Response for project 199609400: Scotch Creek Wildlife Area

Comment on proposed FY 2006 budget

I would like to confirm our desire to renew project funding for the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area, project #1996-094-00 in the Columbia Cascade Province. The FY 2005 funding approved and contracted for is $289,225. The proposed budget is consistent with my expectations and adequate to accomplish the expected work in 2006. However, for future funding please note one unfunded project for a Tunk Creek bridge/culvert to allow access to this 1,399 acre unit. Presently we have no legal access to this property, due to the wash-out of this culvert and road approach. Also the impacts of increased fuel and vehicle costs, inflation, medical costs, and salary increases should be considered in future allocations. The Scotch Creek project is now at 16,560 acres, primarily for the protection of Sharp-tailed grouse and the enhancement of their habitats. The state of Washington has a very successful acquisition program called the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP). This program provides funding from the state legislature to secure critical habitats and recreation areas. The WDFW has been very successful in acquiring lands adjacent to the original Scotch Creek Wildlife Area purchase. Each time new lands are added, their is a need to restore native habitats on land that was previously converted for agricultural uses. Continued project funding will allow us to carry this project forward. Sharp-tailed grouse numbers have increased over the past decade on the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area, the only area in the state of Washington to document an increase. The project is working, and we ask for your support to continue this trend of increasing prairie grouse, as well as all shrubsteppe obligate species.

Accomplishments since the last review

# of miles of fence (0.01 mi.)Completed 14 miles of new boundary fence including survey. Repaired 8 miles of boundary fence, and removed 10 miles of interior, unnessesary fence.
# of acres of vegetation planted (0.1 ac.)Prepared seedbed with summer fallow methods and seeded 410 acres to a native perennial grass and forb seed mix. This is a conversion of old ag fields to native shrubsteppe habitat. STG are responding positively with many sightings in these fields.
# of riparian miles treated (0.01 mi.; count each bank separately)Planted 9,000 native deciduous trees and shrubs into areas to reestablish ripairian habitat for wintering sharp-tails. Included 2 miles of fabric mulch to create weed barrier. Again many sightings of STG in trees/shrubs in winter.
# of acres treated (0.1 ac)1,530 acres treated for noxious weeds in 2002, 753 acres in 2003, and 750 acres in 2004 have been treated using IPM methods. Biological control continues, and acreages are not included.
Is the measuring device portable or fixed (P/F)?Installed 4 fixed flow meters to measure water usage as directed by the Department of Ecology.

Since the last provincial review in 2003, the WDFW has added 1,975 acres adjacent to the original purchase boundaries on three units of the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area. The purchases funded with the WWRP are prime shrubsteppe habitats within the range of the Scotch Creek Sharp-tailed grouse population, and have added greatly to the recovery program. Other work elements completed but not found on the metrics list include: Maintain facility; which includes office building, residence, and shop/equipment storage structures, and wells. Maintain Roads; graded & graveled 1 mile of Silver Hill road and constructed one parking area. Other; On-going work associated with equipment/vehicle maintenance, maintenance of informational signs, reader boards, and kiosks, and administrative duties and professional development. Also I make contact with the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area, Citizens Advisory Group at two meetings per year.

FY 2006 goals and anticipated accomplishments

Produce Inventory or AssessmentPhoto points and vegetation data collection sites will be established and mapped for each Unit. Staff will collect nested frequency and cover data on key plant species and exotic vegetation, tree/shrub canopy closure, and planting/seeding survival.
Produce Status ReportProduce quarterly reports submitted top BPA project manager to summarize project activities, issues and accomplishments. Also submit an annual report, possibly through the Pices program.
# of miles of fence (0.01 mi.)2 miles of new fence, including survey.
# of acres of vegetation planted (0.1 ac.)120 acres planned to be summer fallowed and dormant seeded in early November.
# of riparian miles treated (0.01 mi.; count each bank separately)Up to 1 mile of riparian vegetation created.
# of acres treated (0.1 ac)Noxious weed control on 500 - 700 acres to include Russian Knapweed, Whitetop, Scotch Thistle, Musk Thistle, Houndstoung, Canada Thistle, and an assortment of annual weeds in habitat plots, parking areas, and roadsides.
Maintain VegetationProvide for successful establishment of trees and shrubs and coordinate with the WCC program to provide labor. Maintenance includes rodent control, fertilizer applications, and weed control (mowing and hand pulling) on all existing plots.
Collect/Generate/Validate Field and Lab DataMonitor known sharp-tailed gruse leks and search adjacent areas for satellite (new) leks.

Other work elements anticipated but not found on the metrics list include: Maintain Facility; which includes office building, residence, and shop/equipment storage structures, and wells. Maintain Roads; Grade/gravel roads and parking areas as needed, and replace road access to the Tunk Valley unit where the culvert has washed out (if approved). Other; Equipment/vehicle maintenance or replacement, Maintain informational signs, reader boards, and kiosks, and Administrative duties and professional development. Another work element is Conduct Community Outreach, through Citizen Advisory Group (CAG) meetings, presentations/tours with stakeholder groups, schools, and contacts with news media as requested.

