Location: Yogo Inn, Lewistown. Dates: September 14 – 15, 2011 Meeting Objectives



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Location: Yogo Inn, Lewistown.

Dates: September 14 – 15, 2011

Meeting Objectives:

  • Identify opportunities for MBCP engagement

    • Wind energy and wildlife in Montana

    • Habitat conservation in eastern Montana

  • Information exchange

    • MBCP action items progress reports

    • Partner project updates


Wednesday, Sept 14
Welcome and introductions

Participants: Kristina Smucker, Anna Noson, Kate Stone, Steve Gniadek, Bryce Maxell, Jeanne Spaur, Jim Hansen, Ken Sambor, Dan Casey, John Carlson, Matt Comer, Janet Ellis, Carmen Luna, Beverly Skinner, Amy Cilimburg, Shawn Cleveland, Pete Husby, Lauri Hanauska-Brown, Vicky Dreitz, Sean Fields, Neal Niemuth, Catherine Wightman


Catherine – MBCP web site is LIVE! www.montanabirds.org
Wind energy and wildlife
Wind and Wildlife in Montana – Allison Begley and Janet Ellis, presented by Janet Ellis

  • Siting most important consideration– reoccurring impacts; no siting process in MT; school trust land only area where State gets to comment upfront unless requested by developer.

  • Habitat fragmentation from development can range from 20-50,000 acres.

  • We lack good data on effects of wind development on wildlife, particularly lacking for Montana.

  • Barotrauma – killing bats, bats are sucked in to wind, lungs explode from pressure.

  • Montana is #1 state for wind power potential class 3 and above; we are an energy export state- produce 3x what we need.

  • 17 mill acres good for wind (from TNC study); 9.7 mill acres would not be good turbine placement for wildlife

  • Without siting process, trying to figure out where facilities are going in; FAA has to permit every tower in state.

  • Judith Gap Phase II= additional 53 turbines; not planning to do bird/bat surveys?

  • Kevin Rim = largest in state, up to 206 turbines

  • A lot of interest in Norris Hill

  • Late stage development – NEPA completed or contract with NW Energy

  • Judith Gap – 90 turbines, on school trust land; Allison and Janet on committee, could expand to 120 turbines; ideal site on paper – major road in middle, primarily cropland or crested wheatgrass, minimal rangeland, no major ground squirrel pops and no p. dog towns; willing to do pre and post contruction studies; no T&E species in area; EA; Hoary and Silver bat mortality during migration higher than predicted in EA but 2nd year it was within range

  • Kevin Rim – highest nesting density of FEHA in state; 206 turbines; 10 species of raptors nesting in area – high density; closest towers 1/8 to ¼ to rim; moved a few towers but not much; no public lands so don’t need to do disclosure; selling to CA rather than NW Energy; San Diego Gas and Electric got in to trouble with not complying with CA wind guidelines so may be hook for Kevin Rim; some of turbines on USFWS easement property – good to work with (S. Fields); project area includes part of IBA

  • FWP has 3 pronged approach on wind – refer to CAPS for initial research; involved if it involves school trust land (tech committees); some projects requested to consult on siting and design but needs to be invited

  • NGOs are working on a Montana voluntary wind best management practices; goal to minimize impacts to Montana’s wildlife; developed by a committee of stakeholders; hasn’t started yet.

  • Transmission line or lack of capacity to export energy is limiting development currently; MAT L (Montana-Alberta Transmission Line) – Canada to Great Falls, Kevin Rim wind facility can’t get put in until MATL is in; Green Line – Great Falls to Townsend; MSTI (Mountain States Transmission Intertie) – Townsend to Dillon and down to ID; BLM has withdrawn preferred alternative for MSTI to go down Jefferson drainage but most likely will go down interstate from Butte (B. Maxell);

  • Amy – good chance that transmission lines won’t get built or will be put off for several years; Janet says thinks will get built

  • There were concerns re: Valley co. project – thinks nothing has happened; but best mixed grass prairie habitat.

  • USFWS revised guidelines released yesterday; comment period ends Sept 23.


Golden eagles and wind – Catherine Wightman

  • Federal regulations for eagles have some power to guide wind development

  • Status of golden eagle population is uncertain. USFWS-sponsored surveys suggest stable populations in Bird Conservation Region (BCR) 10 (includes W MT) & possibly declining in BCR17 (includes central and SE MT). There are no surveys in BCR11 (Prairie Pothole region of MT) yet there is some good GOEA habitat in BCR11 MT. There are some limitations to these surveys.

  • MT Raptor Survey Route data shows no patterns in abundance

  • We have basic information gaps, such as nest site locations, survival estimates, dispersal information, and identification of important use areas

  • Effects of wind turbines on eagles can vary from no apparent impact to potentially significant impact (e.g., Altamont Pass =estimated 67 eagles killed/year); lack of information on population effects, habitat loss, mitigation strategies and cumulative impacts

  • USFWS draft guidelines include avoidance of or mitigation for important use areas; recommend retrofitting power lines as primary mitigation strategy

  • Montana Golden Eagle Working Group formed in Spring 2011; focused on eagle conservation although wind was motivating threat for group formation; working to enhance state database;

    • Montana Golden Eagle Management Guidelines – initially will address mitigation for wind, lead poisoning, habitat loss, electrocution, other threats; eventually will morph in to a conservation document with population objectives; current objective (because of lack of data) is to maintain

    • Montana Golden Eagle Monitoring Program – monitoring distribution and demographics; identify important use areas during breeding, migration, and wintering seasons.

