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199404400 - Enhance, protect and maintain shrub-steppe habitat on the Sagebrush Flat Wildlife Area (SFWA)

Sponsor: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)

Budgets: FY07: $382,479 | FY08: $225,977 | FY09: $239,628

Short description: Protect and enhance habitat to expand and protect pygmy rabbit, sage grouse, sharp-tailed grouse and other shrub-steppe obligate species populations as mitigation for habitat loss associated with the construction of Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph Dams.

view full proposal

Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $100,000 | FY08: $100,000 | FY09: $100,000

Comment: Interim funding pending wildlife o&m review.

ISRP final recommendation: Fundable

Comment:

This is continuing project is tied to protection and restoration of pygmy rabbits, sage grouse, and sharp-tailed grouse. These activities are related to a number of regional programs. However, the priority of this project does not appear urgent. The proposal includes a good description of project history and tasks accomplished. Some small descriptions of biological benefits achieved are described, but authors should better develop this description, particularly given the amount of time and work that has transpired over the project history. Data have been collected from all four units of the SFWA. In many instances, these dataset represent more than a decade of work. A consistent ISRP recommendation for a number of years has been the need to relate HEP survey data to actual on-the-ground wildlife responses. It is a disappointment and a serious concern that those results are not yet available for this project. They should receive much higher priority. Given the large, ongoing investment in this project, the ISRP believes it is important to know whether wildlife (particularly ESA-listed species) are responding to the habitat work. The project sponsors seem on track to providing this evaluation, and this type of reporting should be included in annual reports and subsequent proposals. Technical and scientific background: The rationale for this project is tied to protection and restoration of pygmy rabbits, sage grouse, and sharp-tailed grouse. Similar to previous ISRP reviews of this long-standing project, the proposal provides much detail for monitoring and evaluation indicating awareness of issues missing from many proposals. Additionally, the ISRP recommends that terrestrial sampling on Fish and Wildlife Program lands follow common sampling methods and some common data collection protocols across the four States involved to enhance monitoring and evaluation of terrestrial systems on subbasin and basin scales. Perhaps the recent PNAMP and CSMEP efforts and the National Resources Inventory sampling procedures and data collection protocols could serve the region. The proposal included extensive description of budget items, with individual items seemingly having appropriate costs, but the overall project cost still seems high compared to other projects. Rationale and significance to subbasin plans and regional programs: The proposed work fits in well with wildlife objectives of the subbasins plan, the Fish and Wildlife Program, and ESA mandated concerns on pygmy rabbits, sharp-tail and sage grouse. Relationships to other projects are well described in the proposal. Project history: The proposal includes a good description of project history and tasks accomplished. Some small descriptions are provide of biological benefits achieved - more emphasis needs to be placed here, particularly given the amount of time and work that has transpired over the project history. For example, the following is from page 15 of the proposal under Monitoring: "Baseline HEP work has been conducted on all 4 units of the SFWA, including the Sagebrush Flat, Dormaier, Chester Butte, and Bridgeport units. Although the HEP results have been examined in relation to standard Habitat Suitability Indices for focal species, the habitat data has as yet not been linked directly to the results of wildlife surveys. These surveys include, but are not limited to, aerial surveys of mule deer populations, surveys of greater sage-grouse and sharp-tailed grouse display sites (leks), pellet surveys of deer, grouse, and jackrabbits, breeding surveys of songbirds, searches for songbird nests, winter surveys of birds, trapping surveys of small mammals, and standardized searches for reptiles and amphibians (Schroeder and Almack 2006). Some of these data sets have been collected every year since at least 1994 and some have been stratified by management history and focal habitat."

State/province recommendation:

Review group:

Recommended budgets: FY07: (n/a) | FY08: (n/a) | FY09: (n/a)

Comment: