effects on the entire meta-population and potentially affecting species viability.
        Spalding’s catchfly
        The analysis area for this proposed project is based to the area of the project’s influ-
        ence/impacts on known occurrences or potential habitat Spalding’s catchfly. Because there
        are no known or occurrences or potential habitat for Spalding’s catchfly within or near the
        proposed project area, the analysis area is confined to the project area.
    2. Sensitive Plants
        The analysis area for the Summit MPB Salvage Project is based on the area of the project’s
        influence/impacts on known occurrences or suitable habitat for sensitive plant species. The
        analysis area is confined to the general project area and includes all treatment units and road
        systems with activities related to this proposed project.

Temporal Bounds
The temporal bounds may be up to 100 years after project implementation (Kuropat 2009). The
recovery of individual plants and populations after a disturbance event is species-specific and may
depend on the disturbance type and its effects to the micro site, the tolerance of the species to
disturbance, and the species’ methods of reproduction (i.e., rhizomes, taproots, bulbs, and corms).
Following project implementation, vegetation conditions may be suitable for some sensitive plant
species to become established immediately while other species may take between 50 and 100 years
to return to the tree and shrub canopy cover conditions that are suitable habitat.

Data Sources, Methods, and Assumptions Used
Data sources used in this analysis include the Montana Natural Heritage Program’s (MNHP) Element
Occurrence Database; the Flathead National Forest’s Plant Survey Atlas, and the Forest Service
Natural Resource Information System.
A habitat suitability analysis was conducted to evaluate the potential for additional sensitive plants
occurrences within the proposed activity areas. Sensitive plant species are grouped in habitat guilds
(Project File Exhibit B-2). Known vegetation types and elevation ranges of the project area were
considered in evaluating suitable habitat for rare plants. All proposed treatment units were evaluated
for potential habitat and those identified areas were surveyed for threatened and sensitive plants and
invasive species.
Surveys for threatened and sensitive plants within the Summit MPB Salvage Project were conducted
during the 2009 field season. Surveys were conducted across approximately 1200 acres of the
project area. Surveys on the Flathead National Forest are intuitive, which means trained Botanists
traverse proposed units concentrating in areas with a high potential for threatened and sensitive plant
occurrences or suitable habitat. All surveyors are trained and tested in the identification and habitat
associations of the Flathead National Forest sensitive plants.

Measurement Indicators
Measurement indicators used in this document include the effects to known sensitive and threatened
plant populations and effects to their suitable habitat. Sensitive and threatened plant population
trends are the ultimate measure for this analysis.




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CHAPTER 3                                  THREATENED AND SENSITIVE PLANT SPECIES



Affected Environment
Vegetation and Landform
The Summit MPB Salvage Project is located along the valley floor of the Swan Valley, bordered to the
west by the Mission Mountains and the Swan Mountain Range to the east. The valley runs
north/south and is approximately 50 miles long.
Within a matrix of coniferous forest, there are thousands of small isolated pothole wetlands and old
river oxbows along the valley floor and foothills. It is theorized that these basins were formed from
outwash and tilling by glacial ice which later melted to create an undulating topography. These swales
with clay sediment formed thousands of poorly drained basins that fill annually with spring precipita-
tion and melting snow and later dry out during summer months.
A cool and moist pacific maritime climate, in combination with continental air masses, has the largest
influence on the growth of vegetation in the analysis area. The south and west facing aspects are
warm, dry habitats supporting Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine. The north and east aspects are cool,
moist habitats commonly supporting Douglas-fir, western larch, lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce,
grand fir, and subalpine fir; and less commonly, western hemlock, western red cedar, and western
white pine. The higher elevations are cold, moist habitats supporting lodgepole pine, subalpine fir,
whitebark pine, and alpine larch. Deciduous trees such as black cottonwood, paper birch, and
quaking aspen are primarily found in moist areas (Project File Exhibit R-5).

Threatened Plants
Water howellia – (Howellia aquatilis)
Water howellia occurrences are distributed throughout the Pacific Northwest in scattered clumps
across Montana, Idaho, Washington, and California. There are 184 known occurrences in Montana,
all in the Swan Valley (Table 3-34). This is more than 70 percent of the known 260 global occur-
rences. Water howellia habitat has been subject to various management activities including dredging,
draining, road construction, logging, and grazing (Shelly 1988, USDA 1997). Reed canarygrass
(Phalaris arundinacea), an introduced species, also threatens populations across its range (Lesica
1997). The National Heritage Program Network has ranked this species as G3, meaning that it is at a
moderate risk of extinction due to a restricted range, relatively few populations (often 80 or fewer),
recent and widespread declines, or other factors (NatureServe 2009). The Montana Natural Heritage
Program (MNHP) has ranked the species as S2, which means at risk because of very limited and
potentially declining numbers, extent and/or habitat, making it vulnerable to global extinction or
extirpation in the state (MNHP 2009). Water howellia is currently listed as threatened by the USFWS.
Recent land transactions between the Nature Conservancy (TNC), Trust for Public Lands (TPL) and
Plum Creek have changed the ownership shown in Table 3-34. Within the Swan Valley, the bulk of all
lands shown in the table as Plum Creek have recently been deeded to TNC/TPL. For more detail see
the Lands Section of this EA.


                                                TABLE 3-33.
       GLOBAL ELEMENT OCCURRENCE BREAKDOWN OF WATER HOWELLIA BY OWNERSHIP.
      State                             Ownership                              # of Occurrences*
     Montana                             Forest Service                               103
                                  Forest Service/Plum Creek                            5
                                    Forest Service/Private                              2
                                     Forest Service/State                               1
                            Forest Service/The Nature Conservancy                      1
                                          Plum Creek                                   47
                                      Plum Creek/Private                               4




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                                                                   TABLE 3-33.
         GLOBAL ELEMENT OCCURRENCE BREAKDOWN OF WATER HOWELLIA BY OWNERSHIP.
       State                                            Ownership                                                  # of Occurrences*
                                                   Plum Creek/State                                                             1
                                                        Private                                                                18
                                                         State                                                                  2
        Idaho                                           Private                                                                 1
                                             U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service                                                    34
                                              U.S. Department of Defense                                                       17
    Washington                              Department of Natural Resources                                                     3
                                             Bureau of Land Management                                                          1
                                                        Private                                                                13
     California                                      Forest Service                                                             6
      Oregon                                 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service                                                     1
                                                             Total                                                            260
              * Updated November 2008 (Flathead National Forest Records and Montana Natural Heritage Program)

Reproductive success of water howellia is directly linked with the fluctuation of water levels both
annually and from year to year (Lesica 1990). Water howellia produce seeds underwater early in the
growing season when ponds fill up and also produce seeds later in the season via above-water
flowers. Water howellia requires annual drying of ponds for fall germination on exposed pond sub-
strate; however, repeated annual premature drying of ponds may reduce the ability for water howellia
to replenish the seed bank from year to year. In addition, prolonged inundation of ponds in a given
year may reduce fall germination and result in reduced seed bank replenishment. The longevity of
seed bank viability is not well understood. Some studies indicate that seed can retain viability for up
to 2 years (Mantas 2000; Shelley 1994).
Baseline conditions were prepared for only the Swan Valley metapopulation. Because water howellia
ponds are located in the valley floor in gentle rolling terrain, past activities such as road construction,
timber extraction and other development has occurred frequently in areas where ponds occur. A
summary of these human influenced conditions, within a 300-foot buffer surrounding water howellia
ponds, is displayed in Table 3-34.