  • Attempting better communication between USFWS and states through Flyways and state participation on the USFWS Eagle Technical Assessment Team


Shorebirds on the Hi-Line – Sean Fields and Neal Niemuth

  • HAPET – 4 mi2 survey to provide density and distribution maps for waterfowl in Dakotas; Sean Fields hired to fill in data gap, modeling in MT portion of Prairie Pothole; finished 4th year in MT in 2011; Used first 3 years to build models for mallards; surveyed 700 wetlands 2x/year;

  • Shorebirds –they wondered, can you use something similar for shorebirds?

  • Neal hired to bring in nongame component in Dakotas; create thunderstorm-type map for shorebirds; primary species MAGO, WIPH, UPSA, WILL, AMAV, WISN. Pilot one year in Dakotas – low detection for number of birds; evaluated variety of techniques; shorebird influenced by landscape characteristics, basin characteristic, daily and seasonal timing of surveys;

  • Roadside-based surveys similar to BBS for shorebirds, 2x annually, 2nd in early June; routes in ND, SD, just eastern MT; stratified samples by habitat; run routes for 8 years; creating thunderstorm type routes;

  • Looking at occurrence of shorebirds and waterbirds (and ducks too) in presence of wind and without wind; results are variable, possibly avoidance but not conclusion

  • Can we use road-based surveys to assess wind impacts? Added LBCU and Northern Harrier

  • Wind surveys – stops in and outside of wind farms; some are pre-treatment data and some just after; only 2 routes in MT

  • Will use landscape models to account for difference in landscape composition (grassland, wetland etc.) predictive models. Will add proximity to turbines, expect negative association; all at appropriate scale, multiple scale analysis; Use 49 other routes to give background; observers accounted for in process; model for each route, site by site, year by year analysis then do weight of evidence;

  • Nothing about nest success, behavioral changes

  • Estimate there might be ~20% avoidance by waterfowl (similar study)

  • BBS data to create special models; BBS data tied to landscape factors, e.g., more grass = higher probability of harriers

  • Also working on a grassland bird conservation model; probability of occurrence

  • MT BBS – density of routes in MT = 1 route/degree block, which is ¼ density of WY & ½ density of Dakotas; Steph started additional routes; in degree routes with lots of grass but routes may or may not be in grass habitat; program funding ended this year; can model variation to account for spatial autocorrelation

  • Sean is identifying additional new routes, getting some help on ground to count birds; will be looking for survey help, technicians – 4-4.5 hours/day; open to add additional routes or morphing sampling design in MT

  • Neal – this information is being used in decision making. E.g., Easement acquisition process.

  • Prairie Pothole Waterbird Conservation Plan – need for more waterbird data; Doug Johnson of HAPET involved with Conway surveys (marshbird protocols).


Great Plains Wind Energy Habitat Conservation Plan – Lauri Hanauska-Brown

  • Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) process of USFWS; 19 wind energy companies requesting incidental take permit for T&E species (Whooping Crane, Lesser Prairie chicken); area covered includes just NE MT

  • How will they minimize impacts of wind development to get incidental take permit?

  • Comment period closes Oct 12; AFWA may submit coordinated response;

  • WHCR and LEPC – incidental take; Piping Plover and Least Tern will be covered by BMPs; will also address 30 other special consideration species

  • Glendive public scoping – very little interest from MT agencies or public; consultant from wind companies there

  • Not a whole lot of potential in NE Montana, but there is some pretty high potential in some of the other states within the corridor area; States are requesting that highest priority conservation areas be excluded from development; identify where proposed development could be; assumes a 30 year project lifespan for individual projects but 45 year HCP (15 yrs build up)

  • Incidental take is not license to take T&E species at will, but if take does occur does provide for some coverage

  • Not expecting a lot of WHCR losses; modeling for PIPL and LETE probably more habitat loss than direct take

  • Initial scoping now – transmission lines have been identified as a concern/consideration

  • MT participating even though less relevance to MT

  • EIS coming up


Discussion

Neal – active easement program in ND; can we allow turbines on easements? This is a big discussion. What is footprint of wind relative to footprint of prairie conversion in state? Far exceeds wind!

John – MSTI hits sage, but really only one core area; initial concept is to avoid sage grouse core areas ; NW power & other companies will be on their own; if transmission lines avoid cores areas then wind will probably too.

Janet – concerned about cumulative impacts of wind with everything else – death by 1000 cuts.

Amy – we need to focus on siting guidelines to help steer away from prime habitats.

John – need to consider Sprague’s Pipits in addition to sage grouse and other Species of Concern



Bryce – anything >30 km from transmission line not profitable for companies; could help identify where potential energy may be targeted (in TNC report?)

