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                            The Nature Conservancy Report
     Rapid Assessment of Conservancy Priorities within the Plum Creek Resource Plan,
                         Moosehead Lake Region. January 2006.

The Plum Creek Resource Plan for Gateway Lands in the Moosehead Lake Region was reviewed
by The Nature Conservancy staff for known priority biodiversity conservation values. This
review did not explicitly address priorities of other agencies or organizations. Our assessment is
not comprehensive or definitive. It also lacks recent field verification. We assessed existing data
on large unfragmented areas of forest, freshwater resources (lakes, ponds, rivers and streams),
rare species and exemplary natural communities identified through Maine Natural Areas
Program, Maine Aquatic Biodiversity Program and TNC ecoregional planning efforts. Our
assessment did not address impacts from the project beyond the plan area or precedents that this
plan could set for the future.

Unfragmented Forest: Six large blocks of unfragmented forest identified by the Conservancy
overlap the Resource Plan area. The types of landscapes in these blocks are represented in
conservation land elsewhere in the region. However, these areas are still important buffers for
nearby protected lands and provide important connections between protected lands and the larger
landscape for wildlife dispersal and movement. Maintaining sustainable populations of wildlife
that need large areas and are sensitive to human impacts in this area will necessitate planning for
broad natural connections within and outside of the resource area to other large areas of
unfragmented forest and conservation land. Development far from existing improved roads and
service centers increases the likelihood of disruption to animal movements and potential
blockages to fish and riparian wildlife in and along streams.

 Priority Stream Ecosystems: Five mid-sized streams are conservation priorities for the
Conservancy as the best state-wide examples of their ecological type in the Penobscot,
Kennebec, and Androscoggin drainage area. Of these, developments and associated access roads
are currently proposed only along the north shore of the Moose River west of Brassua Lake.
Primary concerns there are potential impacts to the stream, stream buffer, and tributary streams
and wetlands. This river section provides habitat for two globally rare (G2 and G3) dragonflies.

Priority Pond Ecosystems: The Conservancy identified 14 high value ponds in the Resource area.
Five of these, Moosehead Lake, Third and Fourth Roach, Penobscot Pond and Burnham Pond1
currently have development plans. Fourth Roach and Burnham are currently undeveloped and
74 other ponds are also classified as undeveloped by LURC, although these data may be
outdated. Eleven of the undeveloped ponds are proposed for development some far from
existing service centers and main roads. High priorities for conservation include the five listed
above and clusters of undeveloped ponds far from existing services.

Rare Species and Exemplary Natural Communities: Forty sites for rare species and exemplary
natural communities of local or state-wide significance are documented in the Resource Plan
area. Three dragonfly and five natural community sites are additionally ecoregional priorities for

 Burnham was identified in models as unique statewide due to size, buffering capacity, and shallowness. Site data
do not support uniqueness, potentially making it less of a priority. One DEP biologists thought pond characteristics
could support distinctive minnow and insect communities; this has not been substantiated.

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the Conservancy. Two of the dragonfly sites are near proposed shoreline development; the other
dragonfly site and natural community sites are not in areas with proposed development or are in
areas such as wetlands and steep hillsides that are unlikely to be impacted by development.

Supporting Information

Matrix Forest: The Nature Conservancy, with help from regional experts, led an effort to identify
and rank sets of large unfragmented forest blocks capable of supporting fully functional
common, or “matrix,” forest types. The blocks that are best able to meet our goals for
representation, size, condition, embedded biodiversity features and feasibility were ranked Tier I.
There are two Tier I blocks (Spencer Mountain and Nahmakanta) that have some overlap with
the Resource Plan Area. Each block already has some existing conservation lands and one,
Nahmakanta, has met minimum acreage goals for protection of core reserve.

Freshwater Ecosystems: The Nature Conservancy assessed freshwater resources in Plum
Creek’s Resource Management Plan area using data from the Maine Aquatic Biodiversity Project
(MABP) data base, which includes the majority of the state’s known freshwater data collected by
state, federal, tribal and other available partner organizations and made available in digital
databases and geographic information system (GIS) data layers. The Conservancy developed a
classification system for both rivers and streams and lakes and ponds and a qualification system
to rank biodiversity, uniqueness of type, landscape condition, and water quality. The result of
the assessment is a list of lakes (>10 acre) and stream drainages (>300 square miles) that
represent the highest quality examples available of each type of aquatic system based on
landscape models.