                                                                   TABLE 3-34.
                  EXISTING CONDITION OF 184 KNOWN OCCURRENCES IN THE SWAN VALLEY
                                  (INTERPRETED FROM 1997 AND 2005 AERIAL PHOTOS).

                       Location                                                   Number
                                               Timber Management (within 25 years) **
      Adjacent to pond (to the edge of pond)                                                             63
   Within 300 feet of pond (not to edge of pond)                                                         55
        No activity within 300 feet of pond                                                              66
                                                                       Roads
         Open road within 300 feet of pond                                                               43
            Closed road within 300 feet                                                                  63
         No activity within 300 feet of pond                                                             78
                                              Reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea)
                                                                                     27 of 62 ponds monitored annually;
                 Present within ponds*
                                                                                       37 of 184 total known ponds***
                                                           Livestock use in Ponds
                                                                                  0 detected since 1998 annual monitoring
                Observed within ponds**
                                                                                          6 detected prior to 1998
 *Harvest is only noted as occurring if it is evident from an aerial photo. A light or partial cut that is undetectable from the photo was not recorded
  as recent harvest. If the area was previously harvested but the canopy has recovered enough to where harvest activity is undetectable on the
                                                   photo, then it is not considered recently harvested.
                                                                    ** surveyed in 2007
                                                      *** not all ponds have reed canarygrass data




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CHAPTER 3                                      THREATENED AND SENSITIVE PLANT SPECIES


These recent conditions show a departure from the range of conditions that historically surrounded
ponds. Aerial photo interpretation (1934 photos) of 78 ponds indicated that 25 of the 78 ponds (30
percent) had harvesting or road activities within 300 feet of the ponds. In contrast, 60 of the same 78
ponds (85 percent) now show harvesting or road activities within 300 feet as interpreted from 1997
aerial photos.

Associated Plant Community
Water howellia is an aquatic plant restricted to small pothole ponds, or oxbows, long since isolated
from the flowing surface waters of the adjacent river. These wetland habitats are generally shallow
(~1 meters deep [3.3 feet]), but the species has occasionally been observed in water up to approxi-
mately 2 meters (6.6 feet) in depth. The ponds typically occur in a matrix of dense forest vegetation,
and are nearly always surrounded in part by a small ring of deciduous vegetation. The bottom
surfaces of the wetlands usually consist of firm consolidated silts and clays overlain by 0 to 24 inches
of organic sediments. These ponds are generally filled by snowmelt runoff and spring rains, later
drying out to varying degrees by the end of the growing season, depending on annual patterns of
temperature and precipitation. Water howellia occurs between elevations of 3 meters (10 feet) in
Washington to 1372 meters (4500 feet) in Montana; all Montana occurrences lie between 945 meters
(3100 feet) and 1372 meters (4500 feet), and are found only in the Swan River Valley from just south
of the community of Swan Lake, south to the Clearwater/Swan Divide. In the Swan Valley, 128 ponds
and 2 old river oxbows are known to contain water howellia.
In Montana, most water howellia occurrences are in glacially-formed ponds surrounded by diverse
coniferous forests. These forests are of mixed species with various coverage of the following tree
species:
       grand fir,                           Engelmann spruce,                   ponderosa pine and
       subalpine fir,                       lodgepole,                          Douglas fir.
       tamarack,                            white pine,


The broadleaf deciduous tree most frequently associated with the pond margins is cottonwood, but
aspen is also often present. In the northern end of the Swan Valley, paper birch is found near some
pond margins. Shrub species bordering the ponds include:
       alder,                               dogwood,                            alderleaf buckthorn
                                                                                   and, most commonly,
       red-osier                            common juniper,
                                                                                  Bebb willow.
Aquatic herbaceous species commonly associated with water howellia are:
       blister sedge,                       variable leaf pond-                 small bur-reed.
                                              weed,
       two-headed water-
        starwort,                            white water crowfoot,
       water horsetail,                     hemlock waterparsnip,
                                              and


Conservation Strategy and Recovery Goals
A Conservation Strategy for water howellia was completed in 1994 and adopted into the Flathead’s
Forest Plan in 1997 (USDA 1997). In this conservation strategy, management prescriptions guiding
the conservation of the species on NFS lands are provided. A recovery plan has been issued in draft
form by the USFWS and is still in the review period. Because no final document has been issued,
there are currently no recovery goals officially identified for the species.
In 1998, a 10-year monitoring plan was implemented to detect changes in species distribution and
abundance and was completed in 2007. This study assisted in evaluating if current management



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THREATENED AND SENSITIVE PLANT SPECIES                                                       CHAPTER 3

prescriptions for water howellia are sufficient for continued viability of the Swan Valley metapopula-
tion. The results of the monitoring plan are in review. Continued monitoring is recommended.

Occurrences and Surveys
General surveys for potential water howellia in the Swan Valley have been conducted since 1987.
Specific surveys for the Summit MPB Salvage Project occurred in 2009. No known occurrences or
potential habitat were found within the proposed treatment units. However, three water howellia
occupied ponds are located within the project area. The nearest proposed unit to an occupied pond is
over a third of a mile away; however, the Owl Creek Loop (NFS Road #9558), a proposed haul route,
passes within 50 feet of an occupied pond (EO 072), which is located outside the project boundary.
The three occurrences in the project area (EO 084, 111, and 151) are more than a half mile from
proposed units (Project File Exhibit H-2). Other known occurrences outside the project area are more
than a third of a mile from proposed activities. One unoccupied pond occurs within the project
boundary, but is located farther than 150 feet from proposed activities (Refer to Table 3-35).
Project specific surveys within the Summit MPB Salvage Project were conducted during the 2009
field season. Aerial photos were used to look for potential howellia habitat present within the project
area, such as ponds, old oxbows, and other wet areas. There were a few potential howellia ponds
located using this method; however, they were not suitable habitat when surveyed on the ground.