Field Trip to Judith Gap wind farm (John Bacon, on-site manager)

Thursday, September 15

Welcome and any new introductions

Participants: Vicky Dreitz, Matt Comer, Sean Fields, Carmen Luna, Beverly Skinner, Jeanne Spaur, John Carlson, Janet Ellis, Kristi DuBois, Lauri Hanauska-Brown, Dave Laufenberg, Jamie Hogberg, Kevin Ellison, Deb O’Neill, Dennis Jorgensen, Shawn Cleveland, Lorelle Berkeley, Ken Sambor, Jim Hansen, Amy Cilimburg, Bryce Maxell, Kate Stone, Dan Casey, Pete Husby, Steve Gniadek, Kristina Smucker, Anna Noson, Nicole McClain, Warren Kellogg, Catherine Wightman
Catherine – MBCP web site is LIVE! www.montanabirds.org
Announcements

Funding awards – Catherine Wightman

  • Great Northern LCC – support for our Integrated Monitoring by Bird Conservation Region program; primarily for sampling on private and riparian lands; second year of funding; requested additional dollars to help with sampling and partnership development in Idaho; IWJV instrumental in securing this grant

  • Plains and Prairie Pothole LCC – support for grassland bird research in Phillips and Valley County, investigating spatial heterogeneity, management practices, and grassland bird populations ; TNC/BLM/UM/FWP supported project; second year of funding

  • Northern Great Plains Joint Venture –MBCP support for travel and meeting attendance to facilitate partnership building and enhance capacity; funds available to help NGOs and new partners, coordinate with Catherine for assistance

  • Intermountain West Joint Venture

    • Funded two Capacity Grants for Montana in 2011: Flathead Valley Critical Lands Project (year 3) and Southern Crown of the Continent Strategic Habitat Conservation Project.

    • Has committed to supporting the MBCP Long-billed Curlew Habitat Initiative. Details will be forthcoming soon.

  • North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA)

    • The BAD news – our Lower Yellowstone Wetlands Conservation Project was approved for NAWCA funding (~$800,000) in March 2011 but then denied funding because of budget shortfalls in May 2011.

    • The GOOD news – the Montana Hi-Line Prairie Wetland Project III was approved for NAWCA funding ($1 mil) this week.


Flyway updates – Catherine Wightman

  • States now have representation on USFWS Eagle Technical Assessment Team (one person from each flyway)

  • In Pacific Flyway, there is movement toward a coordinated Golden Eagle monitoring program

  • Representatives from the states (one person from game and nongame in each flyway) will be participating in a USFWS-sponsored marshbird monitoring summit in early winter. Ideally this will provide the framework for marshbird, and possibly other waterbird such as black terns and grebes, monitoring in Montana.

  • Management plans for Double-crested Cormorant and American White Pelican are being developed in the Pacific and Central (cormorant only) Flyways to address growing concerns about avian predation on fish resources.


PIF update – Dan Casey

  • Western Working Group – discuss regional coordination; helps to strengthen local partnerships when WWG holds meeting there; Dan pushing for WWG meeting in MT in near future; last two meetings were in San Diego and Albuquerque

  • Black swift monitoring (RMBO lead); difficult in MT; Waterfalls of West book – could help identify swift locations; least resilient to climate change – but what are we going to do differently if we monitor swift?; CO is putting out a limited number of geolocators

  • PIF serves as clearinghouse for species specific working groups – eg. Hummingbirds, cuckoos,

  • Flammulated owls coordinated surveys – group worked on protocols, frequency, etc.

  • Travel is an issue; there is web access to meetings now;

  • Climate change models from PRBO

  • Farm bill and sage grouse initiative

  • AZ riparian surveys led by J. Bart

  • Life cycle monitoring – starting to think about winter monitoring

  • Next meeting in Mazatlan, first week of Oct; trinational planning – maybe around curlews or rufous hummingbirds

  • PIF science committee – this is the people who put together PIF plan and Trinational plan; met in AZ in August; RMBO maintaining PIF assessment database; population trend scores are going through new review; neotropical bird species accounts are being created; public lands document (last State of Birds Report)– WI stepping this down to what it means in WI; other ways would be for land mgmt agencies to step it down themselves

  • Full life cycle – Cornell, KBO, JV science staff; needs that serve multiple JVs; trying to separate JV by who has breeding, migration, wintering habitat; tables which species are served by which datasets

  • Facilitated meeting to talk about PIF implementation committee – how does PIF serve JVs? Define more clearly what roles PIF science community can play with JVs; people plan rather than bird plan


Yellowstone oil spill update – Allison Begley, presented by Catherine Wightman

  • On July 1, 2011, approximately 1000 barrels of oil were released into the Yellowstone River when the Silvertip pipeline broke. It is believed that the pipeline that was buried less than 10 feet below the riverbed was impacted by floodwaters and debris in the river.

  • The high water levels (at flood stage) at the time of the spill have complicated clean-up. Oil became trapped in debris piles, and continues to be discovered as water levels drop. This appears to be one of the larger wildlife hazards, as many toads and garter snakes have been cleaned (of oil) in and around the debris piles. Crews have been working on creative solutions to remove the ‘available’ oil.