The selection of lakes and streams were stratified by broad watersheds (Maine 8-digit HUC
watersheds) and ecological types. For stream watersheds the types are based on elevation,
gradients, bedrock and surficial geology; and for ponds by size, elevation, depth, connectivity
and buffering capacity. Within each HUC 8 watershed we identified the best known systems
based on characteristics such as occurrences of rare or uncommon species or species
assemblages (e.g. 100% native fish) and condition. When excellent condition examples of lakes
or ponds were not identified in a watershed, the next best systems were chosen for consideration.

Streams: Five size-2 (30-300 square-mile watersheds) streams in the Resource Plan area were
selected as best examples of their type most with ocean2 or local connectivity, but one without.
They include the Moose River (upstream from Brassua), Churchill Stream, the upper reaches of
the West Branch Pleasant River, Socatean Stream, Roach River, and Tomhegan Stream.

The Moose and Roach Rivers were the only two selected streams with development plans near
by, however Roach River already has a 500-foot conservation easement on it and the nearby First
Roach Pond has a 250-foot buffer. The Moose River is the only representative stream of its type
in the Upper Kennebec watershed that had the water quality, biodiversity features and landscape
context to rank as a priority. The Moose River has several proposed moderate and large
developments adjacent to it. It is one of the few streams in the area that supports globally rare

 The Pleasant River is expected to have sea-run connectivity for anadramous fish with the completion of the
Penobscot River Restoration Trust three dams project.

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dragonflies, the broad-tailed shadowdragon (G2) and the extra-striped snaketail (G3). One of its
tributaries, Churchill Stream, is exceptional for its extensive wetlands and a documented B-
ranked stream-shore ecosystem. The extra-striped snaketail was also documented along Socatean
Stream in an area not identified for development in the Resource Plan.

Lakes and Ponds: There are over 122 lakes and ponds in the Plum Creek’s Resource Plan. Of
these 28 were rated by the Conservancy as best, L1 (14), or alternate L2 (14) lakes, based on
their biodiversity, condition, and landscape context. Eighteen ponds and lakes are currently
planned for lake-associated development projects; 5 are Conservancy L1 and 5 are Conservancy
L2 ponds. Moosehead Lake is an L1 selected as significant because it is the only lake in its class
in Maine ( i.e. large and deep). The five other ponds are Spencer, Third and Fourth Roach Pond,
Burnham Pond (just north of Big Squa ski area) and Penobscot Pond.

    •       Spencer Pond was identified as an L1 with high confidence. It is undeveloped, large
            (>1,000 acres) and classified by LURC as a Management Class 1A for its high value and
            undeveloped shoreline
    •       Third Road Pond is one of only three ponds in the Upper Kennebec Drainage of its
            ecological type that meets the criteria for an L1 pond.
    •       Fourth Roach Pond, currently undeveloped, is the only pond of its type in the Upper
    •       Burnham Pond, also currently undeveloped, is also the only pond of its type in the State,
            based only on GIS modeling. Game fish and water quality data do not indicate anything
            biologically unique. However, because this is a fairly large and shallow, mud-bottom
            pond, one DEP fisheries biologist thought non-game fish data (minnows in particular)
            and insect communities could potentially justify this lake’s unique classification.
    •       Penobscot Pond is one of three ponds of its type in the West Branch Penobscot Drainage.
            Half of this pond is in the DOC Nahmakanta Unit and half in the PC Resource Plan area.
            It is one of 7 sites in the state for pygmy pondweed (S1/G5) and the only one with an A-
            rank for the quality of the population and site.

Seventy-four other ponds in the Resource Plan area are classified by LURC as undeveloped, 11
of those undeveloped ponds have proposed developments. Several clusters of undeveloped
ponds are located far from existing service centers and main roads in the NE, NW, and SE
corners of the management area. Given the vulnerability of ponds to water quality degradation
from shoreline development, and fisheries degradation from over fishing and non-native fish
introductions, those clusters of ponds away from existing services are also priorities for
conservation. Development there would further fragment some large connective forest areas that
are currently unfragmented. Future development of homes and services along routes to and
between the ponds would further fragment forests and streams and increase road mortality of
some animals and create barriers to others.