                                                TABLE 3-35.
                       WATER HOWELLIA OCCUPIED AND UNOCCUPIED PONDS
                         WITHIN THE SUMMIT MPB SALVAGE PROJECT AREA.


                               Element Occurrence #              Unit/Haul Road
                                         072                         Rd 9558
                                         084                           NA
                                         111                           NA
                                         151                           NA
                                        U-065                          NA



Spalding’s Catchfly – (Silene spaldingii)
Spalding’s catchfly is a Palouse Prairie endemic that is currently known from 52 populations across
its range in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. This species has suffered
considerable habitat loss and fragmentation due to agricultural and urban development, grazing,
herbicide treatment, and exotic weed invasion (Schassberger 1988, Lichthardt 1997). The National
Heritage Program Network has ranked this species as G2, meaning that it is globally imperiled
because of rarity, or because of other factors demonstrably making it very vulnerable to extinction
throughout its range. The Montana Natural Heritage Program has ranked the species as S1, meaning
that it is critically imperiled in Montana because of extreme rarity, or because some factor of its
biology makes it especially vulnerable to extinction (MNHP 2009). Spalding’s catchfly is currently
listed as threatened by the USFWS.
Nine occurrences are known from Montana, all in grassland plant communities located in the north-
western portion of the state. Numbers of individuals at these nine occurrences are also very low. The
population at the Nature Conservancy’s Dancing Prairie Preserve in the Tobacco Valley is believed to
be the largest remaining population of this species in the world, with thousands of plants. However, all
other Montana locations have less than 150 plants each. Some only have a few plants. No popula-
tions are known from the Flathead National Forest, yet there are several nearby, including a historic
location in the vicinity of Columbia Falls. This occurrence was recorded from a herbarium specimen
dated 1894. A search was conducted in the area, but the plants have not been relocated since the
original report (Schassberger 1988). It is likely that the valley floor grassland where this collection was



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                      SUMMIT MOUNTAIN PINE BEETLE SALVAGE PROJECT
CHAPTER 3                                   THREATENED AND SENSITIVE PLANT SPECIES

made has been converted to agriculture or developed. Four other occurrences are between 10 and
15 air miles from the Flathead National Forest.
On private lands in Montana, much of the potential habitat for this species has been converted by
agricultural or urban development, or has been invaded by exotic plant species. On NFS lands, these
habitats have not undergone agricultural or urban conversion. However, potential habitats are subject
to weed invasion, grazing from cattle in active allotments, or horses and mules used by recreationists.
Native ungulate and livestock grazing is also heavy in portions of the wilderness that contain these
grassland types. The effects from these activities on habitat suitability for Spalding’s catchfly are
unknown.
There are no studies to date that evaluate the effects of disturbances such as grazing and trampling.
However, Peter Lesica (1999) observed on the Nature Conservancy Dancing Prairie Preserve that
the portion of the preserve that was used heavily by bulls (near a watering hole) showed greater
impacts from grazing and had no catchfly plants. To the north where there was less historic grazing,
there is a large population of plants. Lesica also speculated that because Spalding’s catchfly plants
are more abundant in sites with reduced bunchgrasses, grazing and/or fire disturbances that reduce
bunchgrass cover may be important to the long-term persistence of this species. This is not necessar-
ily a cause and effect relationship, however, because no pre-grazing data are available. Lesica also
observed evidence of horse grazing on the plants and suspected that other herbivores eat Spalding’s
catchfly, as well.
Lesica (1999) suggested that ungulate effects may have less impact on Spalding’s catchfly plants
because ungulates typically disperse out of the lower elevations before emergence of Spalding’s
catchfly, which is later in the growing season. The previous Forest Botanist discovered suitable
habitat on the Flathead National forest where there is intense winter and early spring ungulate
grazing; however, by late May, native ungulates are dispersing to the high country.
Invasion by exotic species threatens nearly all extant populations. A detailed account of exotic plant
species that have infested known occurrences can be found in the Montana Natural Heritage Pro-
gram and Idaho Fish and Game Status Reports (Schassberger 1988; Lichthardt, 1997) and in the
Federal Register (FR 64(232):67814-67821).
The threat of herbicide drift is a factor affecting Idaho populations because of the proximity of occur-
rences to large agricultural areas. However, this is not a threat in Montana, as the few known Mon-
tana occurrences are geographically removed from such treatment.

Associated Plant Community
Plant communities that are suitable habitat for Spalding’s catchfly in Montana occur on the Flathead
National Forest, although they are extremely scarce. Suitable habitat is grasslands dominated by
rough fescue (Festuca scabrella), bluebunch wheatgrass (Elymus spicatus or Agropyron spicatum),
and/or Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis). There may be scattered ponderosa pine (Pinus ponder-
osa) trees forming an open canopy. Although there are numerous mountain grasslands on the
Flathead National Forest with similar species composition, it appears that Spalding’s catchfly prefers
mesic sites within a matrix of drier grassland communities in the foothill and valley floor zones.
On the Flathead National Forest, small isolated suitable habitats exist along the North Fork of the
Flathead River floodplain from the Canadian border to Polebridge, in very small isolated grasslands in
the Swan Valley, and in larger open fescue bunchgrass prairies in the South Fork Flathead and
Danaher Creek Drainages within the Bob Marshall Wilderness. There may be suitable grasslands in
the Hog Heaven Range of the Swan Island Unit and on the south slopes near Ashley Lake as well.
None of these areas are specifically mapped; even so, they would not comprise more than 1 percent
of the Flathead National Forest’s land base.

Conservation Strategy and Recovery Goals
Neither a conservation strategy nor a recovery plan has been developed for this species as of this
date.




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Occurrences and Surveys
There are no known occurrences of Spalding’s catchfly within the proposed Summit MPB Salvage
Sale boundaries or within the Flathead National Forest, based on MNHP database and FNF sensitive
plants database.
In 2000, aerial photos of the entire Flathead National Forest were reviewed by the Forest Botanist to
locate large expanses of grassland with potential habitat for Spalding’s catchfly. Potential habitat was
identified in small isolated grasslands in the Swan Valley. These areas of potential grasslands are not
located within the proposed Summit MPB Salvage Project area. No grasslands with potential for
Spalding’s catchfly were located within the project area on aerial photos or during 2009 project
specific surveys.