  • 4 birds have been cleaned. Other birds have been lightly oiled and observed, but the oiling did not appear to result in a behavioral shift (e.g. excessive preening) and so were not subjected to capture and cleaning. Other wildlife cleaned include woodhouse’s toads (>100), garter snakes, and leopard frogs.

  • Clean-up proceeded following crews that mapped the oil. Following a clean-up crew, sites were revisited before consider ‘final/clean’. Crews confirmed oil up to 72 miles downstream from the break at Laurel. At one point more than 800 crews were onsite.

  • EPA and FWS (federal oversight) departed the clean up this week, and DEQ (state) is now in charge of the clean-up. At this stage, it is believed that >90% of the ‘actionable’ oil has been cleaned up.

  • The old pipeline is being repaired and will be replaced with newer technology (horizontal drilling) and placed >40 ft beneath the river so that this could not happen again.


FWP Updates

FWP & SWG funding and priorities – Lauri Hanauska-Brown

  • Good news - Nongame contributions up $7000 this year to $33,000

  • Bad news – State Wildlife Grants funding (SWG) is down; guaranteed funding uncertain; could be down at least 25%; have extra carry over this year so we’re at about the same as last year but that is not expected next year; more match issues so will be doing less habitat projects; 3 year diversity monitoring ended in 2010, analyzing data now and then will submit final SWG report;

  • SWG and Nongame funding went to (in part):

    • Competitive student grant awarded last year – went to student at MSU last year. $5K.

    • Jay Sumner received Citizen Science $ for volunteer peregrine project; will provide $ to Jay for post-delisting monitoring this year

    • Loon Ranger and loon monitoring program

    • MBCP bird monitoring program

    • Mtn plover surveys

    • Bald eagle and heron surveys

    • Multi-state piping plover monitoring ; International census years for PIPL; but blow out because of high flooding; other regions/states found piping plovers nesting in unusual areas;

  • Section 6 $ for SPPI distribution and habitat modeling

  • Nongame and SWG reports online for legislative session

  • WAFWA (Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies) – bl. Footed ferret landowner program; John Emmerich from WY lead; would protect large blocks of land for p. dogs which would also benefit other species


CFWCS revision – Deb O’Neill

  • Deb did interviews with some folks around state.

  • Major changes to CFWCS – comprehensive threats analysis – magnitude and scope and severity; SGCN and inventory needs – will use SOC list but wants to re-evaluate list; Regional focus areas – identify what is important to regions; effectiveness measures – AFWA document for evaluating effectiveness of SWAPs

  • Next steps – form Technical Advisory Teams (one internal, one external); public roll out, public meetings; Petition SOC reviews; new methods to identify focal areas (??) ; begin threats analysis;

  • Timeline – draft strategy for public comment Sept-Oct 2013, final approved by April 2014

  • Involved with SWAP review in other states which helps Deb understand what USFWS is looking for

  • Wants to design to help partners do work we can’t if SWG goes away


Update from Action Items list, Dec 2010 – Catherine Wightman

  • Quick Wins

    • Website and partner directory – done! www.montanabirds.org

    • Funding webinar – delayed but forthcoming

    • Coordination with FWP CFWCS revision process – delayed but starting now.

  • Short-term

    • Long-billed Curlew Initiative – working with IWJV; forthcoming

    • Coordination with prairie grouse research – moving forward; see Lorelle Berkeley presentation below

    • Conservation design for Black Tern – on hold until we know more about pending USFWS marshbird program

    • Flammulated Owl – efforts to incorporate with PIF region-wide surveys unsuccessful; we already have relatively good baseline of data in state

  • Mid-term

    • Establish a repository for data, reports, information on focal species – intent of “members only” page on website, at least for reports and information

    • Sprague’s Pipit initiative – some indirect efforts include Section 6 funding request (awarded) to enhance distribution and species models for SPPI, and the NRCS Northern Plains Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative proposal (see Pete Husby presentation below)

    • High elevation surveys – conducted by FWP regional staff, Black swifts by MT Audubon and ABC


Monitoring

Landbird Monitoring – Kristina Smucker & Bryce Maxell

  • Integrated Monitoring by Bird Conservation Region program goals

  • Data collection – completing all points difficult in W MT more topography

  • Flooding made sampling difficult

  • 186 transects completed out of 190 goal; 11 technicians; >18,000 detections, 195 species;

  • >30 detections for 94 species; 179 grasshopper sparrow, 131 McCown’s Longspur; 76 SPPI

  • >1800 detections for meadowlarks

  • Improvements for 2011 – better coordination with local biologists and managers

  • Data on RMBO website, can pull information out for different areas, species, etc.

  • Discussion about training on how to use database as resource – BLM, FWP biologists, etc.


Mountain plover surveys – Lauri Hanauska-Brown & Allison Begley

  • Regional biologists involved; FWP techs, BLM helped, one volunteer

  • Flooding complicated access and surveys

  • Extended survey period to end of June because of access issues; visiting at least 1x to evaluate whether they were even reasonable; will reassess modeling/stratification for next year because some sites were completely unsuitable

  • Observed <20 moup on sites and about the same number off survey routes

  • Will repeat in 2012

Dennis Jorgensen WWF update on Steve Dinsmore work – extreme year; monitored record low # of nests,
Colonial Nesting Waterbird Survey – Catherine Wightman & Amy Cilimburg

  • Cooperated with USFWS western US surveys; establish baseline data for monitoring and management

  • Focused on Montana Species of Concern plus Double-crested Cormorants (because of avian predation on fisheries concerns)

  • Methods – counted nests as index to breeding birds whenever possible; some flush or fly-out counts of adults used instead when nests could be counted

  • Results – over 300 wetlands visited, 2009-2011

  • Highlights – worked well for large colonies at a few sites, not so well for small, dispersed colonies; worked well for island nesting species, not as well for species nesting in dense marsh; aerial surveys required for herons

  • Identified 15 key wetland sites for future monitoring

  • Reproductive success appeared to be variable among years (cold, wet springs) but long-lived birds, survival probably more important for population than reproduction in a given year

  • Future Directions

    • Evaluate pending marshbird strategy to determine if it will help monitor birds as dispersed wetlands sites (e.g., black terns)

    • Volunteer-based monitoring at key sites, with assistance from Refuge Staff and possibly a paid person (ideally Fred Tilly who worked on project for last 3 years)

    • More comprehensive monitoring, to include heron flights, every 3-5 years


Partner Updates

Bryce Maxell, MNHP – Maxent models updated; now evaluating predictive model outputs; agency level access to tracker – website for model outputs coming; Map Viewer new application for tracker; public version is now available but not point level data; grassland bird monitoring on BLM continues; Dan Sullivan collected GPS points for BBS route stops, only a few left to do this fall, MNHP will cover; make SOC process transparent on website

Kristina Smucker, ASC – Forest restoration research in Swan Valley; Education and outreach – bird banding sites; fall migration banding for songbirdson NPG ranch in Bitterroot

Kate Stone, NPG Ranch – 8000 acre property in Bitterroot; managed in context of restoration ecology; owner really likes birds, use birds as response variable to restoration treatments; solicit and contract with research partners; $200K to partners – ASC banding, owl and hawk migration, 2 satellite transmitters for GOEA put on overwintering birds; over 500 sampling points on property breeding and overwintering; submitting over 2500 observations to MNHP lots of SOC birds on property; Same owners recently acquired wheat farm north of Miles City – unique habitats and species, limited plans for restoration work; 5 PhD on staff plus several MS – direction to focus on long-term projects up to 30 years; opportunities to work on neighboring properties

Dan Casey, American Bird Conservancy – HABPOPS database to tie bird densities to habitats, Decision Support Tool - if we manage habitat what does it mean, finished sage and grassland species; this is the IWJV implementation chapter for landbirds right now; BCR9, 10, 16 focus; still working on PIPO species and some others; part of intent is to build user interface, working on that now; Stepping down PIF objectives to regional objectives, still trend based; created “thunderstorm” maps; overlaid Sage grouse and Brewer’s sparrow model – 38% of habitat overlap; MT has some of highest BRSP potential habitat and much of it is not in sage grouse habitat. Also running a local hawkwatch site; participating on Bird Records committee – new records, review about 60 records/year, often supported by digital photography which makes it most helpful;

Matt Comer, BLM – fence markers for sage grouse; short-eared owls from AK with transmitters found dead in area; Has an intern working on education projects, e.g., cats indoors campaign; found heron sites and nogo nests; doing a lot of meadow enhancements projects (conifer removal);

Sean Fields, USFWS – USFWS completed 4th year of breeding waterfowl modeling in MT; shorebirds on Hi-line – SHC and some grassland models hopefully coming (see presentation on 14 September)

Vicky Dreitz UM – Her background: PhD project – monitoring program on Snail Kite in FL, program is still running; worked with Patuxent a lot; used population monitoring to inform landowner actions; formerly worked for Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, now is new Research Affiliate at University of Montana.

Carmen Luna, Bowdoin – provided information on colonial nesting waterbirds; helped with grant for WWF’s curlew project; most of biology at Bowdoin has been driven by salinity issues; Steph Jones’ 10 year study on songbirds helpful; Jessica Larson new biologist, started in April; opportunity to look at Russian Olive and other projects, big battle with upland game bird interests.

Beverly Skinner, USFWS Charles M Russell NWR – new biology position; new plan includes starting a bird atlas for refuge, breeding birds and winter resident, will submit observation to MNHP; ½ job is outreach and education – Lewistown urban bird grant with USFWS, $70K city of Lewistown working cooperatively with CMR; lots of it is education on migratory birds, e.g., cats indoors, restoration along creek in Lewistown; Bev is CMR contact now for bird work; press release on urban bird work will also put on Lewistown city and CMR web page;

Jeanne Spaur, Fort Peck Tribes – planned to do nightjar surveys this year but weathered out; attempted waterbird work; noticed more night-herons and cormorants than usual; assisted with USFWS shorebird routes; helped MNHP surveys, wetland condition assessment; wetland diversity project; participated in MT Audubon bird festival, led field tours and hosted a traditional meal for participants.