Subbasin planning

How is this project consistent with subbasin plans?

The Scotch Creek Wildlife Area (SCWA) is referenced in the Okanogan subbasin management plan, Wildlife Assessment and Inventory ( as part of the lands owned and managed by WDFW in the Okanogan subbasin. The 16,560 acre wildlife area is predominantly shrubsteppe habitat and was acquired to promote recovery of sharp-tailed grouse as well as to protect/provide habitat for other shrubsteppe obligate species. The SCWA compliments and supports sharp-tailed grouse and shrubsteppe recovery efforts at the Sagebrush Flat Wildlife Area, Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area, and on the Colville Confederated Tribes Reservation (CCT). The subbasin management plan emphasizes the need to focus on Ponderosa Pine and Shrubsteppe Upland Habitats for Wildlife (Pg 8, executive summary). "Wildlife and upland terrestrial restoration should focus on Ponderosa pine habitats to benefit species such as white-headed woodpecker, Pygmy nuthatch, Gray flycatcher and Flammulated owl or shrubsteppe habitat for species such as sharp-tailed grouse, mule deer, Brewer's sparrow, and grasshopper sparrow. The management plan also identifies a need to restore riparian and wetland areas. "Riparian vegetation along lowland streams, in-channel islands, and rivers in agricultural and urban areas needs to be reestablished". Limiting factors identified in the plan include the lack of and/or availability of shrubsteppe habitat dominated by herbaceous cover (grasses and forbs), the distribution of riparian habitats dominated by deciduous shrubs (winter habitat), and habitat fragmentation. The SCWA management strategies address several critical landscape level limiting factors such as shrubsteppe habitat conversion, degradation, and fragmentation as well as species-specific limiting factors. Activities and strategies also address factors that limit local populations of sharp-tailed grouse such as quality and availability of nesting and wintering habitat.

How do goals match subbasin plan priorities?

The SCWA project is consistent with subbasin plan priorities. The basin-wide management plan goals and objectives are to address the limiting factors affecting the sustainability and conservation of focal species and their habitats (Pg. 86). The goal for shrubsteppe habitats is to provide sufficient quantity and quality shrubsteppe habitat to support the diversity of wildlife as represented by sustainable focal species populations. Habitat objective 1 (Pg 89)includes, "Identify sites that are currently not in shrubsteppe habitat that have the potential to be of high ecological value, if restored". The SCWA project has to date restored over 2,500 acres of agricultural conversion lands to a high quality shrubsteppe habitat that is being used heavily by sharp-tailed grouse. As the state of Washington continues to purchase lands for wildlife adjacent to the SCWA, more of this is needed. Habitat objective 3 (Pg 89) states to maintain and/or enhance habitat function by improving agricultural practices, fire management, weed control, livestock grazing practices, and road management on existing and restored shrubsteppe. Permanent ownership and protection of this shrubsteppe habatat has improved habitat function. Agricultural practices have been reduced to a small sharecrop opportunity compatible with sharp-tail recovery, livestock grazing has been removed in sharp-tail habitats, and an aggressive weed control program has eradicated Diffuse Knapweed, once nearly covering the entire wildlife area, and reduced many other noxious weed control needs. Our goals again are consistent with the vision of the subbasin plan. Similar habitat objectives for Riparian Wetlands, and Ponderosa Pine habitats outlined in the subbasin plan are consistent with the SCWA statement of work and budget.

Other comments

As I have mentioned previously, the SCWA project to restore and enhance sharp-tailed grouse populations and their habitats has been very successful. The species was nearly extirpated from the Scotch Creek basin at the time of WDFW acquisition in the fall of 1991. Four historic lek sites documented on the property had been reduced to two, and shortly after purchase, to one. The one remaining lek site had counts of 4 in '93, 4 in '94, 18 in '95, 10 in '96, 10 in '97, and 4 in '98. In 1998, after 6 years of habitat enhancements, we started supplementing birds from Southeast Idaho and the CCT in eastern Okanogan County. Over three seasons we transplanted a total of 63 sharp-tailed grouse, which distributed over a large area. The combination of improved habitat, and possibly the improved vigor from genetically diverse birds had a positive effect on the population. Lek counts have increased every year since the supplementation effort and in the spring of 2005 totaled 48 birds. The BPA accepted full operations and management of the project in 1996 and has greatly expanded our ability to affect more acres of habitat (quality). Coupled with the land acquisition program (WWRP) from the Washington state legislature, we have increased the size (quantity) of protected habitat each year, and the wildlife of the basin have responded. Continuation of this program will only improve conditions and help meet the goals and objectives of the subbasin management plan.