Regional Forester’s Sensitive Plants
There are 52 recognized Regional Forester’s Sensitive Plants for the Flathead National Forest
(Project File Exhibit B-2). The MNHP Database and Flathead National Forest Databases (NRIS 2009)
were queried to determine known sensitive plant occurrences within the Summit MPB Salvage
Project Area. There are no known sensitive plant populations within the proposed treatment units, but
there are four known populations of Regional Forester’s Sensitive Plants in the project area.
Rare plants are species currently being monitored due to potential interest or concern for historical or
conservation reasons. Their status and occurrences are being monitored to assure viability is main-
tained so they do not become listed on the Regional Forester's sensitive plant list or the threatened
and endangered list. Little is known about the historical condition for rare plants on the Swan Lake
Ranger District. Botanical surveys that may have detected rare plants were not initiated in the area
until the onset of the Forest’s Botany Program in 1991. One rare plant, common camas (Camassia
quamash), occurs in 24 sites in the project area and 22 of those sites are in proposed treatment units
(Table 3-36). This plant occurs in wet areas, which mostly are excluded from the treatment units.
Specific sites would be excluded or avoided to protect this culturally-significant resource.

                                                      TABLE 3-36.
  REGIONAL FORESTER’S SENSITIVE PLANTS AND OTHER RARE PLANTS IN THE PROJECT AREA.
                                                                           Habitat Guilds
        Species                EO#         AV     F   W     R    MCT      MC     MMC      GO     MS     CRS      S    A    D
 Botrychium crenulatum             46                   X    X               X      X             X              X
                               TBD (24
  Camassia quamash                                      X    X
                                  EO)
                              16, TBD (3
   Grindelia howellii                                                                     X                                 X
                                  EO)
                    EO# = Element Occurrence number in the Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
 AV=Aquatic and vernal pools; F=Fens and fen margins; W=Marshes, seeps, springs, and wet meadows; R=Riparian; MCT=
 Vernally moist cliffs or mossy talus; MC= Mid-elevation moist coniferous forests; MMC=Margins of moist coniferous forests;
   GO=Dry grasslands & openings in ponderosa pine and dry Douglas-fir forests; MS=Mid-montane/Subalpine grass/forb;
         CRS=Canyon walls, crevices, rock outcrops and slides S=Subalpine forests; A=Alpine; D= Disturbed areas

Suitable Habitat
The Summit MPB Salvage Project Area contains habitat types for sensitive plants associated with the
following habitat guilds (Project File Exhibit H-2):
        aquatic and vernal pools                                       margins of moist coniferous forests
        mid-elevation moist coniferous forests                         mid-montane/subalpine grass/forb
        riparian areas                                                 disturbed areas
        marshes, seeps, springs and wet meadows                        dry grasslands and openings in ponderosa
                                                                         pine and dry Douglas fir forests




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Environmental Consequences

                    Alternative A - No Action Alternative
              Direct Effects to Threatened and Sensitive Plants
In consideration of the No Action Alternative threatened and sensitive plants will be considered
together as the direct effects of Alternative A are the same to both. This alternative proposes no
ground-disturbing activity. Therefore, there would be no direct effects to threatened or sensitive
species as a result of this project. The response of each of the threatened and sensitive plant species
to management activity varies by species, and in some cases, is not fully known. Local native
vegetation has evolved with and is adapted to the climate, soils, and natural processes such as fire,
insect and disease infestations, and windthrow. Any management or lack of management that causes
these natural processes to be altered may have impacts on native vegetation, including threatened
and sensitive plants.


                    Alternative A - No Action Alternative
            Indirect Effects for Threatened and Sensitive Plants

In Alternative A, there is a foreseeable trend toward increased dead lodgepole pine throughout the
project units which would increase fuel loading over time. Historically, such fuels have been con-
sumed, particularly in lodgepole pine stands, by stand replacing fire. As discussed in the Fire and
Fuels Section, the probability, potential extent, and possible intensity of a stand replacing fire in-
creases under Alternative A. There is the risk that an extreme fire event could affect nearby water
howellia habitat, which is limited to specific pond conditions and is not known to be perpetuated by
fire. Water howellia may be adapted to low-intensity burns that were historical in the area but the
effects of high-intensity burns have not been studied and are unknown. If such an event occurred, the
actual effect to water howellia would be influenced by a variety of site specific factors such as
removal of surrounding forest vegetation and the risk of establishment by invasive species. Popula-
tions of Spalding’s catchfly are not known to exist in the area or on the Forest. Discussion of potential
indirect effects from Alternative A would not be meaningful. To the contrary, major disturbances such
as windfall or fire can enhance ecological processes and aid ecosystem recovery by restoring some
of the structural complexity and landscape heterogeneity that has been lost through past forest
management by humans. Disturbance-associated sensitive plants are often rare due to the lack of the
habitats to which they have adapted.
Spread and establishment of invasive plant species may occur under the No Action Alternative. The
risks of spread and establishment would come from the continued use of open roads in the project
area, as well as potential wildland fire as discussed above. Wildland fire can expose bare mineral soil,
either by burning all vegetation and the duff and organic soil layers, or by suppression activities such
as creating dozer lines. The proximity of existing infestations to activities can increase these risks.
The risk of introduction, spread, establishment and persistence of invasive species in the project area
would not be facilitated by project activities of the action alternatives (ground disturbance, vehicle
traffic, movement of equipment) under Alternative A. With the possible exception of possible high-
intensity fire, the risk of invasive species introduction, spread, establishment and persistence, and the
resulting competition for resources with threatened and sensitive plant populations and native
vegetation is likely reduced in Alternative A, as compared to the action alternatives.




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THREATENED AND SENSITIVE PLANT SPECIES                                                         CHAPTER 3

                  Alternative A – No Action Alternative
          Cumulative Effects for Threatened and Sensitive Plants

There would be no cumulative effects to threatened or sensitive species as a result of this project.
Past, present, and reasonably foreseeable actions within the Summit MPB Salvage Project Area
(Federal and nonfederal) include timber harvesting, invasive species control, road construction and
maintenance, recreation, and fire suppression. These actions may have historically affected Feder-
ally-threatened plants and the Regional Forester’s Sensitive Plants and may continue to have effects
(See the Cumulative Effects Section under the Action Alternatives).
Cumulative effects from Alternative A may include the potential for stand replacing fire. Stand
replacing fire may occur due to increased understory fuel; beetle infested trees would not be re-
moved, and seedlings and saplings would continue the processes of natural forest succession. Native
species have evolved and adapted to natural disturbance, such as fire on the landscape. Fires
primarily occur in the mid to late summer season, when annual plants have flowered and set seed.
Perennial root-stocks would remain underground and would emerge following the fires. It is unlikely
that Alternative A would cumulatively contribute to a marked decrease in threatened or sensitive plant
populations or habitat.


                   Effects Common to All Action Alternatives
                Direct and Indirect Effects to Threatened Plants

Water howellia
Three occupied water howellia ponds occur within the project boundary but treatment units do not
overlap the occupied ponds and no direct effects are expected for these ponds (Project File Exhibit H-
2). A separate occupied pond outside the project boundary occurs within 50 feet of a haul route.
Timber activities are not planned near this water howellia population, and neither are road activities
such as BMPs planned near this population.
Timber Harvesting
Timber harvesting in the surrounding uplands of water howellia ponds may impair natural vegetation
recovery and alter the hydrologic processes (Lindenmayer and Noss 2006) of occupied and unoccu-
pied howellia ponds. Changes to the hydrologic processes of ponds may result in both a decrease
and increase in pond inundation levels. Additional disturbance of surrounding upland trees may
decrease evapotranspiration of the surrounding upland trees and may result in increased inundation
of ponds from runoff. Also, increased canopy openings near ponds may increase evaporation of
ponds, effectively reducing water levels earlier in the growing season. These effects occur with live
tree harvesting; however, salvage and sanitation activities target dying and dead trees, which have
ceased to transpire effectively, if at all. If these dying and dead trees were to be left in place, it would
produce the same effects of reduced canopy and changes to hydrology as harvesting. The Summit
MPB Salvage Project does not propose any harvest activities within 300 feet of occupied ponds and,
therefore, does not require buffering of these sites.
Invasive Species
Project activities near occupied and unoccupied ponds have the potential for depositing or dispersing
invasive plant seed. Invasive species within occupied ponds may affect water howellia by competing
for light, nutrients, space, and water. Reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea) is known to occur in
35 of the 141 monitored water howellia ponds in the Swan Valley. This grass is highly competitive in
wet habitats and can form a monoculture which displaces native plants (Apfelbaum and Sams 1987).
Reed canarygrass seeds are not typically wind blown and spread would most likely occur with a
vector source (such as recreationists, ungulates, bears, or birds) spreading seeds from pond to pond


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CHAPTER 3                                  THREATENED AND SENSITIVE PLANT SPECIES

or through water courses that connect ponds. Currently, none of the occupied ponds in the project
area are infested with reed canarygrass. Potential for spread of reed canarygrass from infested ponds
to “clean” ponds is low since there are no activities planned near infested ponds. The risk of infesta-
tion is further reduced by washing equipment prior to entry onto NFS lands.
Roads
The proposed action includes 3.1 miles of new temporary road construction, which are not within the
vicinity of the occupied or unoccupied ponds. There is no new permanent road construction pro-
posed. Less than a mile (0.8 miles) of use of historic templates and 0.5 miles of skid trails are
proposed to access harvest units. Road BMPs would also be implemented on all haul routes that
have not been improved with previous actions. Road BMPs can cause increased siltation into ponds
which may result in the burying of water howellia seeds too deep for germination or shifting the
pond’s vegetation composition, supporting emergent vegetation in place of submergent vegetation
types (USDI 1996). One occupied pond is located within 50 feet of a proposed haul route (NFSR
9558). This road would not need BMPs since they were completed three years prior to this report
under the Holland Pierce Fuels Reduction Project (Boelman 2009). This road would be used for
hauling and it would access a small portion of the proposed treatment units. If ground disturbing BMP
related activities were to occur within 300 feet of pond 072 then mitigation measures would be
necessary to limit sediment deposition into this pond.
Spalding’s catchfly
There are no known occurrences of Spalding’s catchfly within the Summit MPB Salvage Project Area
or within the Flathead National Forest. No grasslands of potential habitat for Spalding’s catchfly were
delineated from aerial photos in the project area. In addition, Spalding’s catchfly plants were not
found during the 2009 project area surveys. Due to the lack of habitat and known occurrences, there
are no direct or indirect effects for Spalding’s catchfly expected from implementation of the Summit
MPB Salvage Project.

                    Effects Common to All Action Alternatives
                    Cumulative Effects for Threatened Plants

Water howellia
Land ownership in the Swan Valley is divided into a checkerboard pattern. Past activities such as
road construction, timber extraction and other development have occurred within the Swan Valley.
Past, present, and foreseeable actions on non-NFS lands in this project area include: timber harvest-
ing, land development, road construction and maintenance, dispersed recreation, invasive species
control, and fire suppression. These actions may have historically affected water howellia and may
continue to have effects. Please refer to the Cumulative Effects Worksheet (Project File Exhibit H-3)
for additional information regarding cumulative effects.

Timber Harvesting and Road Construction
It is possible that past and future road construction/maintenance and timber management may have
increased groundwater and sediment flow in some wetlands. This may affect seed germination as
discussed in the Direct and Indirect Effects Section for water howellia. Increased siltation may result
in shifts in the wetland vegetation composition, supporting emergent vegetation in place of submer-
gent vegetation types (USDI 1996). Timber management and other development activities may also
contribute to these same effects on water howellia.
Cumulative effects would only occur if water howellia habitat was impacted by activities associated
with the proposed action. Any affected occupied ponds would be buffered by a 300-foot no-activity
zone and unoccupied suitable ponds would be buffered by a 150-foot no-activity zone. Hauling and
associated road maintenance on roads with nearby ponds would be mitigated to prevent sediment
from reaching those ponds. There would not be any direct or indirect effects to water howellia habitat



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from timber and road activities as a result of this proposed project. The proposed action in combina-
tion with all past, present, and foreseeable activities would not contribute to cumulative effects to
water howellia habitat.

Land Development
Past, present and future lands sales from PCTC to private developers may have had effects and may
continue to affect habitat and occurrences of water howellia. Development of lands may reduce
potential habitat, alter hydrologic regimes, and increase the likelihood for new weed establishment.
Water howellia that occurs on private land is not federally protected, and private ownership may lead
to removal of the population or degradation of habitat.

Recreationists
Trails and other areas frequented by recreationists could contribute to the cumulative effects on water
howellia. Some occupied water howellia ponds are located near roads, trailheads, or other areas
frequented by recreationists. Trail maintenance near wetlands may affect water howellia by increas-
ing siltation into wetlands or the dispersal of invasive species by human vectors. However, since most
recreationists are reluctant to tread in the mucky waters of wetlands, the risk of infestation by invasive
species would be lower than in drier habitats. Trash and dumping at these ponds have not been
observed.

