Response for project 199204800: Hellsgate Big Game Winter Rang

Comment on proposed FY 2006 budget

The Hellsgate project is an ongoing wildlife mitigation project that covers the Confederated Colville Tribes (CCT) program to address wildlife losses from Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph hydropower projects on the Columbia River. Beginning in 1992 with the first land purchase using monies set aside in the Washington Agreement with BPA, the CCT has been acquiring lands to offset wildlife losses. At the same time they have been using this project to protect, ehance and restore species and habitats affected by those hydropower projects. At the beginning of 2001, this project asked for $460,000 to manage the 23,574 acres distributed over the 1.4 million acres of the Colville Reservation. Since then the budget has been frozen due to budget constraints yet we continued to acquire additional lands (20,358 additional acres) that now totals 43,932 acres. This 46% increase has forced the CCT to spend some of their funds to continue protecting those lands for wildlife. The CCT is only 2/3 complete for original construction and inundation losses and to complete mitigation an additional 10 to 20 thousand acres are needed. We have been managing more land with less money for the past four (4) years and desperately need more funding (at least $260,000 as a minimum to start).

Accomplishments since the last review

# of features9,084 acres of Shrub-steppe habitat protected and managed for shrub-steppe obligates with Mule Deer, Sharp-tailed and Sage grouse the main management species for this cover type.
# of miles of fence (0.01 mi.)10 miles of replacement fencing each year (40 miles since 2001). Installed 2 cattle guards and acquired 10 more to be installed over the next two years.
# of acres treated (0.1 ac)2,360 acres of Agricultural habitat protected that will be converted back to grassland or shrub-steppe habitats (currently 600 acres enrolled in CRP) from its current stat of abandoned cropland/pasture.
Maintain Vegetation7,655 acres of Grassland habitat protected and will be maintained for wildlife using this cover type such as sharp-tailed grouse.
Conduct Pre-Acquisition Activities35,820 Habitat units Lost from Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph Dams14,708 Habitat units gained on 25,501 acres
Remove or Relocate Non-predaceous AnimalsWeekly field checks throughout the grazing season to remove trespass livestock.

The Washington Agreement allowed the CCT to begin mitigating for hydropower losses by acquiring lands and funding the Hellsgate Big Game Winter Range Wildlife Mitigation Project (Hellsgate Project). Lands were acquired and managed under this project. It is the Tribes project to address wildlife mitigation and when lands are acquired this is the project that manages them. This project is currently managing 43,932 acres for the protection, restoration and enhancement of wildlife species and habitats to mitigate hydropower impacts from original construction and inundations. The CCT intends to continue this project and include additional lands until full mitigation is complete as well as continue O&M on those lands for the life of those projects with reasonable funding from BPA. The following metrics are including within this portion of the narrative: 2,691 acres of Conifer Forest habitat protected and will be enhanced for species using this cover type such as woodpeckers,elk, blue grouse, owls, amphibians and reptiles. 2,201 acres of Conifer Woodland habitat protected and will be enhanced for mule deer, bear, Lewis woodpecker, and other species using this cover type. 851 acres of Riparian/Shrub/Forest habitat protected and will be enhanced for obligate species such as amphibians, reptiles, neo-tropical and resident birds, small mammals, bats, mink and beaver. 599 acres of Rockland haabitat protected and will be enhanced for species such as bobcat, mule deer, sage and sharp-tailed grouse, and small mammals using this cover type. 60 acres of Shoreline habitat protected along the Columbia River for species utilizing this cover type such as waterfowl and wadding birds, reptiles and amphibians, and small mammals. Maintain and monitor photo points to document vegetation changes on selected sites. Monitor and evaluate management activities for the above species utilizing protected lands.

FY 2006 goals and anticipated accomplishments

# of miles of fence (0.01 mi.)Maintain boundary fences on all mitigation properties. Replace 10 miles new fence each year to replace worn out post and wire. Construct new fence on new lands were needed. Install 5 cattle guards to replace gates.
Maintain VegetationConduct noxious weed control on at least 600 acres.
Remove or Relocate Non-predaceous AnimalsRemove trespass livestock and close gates and/or repair access points.

To fully mitigate for original construction and inundation losses from Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph Dams. This project will continue to protect, restore and enhance lands acquired for mitigation until fully mitigated. Full mitigation will occur when the losses are nullified by wildlife habitat gains through acquisition and restoration efforts. Currently we are 2/3 complete and expect to continue until done. Funding for continued O&M will be determined and carreid out through this project. Management activities for FY 06 are given in the metrics section. A few of the metrics are outlined in narrative form within this portion, and are as follows: Monitor species and habitats for utilization and change. Complete site-specific management plan for acquired lands. Submit required reports on management activities. Acquire more lands to complete mitigation obligations. Survey new lands using HEP for baseline credits. Assess species and habitats on new lands. Administer project and order materials and supplies.

Subbasin planning

How is this project consistent with subbasin plans?

This project was identified and included in all the sub-basin plans for completing mitigation as well as protecting, restoring, and enhancing acquired lands for wildlife species and habitats. Many Tribes, State, and other agencies propose individual projects for each area dealing with mitigation (separate projects), example (WDFW Scotch creek, Swanson lakes, etc). The CCT has proposed only this project to address wildlife mitigation. All future acquisitions and work for terrestrial wildlife will be addressed under this project with the main focus to fully mitigate hydropower losses from Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph Dams. This project is not only consistent with but an integral component of all sub-basin plans in the Intermountain Province. This project is the only project the CCT has proposed to address completing wildlife losses resulting from original construction and inundation of Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph Dams. The resulting acres of habitat will be protected and enhanced for indicator/management species as well as other components of a healthy ecosystem for the life of the projects. These managed lands will provide secure core areas for wildlife populations to remain viable over time and prevent future losses to important species and habitats on the CCT Reservation.

How do goals match subbasin plan priorities?

Mitigation for Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee Dams was the highest priority in the Intermountain Province. This project directly addresses mitigation for losses by land acquisition and protection activities to satisfy BPA obligation under the Power Act. In addition the ongoing O&M monies will continue to protect, enhance, and restore these lands for species and habitats over time to ensure diversity and abundance. In the Intermountain Province Plan, the top priority has been to fully mitigate for wildlife losses resulting from Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph hydropower projects. Each sub-basin Rufus Woods, San Poil, and Upper Columbia identifies those losses as priorities within each area. Specific references to these sub-basins can be found in the IMP under San Poil Terrestrial Objectives and Strategies Pages 22-42 through 30-42 and Prioritized in 42.4.1 Table 42.4-1, Rufus Woods Terrestrial Objectives and Strategies pages 50-1 through 50-35 and Summarized in Table 50.4-1, and Upper Columbia summary Table 34.4-1 on pages 34 through 37. All these sub-basins address the NPPC mitigation obligation for each hydropower project found in Table 11-4 of the Columbia River Basin 2000 Fish & Wildlife Program on pages 25-34.

Other comments

The project has continued to protect, enhance, and restore habitat losses by acquiring lands for mitigation. Starting in 1992 with the first acquisition, the project has increased its land base every year to address mitigation losses. However the funding has not kept up with the increase in acreage. Funding has remained at $460,000 but we have increased the project workload by an additional 46%. The CCT has added $260,0000 to cover additional cost that should be shouldered by the BPA for mitigation under the Power Act. We now have 43,000 acres of land are 2/3 complete to reach full mitigation for construction and inundation losses. An additional land base of 10 to 20 thousand acres are needed or additional monies for enhancing current lands must occur for this to happen.