John Carlson, BLM –update later in afternoon

Ken Sambor, NGPJV – update later in afternoon

Jim Hansen, FWP – 2011 flooding keeping ducks and shorebirds happy; most basins wet this year; acquisition at Big Lake WMA, finalizing details, using duck stamp $; Finishing repairs to Pilsner reservoir; Lake Broadview, near the town of Broadview in Yellowstone County, again has hundreds of acres of water following the heavy May and June rains.  Transmission lines cross the water, with a resulting hazard of wetland birds striking the lines.  In the late 1970’s and early ‘80’s, when this lake reached 10,000 acres, line strikes and the resulting carcasses aggravated an avian botulism die-off in which tens of thousands of ducks, grebes, and shorebirds died.  With the onset of cool weather, the danger of botulism has passed for this year, but checks are being made this fall for dead birds and will continue next year so that carcasses can be removed, especially with the arrival of hot weather that triggers botulism.     

Steve Gniadek, retired, chair of Harlequin Duck working group – Glacier NP did biggest survey, plus some on Forest Servce lands; Lisa Bate, trapped and put transmitters on 14 females, found 2 nests on tributaries; females roosting at night on Lake McDonald; spring surveys and brood counts, a few broods on upper reaches; poor year for nest success; GOEA – Lisa interested to resurrect monitoring program, over 100 GOEA in 1 hour have been documented; documented FEHA and SWHA nests along Hwy 2, mostly between Shelby and Custer – will get to MNHP, nests are near Kevin wind site

Amy Cilimburg, MT Audubon – working on climate change, policy related outreach; IBA program – good way to engage volunteers (more later); prioritization assessment for IBA, quantitative assessment of current program; Glasgow Festival – really successful, thanks to John Carlson, Jeanne Spaur and others; next year festival is in Kalispell, there will be more focus on conservation; citizen science data – helping with GOEA nest sites, black swifts; Bridger Migration Monitoring; working on strategic planning process this weekend for next 5 years – want to be added value to MBCP and bird conservation; promote Christmas Bird Count

Janet Ellis, MT Audubon – primarily works on policy-related issues; falconry rules on nonresidents taking falcons; MT Bird Distribution about $6K short to publish book; birds sightings by end of Dec this year will be included; classification review committee – CA quail established in Bitterroot, prohibited, as are Bobwhite; recommending prohibition on petition to bring in Gambel’s quail; looking for more reports from BLM on Kevin Rim

Kristi DuBois FWP – survey and inventory, bald eagle nest monitoring coordination; Upper Clark Fork consolidate information to help with decision making; Spotted Dog WMA planning for surveys; Management plans and monitoring for nongame on WMAs; running W. Screetch Owl surveys;

Lauri Hanauska-Brown, FWP – Piping Plover conservation strategy is being revised, Lauri on team;

Lorelle Berkeley, FWP – see presentation

Shawn Cleveland, The Nature Conservancy – working on acquiring easements, Hi-Line NAWCA funding will help; fencing for sage grouse work; grassland bird work that BLM will talk about

Dennis Jorgensen, World Wildlife Fund – curlew project on Matador, data will be helpful with Trinational Vision, working on paper for Condor right now; Solar powered PTTs, likely to work for 3 years, support from Challenge Cost Share (help from Carmen Luna at Bowdoin); USGS paying for tracking right now; $17-18K a year, looking for partners; geolocators on Mountain plovers, 2 returns, first hatch a month late than average this year; WCS point count surveys on prairie reserve; looking at Sprague’s Pipits and using suitability models on APR; removing fence for sharp tail and sage grouse; looking to identify contractors for burn prescriptions, burn adjacent to prairie dog colonies, monitor response of MOUP and bison to burns in addition to p.dogs. American Prairie Reserve (APR) restoration and research

Kevin Ellison, Wildlife Conservation Society – APR bird survey work part of larger regional program, adaptive management framework, work with TNC Matador and 5 other TNC sites; tested Sprague’s Pipit model from WWF; working with NPS to put geolocators on SPPI primarily in Saskatchewan and Dakotas; new project - exurbanization in Madison-Gallatin drainage

Jamie Hogberg – worked with PRBO, RMBO, Bridgerr project; looking for graduate project

Dave Laufenberg – interested in more holistic problem solving, likes what group is trying to do; interest in neotropics, Columbia and Ecuador

Pete Husby, NRCS – use landowner incentive programs e.g., WHIP, EQIP, plus other NRCS programs to benefit bird habitat (see presentations)



Anna Noson, ASC – riparian bird monitoring, landbirds, secretive marsh birds, restoration reports on line; surveys on Madison and Missouri River, developed habitat suitability maps

Current Habitat Conservation Actions

BLM resource update and grassland bird project –John Carlson

  • Working to get BLM more engaged in bird conservation; local projects works with local biologists please but John can help facilitate if necessary; most in eastern MT but a little in Dillon and Missoula;

  • Land management – MBTA, federal agencies directed to address migratory birds, working off BLM direction to provide state direction to field office in project and NEPA, funding prioritized by multiple species and landscape