Invasive Species
The risk of infestation of invasive species resulting from past, present, and foreseeable activities and
the Summit MPB Salvage Project may contribute to the cumulative effects on known and potential
occurrences of water howellia. Reed canarygrass is known in approximately 35 of the 141 occur-
rences in the Swan Valley. Past, present and foreseeable activities have, may, or could contribute to
the spread of reed canarygrass to these ponds. Areas within the project have been and are still
actively monitored for invasive weeds through the Forest’s Invasive Species Program, separate from
project activities. Active management of invasive species occurs in compliance with the NWIC
Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact (Project File Exhibit R-6). In addition, Design
Criteria for invasive species treatment along traveled roads for this project would mitigate this
potential impact.
Ponds adjacent to areas of invasive species control on state and private lands may be at risk of
exposure to herbicide. The effects of chemical controls conducted by state and private lands near
water howellia ponds are unknown. However, use of pesticides near water is highly regulated by the
EPA with chemical labels dictating acceptable use of chemicals near water. The effects of herbicides
at or near water howellia ponds on the Flathead National Forest were analyzed in the NIWC EA and
Decision Notice. This Decision Notice requires that threatened and sensitive species surveys be
conducted prior to chemical treatment of a site. No chemical controls have been conducted at or near
howellia ponds on the Flathead National Forest.
Spalding’s catchfly
There are no known occurrences of Spalding’s catchfly within the Summit MPB Salvage Project
boundaries or within the Flathead National Forest. No grasslands of potential habitat for Spalding’s
catchfly were delineated from aerial photos in the action area. In addition Spalding’s catchfly plants
were not found during the 2009 project area surveys. Due to the lack of habitat and known occur-
rences, there are no cumulative effects for Spalding’s catchfly expected from implementation of the
Summit MPB Salvage Project.




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CHAPTER 3                                   THREATENED AND SENSITIVE PLANT SPECIES

                    Effects Common to All Action Alternatives
                  Direct and Indirect Effects to Sensitive Plants

Known Occurrences
There are no known occurrences of sensitive plant species within the Summit MPB Salvage Project’s
treatment units; however, there are three sensitive plant populations within the project boundary,
which would not be directly affected by harvest activities. These species are Howell’s gumweed
(Grindelia howellia) and wavy moonwort (Botrychium crenulatum).
One population of Howell’s gumweed may be affected indirectly because it is located near a pro-
posed haul route (Owl Creek Road #9558) and along a major access road (MT Hwy 83) for the
project area that accesses the haul route (Project File Exhibit H-5). This sensitive plant population is
largely influenced by its proximity to a heavily traveled paved State Highway and by State and County
management activities within the highway corridor granted to them, such as invasive species control
and road maintenance. Some indirect effects due to the action alternatives could occur because the
Owl Creek Road, enters the highway in the middle of the population (See Project Exhibit H-5). The
proposed project would primarily be winter harvested which would reduce or eliminate the amount of
dusting to Howell’s gumweed. Dusting from traffic settles on the plants and does not completely wash
off due to the glandular resin that makes the plants very tacky. Dust can impede photosynthesis and
respiration, as well as contribute to mold by holding moisture on the leaves. Since it is along the right-
of-way and off of the main road, there would not be any risk of logging trucks or other associated
project equipment directly disturbing individuals. Although these activities could indirectly affect this
population of Howell’s gumweed, they would not lead to a loss of viability to the species or lead to
federal listing.
There are several occurrences of the culturally significant plant, common camas (Camassia qua-
mash) (Project File Exhibit H-5). It occurs in the project area and in proposed treatment units.
Direct or indirect effects to camas include disturbance from logging activities, over-harvesting for
personal or commercial use, and invasive species competition and control. The populations are
scattered across the project area, with potentially more populations that were not located during
surveys. Proposed harvest activities and temporary road construction could have direct effects of
disturbing populations and removing plants and indirect effects of changes in hydrology and siltation,
as well as increase the potential for invasive species infestation. Since common camas usually exists
in wetlands, it would be excluded from activities by a 50-foot buffer if less than an acre, and a 100-
foot buffer if greater than an acre. For those populations not in a recognizable wetland (delineated by
facultative wetland plant species), an exclusion would be acceptable since it is not currently a listed
species and since it occurs in areas where there is no or little merchantable timber.
Suitable Habitat
Unknown occurrences of sensitive species may be affected by soil disturbance and compaction,
competition from invasive species, roadside dusting, and hydrology alteration due to project activities.
        Roads – There are currently approximately 24 miles of existing roads within the project area;
        22 miles are NFS roads. The Summit MPB Salvage Project would not increase the amount of
        NFS roads on the Swan Lake Ranger District, but it proposes to build temporary roads in all
        alternatives. None of the roads were found to support sensitive plant species. Direct effects to
        suitable habitat would be the removal of vegetation and soil compaction from road activities.
        Indirect effects to suitable habitat would include edge effects from road construction and pos-
        sible silt deposition in wetlands. Edge effects are described as an increase in light, an in-
        crease in temperature, an increase in wind, a decrease in humidity, and, in the case of roads,
        an increase in dusting (Trombulak & Frissell 2000). The extent of edge effects is difficult to
        determine, since it depends on the size of the adjacent opening/road corridor and the af-
        fected forest type, but it can extend from 15 to 50 feet (Watkins et al. 2003). The effect to na-
        tive vegetation would be a change in habitat that could affect the diversity of the stand edge.



