Vol. 31, No. 01 - February 1, 2019

Proposed rule to revise the definition of Waters of the United States

On December 11, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army Corps of Engineers released a “Revised Definition of Waters of the United States” a revision of the 2015 Clean Water Rule defining the scope of waters federally regulated under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA describes its jurisdictional scope as “navigable waters,” defined in section 502(7) of the statute as “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS). The Act does not, however, clearly define which rivers, streams, and wetlands are WOTUS.

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Role of summer nutrition on elk habitat use in western Oregon and Washington

Distribution of elk in much of the western United States has shifted from public to private lands, leading to reduced hunting and viewing opportunities on the former and increased crop damage and other undesired effects on the latter. These shifts may be caused by increasing human disturbance (e. g., roads and traffic) and declines of early‐seral vegetation, which provides abundant forage for elk and other wildlife on public lands. Understanding nutritional resources and habitat use of large herbivores like elk can benefit their management across a variety of land ownerships and management regimes. To provide managers with tools to predict how nutritional resources, elk productivity and performance, and elk distributions respond to management actions, researchers with the U.S. Forest Service, NCASI, and several other organizations recently completed a model of elk nutrition and habitat use across summer range forests of western Oregon and Washington. Results of this effort were published in a paper in Wildlife Monographs in late 2018.

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Proposed listing of the Atlantic pigtoe

In December 2018, NCASI submitted comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in response to proposed listing of the Atlantic pigtoe (Fusconaia masoni), a freshwater mussel now only found in Virginia and North Carolina, in the Tar, Neuse, James, Chowan, Roanoke, Cape Fear, and Yadkin-Pee Dee River basins. The Service states that the Atlantic pigtoe “currently has reduced adaptive potential due to limited representation (compared with historical representation) in seven river basins and three physiographic regions.” The proposed rule indicates habitat degradation as the most significant threat to the species. Although the Service recognized that forested landscapes are protective of water quality and stream function, it also stated that forestry activities can have effects on small streams and that “clearing of large areas of forested wetlands and riparian systems can eliminate shade provided by these canopies, exposing streams to more sunlight and increasing the instream water temperature.”

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Proposed listing of the Pacific marten

In October 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a proposed rule for the coastal Distinct Population Segment of the Pacific marten in northern California and Oregon to be classified as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In its decision to propose federal listing status, the Service provided a Species Status Assessment and cited two primary threats: a decrease in connectivity among populations, and habitat conversion from that suitable for Pacific martens to that suitable for generalist predators and competitors of Pacific marten. Vegetation management, wildfire, and climate change are cited as the primary mechanisms related to these threats. NCASI submitted comments to the Service relative to the proposed listing of Pacific marten in December.

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Retained structures in managed pine stands

Although forest certification systems ask landowners to consider stand-level structural elements (e.g., snags, downed woody debris, green trees) in managing for biodiversity, little information exists on the amount of retained structures in managed stands, and how these features influence wildlife populations. Developing empirically-based criteria for structural retention ensures that forest landowners are using the best available scientific information when managing for biological diversity. NCASI collaborated in a recent study conducted by Mississippi State University to examine this issue by (1) documenting the amount of vertical structure and downed woody debris remaining on harvested stands after site preparation and (2) evaluating relationships of retained structures with bird communities. The study documented a wide range of retained structure in recently harvested management units. The study also found that “stringers” along ephemeral drains and streamside management zones (SMZs) had similar structural characteristics; these two retained features accounted for nearly 30% of bird species richness in management units. The overall conclusion was that retained structural features support and add to biological diversity in recently harvested pine stands.

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