  • Sage grouse – David Wood, on national team to determine how BLM is going to deal with sage grouse as BLM is pivotal in future listing decision; interim guidance for BLM should be released shortly, utilizing core use habitats

  • Planning Effort – land use plans, 3 in MT (Hi-Line, Miles City, Billings) and 1 in SD, Hi-Line farthest along, will be out for public comment, will let us know when it comes out; Lewistown and Malta will be doing their plan soon

  • Projects – grassland bird monitoring, 10 years, Phillips and Valley Co., work has driven management direction;

  • PhD student Marissa Lipsey – multiple partners, broader-scale grassland bird distribution, mapping including Canada; impetus is how do we manage for grassland birds – what scale do we need heterogeneity on? Holistic grassland bird management vs. species specific management in grasslands; do we manage at pasture scale, ranch scale, landscape scale; Do we even have heterogeneity at this scale? Private land aspect good – allowing for data collection, there may be good opportunities for influencing landowner actions based on Marissa’s work; BLM anticipates using results for management as well; not addressing vital rates yet;

  • Rebecca Smith – extension of sage grouse project, movement of sage grouse (Jason Tack predecessor identified long movements of sage grouse)

  • GOEA floating and wintering birds, habitat use, primarily focused on potential wind power developments; firming up study designs; BLM has 2 yrs funding but looking for additional partners; will work through GOEA wg to identify partners

  • PEFA monitoring

  • IMBCR monitoring

  • Habitat improvement projects – pushing field offices to look at bird related habitat projects; trying to manipulate grasslands is more difficult; want to start doing more in E MT, looking at crested wheatgrass conversion – where, focused; Monitoring of habitat improvement projects, impetus to start monitoring impacts

  • Really looking for partners on projects – timing is a bit off right now, trying to get out in front of that a little; MBCP to work with local biologists to develop projects; project defined as research to inform management, habitat manipulation projects, public outreach just needs to fit in with priorities and BLM mission

  • Dennis - Keystone Pipeline – if it goes through sage grouse corridor, will there be opportunities to monitor? John worried more about above ground effects.

  • Jim – repairing reservoirs still a priority? Still active program.


NRCS Migratory Bird Habitat and Sage Grouse Initiatives – Pete Husby

Northern Plains Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative (NPMBHI)



  • NPMBHI tends to be more wetland focused, working lands proposal, doesn’t exclude haying and grazing; hoping to reduce farming and then build block of grassland habitat; Resource concerns – loss of wetland habitat, conversion of native prairie to cropland, “preventative planting”, Pete tried to focus this on grassland birds to include Sprague’s Pipits

  • Develop a plan for how haying and grazing could be used to provide habitat

  • Would be option for planting cover crops in Dakotas, hope this would be minimal part of program in MT, in MT would focus on EQIP, WHIP

  • Income forgone payments – waive 3 year limit otherwise can’t compete with CRP – but this wasn’t included in MT program

  • MT eligibility – high priority, moderate and low priority based on important duck habitat, SPPI core areas, “preventative planting”

  • MT – authorized for up to $500K but no applications this year. In ND funded 79 contracts for $1.5 mil

  • Wants to explore for next year to see if we can turn this around. Could be because income foregone payments may be better in Dakotas

  • 1 – opportunity to help grassland birds, 2 – work with partnership to monitor results

  • Problems – CRP sprayed out and it will be farmed;

  • What can MBCP do to help? Letter to the right people advocating for something that would be competitive; letter to state con, should we tie to sage grouse using Sprague’s Pipit and making connections

  • WWF – ecotourism, capacity among landowners to understand opportunities;


NRCS Sage-Grouse Initiative (Joe Fidel, Montana SGI Coordinator, presented by Pete Husby)

  • Strategically focusing on core areas to block up enough acres;

  • In 2010 started in core 4 in MT; relatively small 180,000 acres, 100,000 signed up; emphasized can help improve productivity of ranch and also help the grouse

  • Addressing threats – grazing management, marking fences, take out power lines& some fences, water source management

  • Offered 2 grazing strategies – 1 meeting prescribed grazing standard or meet prescribed grazing standard and rest 20% each year (higher payment for this option)

  • Core 3 – 90,000 acres enrolled in 2011

  • Also trying to protect movement corridors

  • More activity in 2012 in Dillon area

  • Additional acres enrolled in central MT area

  • 3 new SGI range cons hired

  • D. Naugle will do 2nd year as science advisor


Evaluating the response of sage-grouse to rest-rotation grazing – Lorelle Berkley

  • Evaluating SGI through outcome based research

  • Expect improved livestock production, improved range health, improved wildlife habitat

  • Achieving cooperation between federal and state agencies as well as landowners

  • Rest-rotation – required to rest 15 months then put them back in to grazing

  • Evaluating vital rates – hen survival, chick survival, nest success

  • Study area, core area 4; control area designated

  • Covered 423,000 acres in first field season

  • Radio marked 101 hens in 2011; allows them to find nests

  • Chick survival – suture radio tags, check every other day at first

  • Vegetation variables – measured because connection between grass height and nest success is already proven to be important

  • Landscape-scale map generated – can get canopy cover in categories over entire study area; will allow us to look at survival and habitat use over multiple scales

  • Will use data to generate survival and habitat models

  • Doing spring lek counts to assess how counts are predictive of population health; how useful are lek counts as an indicator of population health?