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     Roads can also alter hydrologic regimes, either increasing or decreasing the water levels of
     the affected wetlands.
     Timber Harvesting – Timber harvesting may alter the hydrologic processes for sensitive
     species of wetland-associated habitat groups such as the aquatic, fens and fen margins, ri-
     parian, and wet coniferous forest groups. Changes to the hydrologic processes of wetlands
     could result in both a decrease and increase of wetland water levels. Timber harvesting often
     decreases canopy cover and, in consequence, may decrease evapotranspiration rates of the
     surrounding upland trees. This may result in an increased inundation of wetlands from runoff.
     In addition, increased canopy openings near wetlands may increase evaporation of the wet-
     lands, effectively reducing water levels earlier in the growing season.
     The majority of the proposed treatments in all action alternatives would decrease canopy
     cover and change any existing suitable habitat to unsuitable habitat. These treatments would
     exclude wet sites and would presumably not have a direct effect on any wetland or riparian
     habitats within the project area. Without future vegetation management, these treatment units
     would recover in the long-term and eventually become suitable habitat again. Alternative C
     proposes the least amount of treatment although there is only a 14 acre difference between it
     and the other two alternatives.
     Regeneration harvests include Clearcut and Seed Tree harvesting, both of which remove
     most trees from the site, leaving from 0 to 20 trees per acre depending on the harvest type.
     The objective is to create the open conditions conducive to the regeneration and growth of a
     new stand of young conifers that better meet Forest Plan objectives. In general these harvest
     types have the most impact on suitable habitat, since they change the site conditions consid-
     erably. In the Summit MPB Salvage Project, regeneration harvesting is proposed in stands
     that are composed almost exclusively of lodgepole pine that are either dead or dying from
     mountain pine beetle infestations. These stands have been impacted by beetle mortality and
     are currently not stocked, and soon new trees will grow on these sites. It could take up to 100
     years for the canopy to recover sufficiently to support most sensitive species’ suitable habitat
     again. All action alternatives propose the same stands for regeneration harvests.
     Intermediate harvest treatments would leave more trees behind, but they would still remove
     enough canopy cover to impact suitable habitat. Intermediate harvests would leave between
     30 to 100 trees per acre, depending on the prescription for each unit. The effects to suitable
     habitat would be short-term, between 10 and 50 years, compared to regeneration harvests.
     Alternatives B and D propose the same amount of intermediate harvest of 1042 acres, while
     Alternative C proposes 1028 acres.
     A number of prescribed treatments are designed to reduce natural and activity-generated
     fuels within the proposed treatment areas. Fuels reduction would occur by whole tree yard-
     ing, piling, excavator piling, and either burning or chipping/masticating piles. Broadcast and
     jackpot burning are also proposed in each alternative. The fuels treatments proposed would
     occur in the same units as the harvest activities, which means that these units would already
     have soil disturbance. There would not be any separate burn areas. Broadcast burning would
     occur in regeneration harvested units. Jackpot burning would occur in intermediate harvested
     units. Since wildland fire is historically part of the landscape, the native vegetation is adapted
     to fire effects, and in the long-term, would not be negatively affected by proposed burning. All
     action alternatives propose the same amount of fuels reduction with the exception of Alterna-
     tive C, which proposes only 14 acres less.
     Non-Native Invasive Species Control – Sensitive species adjacent to areas of chemical in-
     vasive species control could be at risk of exposure to herbicide. However, on the Flathead
     National Forest, sensitive plant surveys are conducted for each site before any chemical con-
     trol treatments are implemented, as required by the NIWC Decision Notice (Project File Ex-
     hibit R-6). With the exception of some sensitive species that occur in “disturbed” or early suc-
     cessional habitats (i.e., Howell's gumweed, pale corydalis, Austin’s knotweed, and western
     moonwort), invasive species do not persist in sensitive plant habitat due to differing habitat
     requirements.


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CHAPTER 3                                  THREATENED AND SENSITIVE PLANT SPECIES



                    Effects Common to All Action Alternatives
                      Cumulative Effects to Sensitive Plants

Past, present, and foreseeable actions within the Summit MPB Salvage Project Area (Federal and
non-Federal) include timber harvesting, land development, wildland fire, fire suppression, road
construction and maintenance, recreation, invasive species control, special use permits, land ex-
changes, and grazing. These actions may have historically affected sensitive species and suitable
habitat, and they could continue to have effects.
        Timber Harvesting – For non-wetland habitats, timber harvesting decreases canopy cover
        and increases light level to the forest floor. This could be a beneficial effect for some sensitive
        species, but could have adverse effects for other species requiring greater canopy cover
        (e.g., clustered lady's-slipper). In many cases, timber harvesting creates stand changes not
        unlike that of naturally-occurring fires; however, the pattern and distribution of forest size
        classes has drastically shifted from historical patterns that were created under natural distur-
        bance regimes. Today, forest stands are far more fragmented in the landscape in reference
        to forest structure and size class. Additionally, harvesting and development activities disturb
        soil, which increases the amount of exposed mineral soil. Soil disturbance carries a higher
        risk of invasive species establishment, and with contaminated equipment, also has a higher
        risk of introduction of invasive species. Soil disturbance also exposes the dormant seed bank
        in the soil. The introduction and establishment of invasive species would affect the integrity of
        native and sensitive plant habitats. It is likely that past timber harvesting has affected occur-
        rences and/or suitable habitat of sensitive plants, although the extent is unknown. The Sum-
        mit MPB Project, as well as past and future vegetation management projects on federal, pri-
        vate, and Plum Creek lands, contributes cumulatively to the effects on sensitive plants and
        suitable habitat.
        Roads – Past, present, and future maintenance of the roads can have both adverse and
        beneficial cumulative effects on sensitive plant populations. Disturbance of roadsides could
        benefit those species that have a competitive edge in disturbed environments (i.e., Howell's
        gumweed, pale corydalis, Austin’s knotweed, and western moonwort); yet disturbance would
        temporarily adversely affect these populations until new seedlings establish in the openings.
        Maintenance could increase traffic along these roads and, thus, increase the risk of the intro-
        duction of invasive species, which could affect sensitive plant populations or habitat. Mainte-
        nance, such as blading, could also disturb plant populations adjacent to roads. Road con-
        struction and maintenance could also affect wetland habitats by disrupting the hydrology
        (Trombulak & Frissell 2000). It is possible that past (and future) road construction could have
        affected groundwater and sediment flow in some wetlands. Increased siltation could result in
        shifts in the wetland vegetation composition, supporting emergent vegetation in place of
        submergent vegetation types (USDI 1996). Road closures have positively affected suitable
        habitat and native vegetation by reducing the above effects and decreasing the potential for
        invasive species invasion. Temporary roads are proposed in both alternatives, and although
        they would be reclaimed, their construction would disturb the soil and remove plants perma-
        nently from the landscape. For these areas, sensitive plant suitable habitat would be affected
        until these roads eventually grew back in, which would be a long-term effect.
        Wildland Fire and Fire Suppression – In general, NFS lands contain a large amount of fu-
        els in the understory due to fire suppression over the last century. Fire suppression has cre-
        ated a denser understory condition in many unharvested stands where historically, low-
        severity understory fires occurred regularly. The fires that have been eliminated from the un-
        derstory played a role in reducing both fuels and encroaching vegetation (USDA Forest Ser-
        vice 1998). Removing fire from the landscape resulted in closed-canopy conditions that have
        reduced light levels, affecting the understory vegetation. Additionally, fire suppression activi-
        ties (i.e., fire lines, dozer lines) increase exposed mineral soil, which can be vulnerable to in-