Rare plants, animals, and exemplary natural communities: There are 40 documented rare plant,
animal or exemplary natural community sites of local or state-wide significance in the Resource
Plan area. In addition, three of the dragonfly sites and five of the natural community sites are
Nature Conservancy ecoregional priority sites. Two of the dragonfly sites may be impacted by
shoreline development, but the other dragonfly site and all of the natural community sites are in

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areas either not currently indicated for direct development or are in areas unlikely to be
developed, such as on mountain tops, steep hillsides, and in wetland complexes.

Natural Communities: There are seven exemplary natural community sites; five are A or B-
ranked sites that qualify as ecoregional sites. However, none of these natural communities are
located in areas planned for development except potentially for a cedar swamp east of Indian
Pond. The swamp is on the east side of an existing logging road and maps indicate development
west of the road closer to the pond. Other exemplary natural community sites are hardwood and
spruce mountain sides, a stream-shore ecosystem, and an unpatterned fen by Churchill Stream

Special Concern animals: Twelve of 18 animal records are bald eagle nesting sites (S4B,
Special Concern), two are rusty blackbird sites (S3N, special concern) three are dragonfly sites
(S2/G3 and S?/G2) at Moose River and Socatean Stream, mentioned above.

While there were no plans showing development in high elevation forests, habitat for Bicknell’s
Thrush are priority areas for maintaining mature forest cover. This small thrush is recognized as
one of the most “at-risk” song birds in the eastern U.S. Its restricted range distribution and
narrow habitat requirements for this thrush make it vulnerable to habitat loss or degradation. The
World Conservation Union considers the species vulnerable to extinction and added it to the Red
List of Threatened Species3.

Rare Plants: Of 15 rare plant sites in the Resource Plan area one, a pygmy water-lily site in
Penobscot Pond, is ranked S1/G5; nine are ranked S2/G5 and are mostly aquatics (water
awlwort, mare’s-tail), wetland (moor rush, sheathed sedge) or cliff dwellers (fragrant cliff wood-
fern). The exceptions are lesser wintergreen (S2/G5) and boreal bedstraw (S2/G5) found in C-
rank sites near Intervale and Meadow Brook. Swamp fly-honeysuckle (S3/G4) is found in the
Indian Pond Cedar Swamp mentioned above. Because these later species are not considered rare
at an ecoregional or global scale, they are specific priorities in TNC’s ecoregional planning. It is
hoped that their conservation will be accomplished through careful management in and around
the natural communities where they occur.

Maintaining Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Connections: The cumulative impacts of
development within the plan, expected long-term need for supporting service centers, and
increased human presence will impact wildlife and their access to habitat in and around this
Resources Area. Maintaining land and barrier-free access in streams and adjacent riparian areas
for terrestrial and aquatic animals should be a top priority for long and short-term planning. The
Moosehead area currently benefits from broad forested connections to naturally vegetated lands
in nearly every direction and only modest traffic on roads to the SE, SW, and north of Greenville
and Moosehead Lake. Maintaining sustainable populations of wildlife that need large areas and
are sensitive to human impacts in this area will necessitate planning for broad natural
connections within and between the resource area and large adjacent areas of conservation land.

    Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences, Wilson Bulletin September 2002, IUCN Red List 2000.

                                            \conplan\jroyte\potential projects\plum creek resource plan values.doc (JLR rev.: 1-18-06 )

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The highest priority for maintaining wildlife connections is in the matrix forest blocks identified
above and between the blocks and the surrounding landscape. This includes minimizing road
fragmenting effects such as additional development, broad openings, increased traffic volume
and speeds, and long straight stretches. Key areas for movements between protected lands are
likely to lie along stream bottomlands and along ridge lines. These are areas where planners
should attempt to avoid or minimize roads construction and associated development. Plans
should reduce impacts from existing roads and development at known crossing points or areas
with a high potential including areas for fish and other animals that move in and along streams.

Natural stream flow and fish passage requires oversized culverts, preferably arch-culverts and
bridges that protect natural stream beds and banks at and maintains passable flows for fish and
habitat for riparian species. The most critical areas for fish passage are on selected streams
(above) and their tributaries including: Tomhegan, Socatean, Churchill, Big Wilson, W. Branch
Pleasant River, and Roach River.

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