  • 77 hens still alive – 24 mortalities, 20 believed to be predation, 1 fence collision

  • 102 nests found, 21% were renests; overall nest success pretty low = 28% probably weather related.

  • Chick survival – 23 chicks tagged, only 3 still alive

  • Songbird study – hopefully start in spring; expand on SGI foundation; look at species richness, diversity, composition, density & reproductive success, cowbird parasitism

  • Longer-term goals to look at ecology of a couple focal species;


Yellowstone River Conservation District Council –Nicole McClain & Warren Kellogg

Council History and Direction - Nicole



  • 1996-1997 floods, considered one of top 10 most endangered rivers

  • Conservation district is subdivision of state

  • Mission to provide local leadership and guidance for wise use of Yellowstone river

  • Cumulative Effects Study authorized by Congress in 1999

  • Multiple on the ground projects – e.g., Russian Olive removal

  • Sponsored Yellowstone River Symposium

  • Treasure-Rosebud boat tour – look at Pallid sturgeon and effects of bank stabilization; channel migration zones

  • 2007 - $30 mil mandate; restoration of resources on Yellowstone; but $ is not actually available right now

  • www.yellowstonerivercouncil.org – news release on recent boat tour

  • Working relationships yield a shared vision

Cumulative Effects Study – Warren, Technical Advisory Committee chair



  • Cumulative effects and BMPs to improve or maintain health and economic viability of river; Category 1. Biological – riparian and avian.

  • Riparian – extent and integrity of riparian forest changed over 60 yrs? Alteration of flow? Avian community in responds to changes?

  • Identify natural and human-based changes, land use conversion

  • Russian olive – short term benefit but long term problem; biggest threat from invasive species; potential for monoculture; other threats are salt cedar and smooth brome;

  • Avian objectives – influence riparian habitats, cover, land uses; river location on bird distribution and species; effect of Russian olive on bird species richness and abundance; primarily focused on braided reaches; primarily focused on private lands (~86% of river is privately owned); results link diversity of habitat = diversity of bird community, river location overshadowed many other factors, response to habitat structure not species so much but we know from other studies that monoculture of Russian Olive has adverse impacts on avian communities and others but most of Yellowstone is mixed

  • Category II – channel and floodplain; hydraulics has big importance on habitat recruitment; big influence on how river spreads out; Geomorphology critical to riparian recruitment, riprap is having consequences for river morphology

  • Category III – perspective, cultural inventory and economics

  • Immediate needs –hire contractor to document current conservation strategies and identify opportunities, get permission to access private lands for more studies – often get on property because going through local conservation districts; need about $15,000 to get this on the ground.


Yellowstone IBA – Amy Cilimburg

  • IBA is international effort; biological integrity is key, requires data for designation

  • Sites that provide essential habitat for one or more bird species

  • Breeding, wintering, migrating (congregating) birds

  • Can be mix of private and public lands, not regulatory

  • Criteria based on vulnerabilities and habitat

  • Met with NGPJV and board to discuss if/where Yellowstone IBA should be

  • Build capacity for outreach and conservation of key areas along the Yellowstone River

  • Red-headed woodpecker might be a focal species for the IBA, good outreach potential


Northern Great Plains Joint Venture Update – Ken Sambor

  • JV might want to fund reach narratives (YRCDC) in candidate areas for IBA

  • Landowner contacts by YRCDC; YRCDC understanding and support of IBA vital to accessing private lands.

  • Overview of JV – funding, have about $170K for project funding;

  • Science support – HAPET, Will Meeks is new HAPET project leader; GIS, DST, research & monitoring, bird experts with all bird groups; doing NWI basin characteristics; NGPJV tech team, looking at HABS-type methodology; conservation design – board wants to focus on; NAWMP update; TRIST; PPP LCC


Discussion and Action Items

  1. Partnership letter to NRCS encouraging a revision of the NPMBHI to more closely align with Pete Husby’s initial recommendations prioritizing grassland birds and changing terms of agreements to be more attractive to landowners – Catherine and Pete, leads

  2. Provide active MBCP representation to the Northern Great Plains Farm Bill working group – Brian Martin nominated (others are welcome to listen in)

  3. More engagement with Prairie Pothole Joint Venture, especially as it relates to grasslands and landbirds – John Carlson is new Technical Team member and will bring update to group; expecting a Montana focus at the upcoming meeting

  4. Training for BLM, FWP, FS and other biologists on the landbird monitoring database as a resource for helping with management decisions – landbird monitoring partners

  5. Use MBCP webpage to help advertise local events and activities, e.g., outreach for new Lewistown Urban grant - ALL

  6. Develop landowner outreach document(s) under Partnership logo that can be used by all partners when requesting access to and data collection on private lands – Catherine, Kevin, Amy, leads





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