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     vasive seed establishment. This could affect the integrity of sensitive plant habitat. The pro-
     posed fuels reduction treatments in all action alternatives would contribute toward reducing
     the need for fire suppression activities, as well as reduce the risk of high-severity wildland fire
     in the treated units. Since the project contains WUI, fire suppression would continue to be a
     part of the current and future management of the project area.
     Land Development – Past, present, and future lands sales from PCTC to private developers
     could have had effects and could continue to affect habitat and populations of Regional For-
     ester’s Sensitive Plants; however, the likelihood of future land sales to private developers has
     largely been eliminated by the Montana Legacy Project (See the Lands Section of this EA for
     more detail). Effects to sensitive plant resources as a result of past development and land
     clearing on private lands could have been detrimental to population viability; however, since
     there is no historical data on sensitive species, it is difficult to analyze those actions. Much of
     the suitable habitat for plants associated with wetlands has been lost or degraded on private
     lands. These areas have been used for grazing or development and were often cleared of
     trees or drained. Continued development of lands could reduce potential habitat, alter hydro-
     logic regimes, and increase the likelihood for new invasive species establishment. There are
     approximately 1373 acres of private lands in the project area.
     Land Acquisition – Land previously owned by PCTC and acquired by the Forest Service
     would be more likely to be surveyed and managed for sensitive plant populations than when
     it was owned by PCTC. Depending on priorities, surveys could occur in conjunction with the
     goals to protect and restore important wildlife and fish habitat and wetlands. In one recently
     acquired section of land in the Swan Valley, three new occurrences of sensitive plants were
     found during a survey. Land acquired also would be more likely to be treated for invasive
     species, which could protect sensitive plant habitat from infestation. The Swan Lake Ranger
     District will soon be acquiring over 44,000 acres from PCTC via The Nature Conservancy.
     These lands would be surveyed as projects are proposed. Plum Creek Timber Company will
     retain harvesting rights on these lands for the next 10 years, precluding effective plant habitat
     management until after that time.
     Recreation – Trails, campgrounds, lake access points, and other areas frequented by rec-
     reationists could contribute to the cumulative effects to sensitive plants. Trail construc-
     tion/maintenance near wetlands could affect wetland species by increasing siltation into wet-
     lands or the increase the risk of introducing invasive species by construction, maintenance,
     and recreationists. However, since most recreationists are reluctant to tread in the mucky wa-
     ters of wetlands, the risk of infestation by invasive species would be lower than in drier habi-
     tats. Drier species could be trampled, threatened by invasive species, and collected. Non-
     wetland plants could experience cumulative effects of trampling and collecting from dispersed
     recreation. There are not many developed recreation sites in the project area, so the risk of
     impact to sensitive plants and their habitats by recreationists is low.
     Non-Native Invasive Species – Past vegetation management, wildland fire, recreation, de-
     velopment, road construction, and other transportation corridors have all contributed to the
     spread of invasive species in the project area. The proposed activities also carry the risk of
     introduction and further spread of invasives. The Flathead National Forest has an integrated
     weed management program that identifies and controls infestations across the Forest. Herbi-
     cide is the most commonly used treatment to kill invasive species, which also can affect na-
     tive plant species. Since areas to be treated with herbicide are surveyed prior to spraying,
     there would not be an effect to sensitive species. Without prevention measures, inventories,
     and treatment, the risk of spread would increase in the project area and would further affect
     suitable habitat. Design Criteria proposed for this project would contribute to preventing fur-
     ther invasive species establishment as a result of project activities. There would be a moder-
     ate risk of further introduction and spread of invasives, which could negatively affect suitable
     sensitive plant habitat.
     Special Use Permits – There are several special use permits in effect within the project
     area; most are for road access to private land and utility corridors. As with many other activi-



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        ties, special use areas, such as access roads and utility corridors, remove native vegetation,
        alter surrounding habitats, and increase the risk of invasive species infestation. The existing
        permits would remain in effect indefinitely.
Conclusions
The proposed Summit MPB Salvage Project would not have direct effects on threatened or Regional
Forester’s Sensitive Plant species, as there are no known occurrences in the proposed treatment
areas. There may be indirect effects to Howell’s gumweed that occurs outside the project area but
along a main access road. There would not be any cumulative effects on sensitive species since any
indirect effects to Howell’s gumweed would dissipate after project implementation is complete. There
would be direct, indirect, and cumulative effects to suitable habitat; however, some guilds, such as
wetlands and riparian areas, would be protected from project activities. Upland suitable habitat would
presumably recover in 50 to 100 years after implementation.

Determination
Water howellia (Howellia aquatilis)
It is my determination that the Summit MPB Salvage Project will have “no effect” on water howellia.
This determination is based on the occurrences of occupied ponds within the project area that are
located much farther than 300 feet from proposed project activities and would not be affected by the
proposed action, as well as on the one occupied pond near a haul route that is not proposed to have
BMP activities.
Spalding’s catchfly (Silene spaldingii)
It is my determination that the proposed Summit MPB Salvage Project will have “no effect” on
Spalding’s catchfly, its habitat, or potential habitat for these species. This determination is based on
the lack of known occurrences and suitable habitat within the proposed action area.
Sensitive Plants
It is my determination that the Summit MPB Salvage Project “may affect individuals and habitat,
but would not result in a trend toward federal listing or cause a loss of viability for sensitive
species.” This determination is due to the presence of sensitive plant populations and suitable
habitat within the project area; however, there are no known occurrences near proposed treatment
areas. In those areas containing common camas, exclusions or buffers would protect populations.
Individuals may be affected, but the project would not result in a trend toward Federal listing or cause
a loss of viability for this species.

Regulatory Framework and Consistency
Water howellia was listed as threatened under the ESA by the USFWS on June 14, 1994 (FR
59(134): 35860-35864). Amendment 20 of the Forest Plan provides for conservation measures to
ensure the protection of water howellia. The goal of Amendment 21 to the Forest Plan is to “provide
sufficient habitat to promote the recovery of threatened and endangered species and conserve the
ecosystems upon which they depend.” Spalding’s catchfly was listed as threatened under the ESA
by the USFWS on November 9, 2001 (FR 66(196): 51598-51606), although there are no known
populations on the Flathead National Forest. A BA is required for federal actions that may impact
threatened and endangered species. This has been prepared and is located in the project file (Exhibit
H-2).
All alternatives of the Summit MPB Salvage Project would meet the direction outlined by the Flathead
National Forest in the Forest Plan and Amendments, as well as direction found in FSM 2670. All
alternatives are also in compliance with the ESA and the NFMA.




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