Response for project 199802200: Pine Creek/Wagner Management

Comment on proposed FY 2006 budget

The CTWS expect funding for Pine Creek Conservation Area in FY2006. The identified budget of $154,722 is consistent with past funding. These funding levels, however, are the result of an initially low out-year funding forecast for early stages of project implementation and management plan development. The MOA between the CTWS and BPA states: “The purpose of this Agreement is to provide a mechanism for BPA to fund, and the Tribe to implement, the protection, mitigation, and enhancement of wildlife habitat permanently to help fulfill BPA’s duties under the Northwest Power Act.” The MOA calls for negotiation of a trust fund or other guaranteed funding source by January 30, 2002, but BPA has been unwilling to enter into this discussion. The Pine Creek Conservation Area Wildlife Habitat and Watershed Management Plan as approved by BPA identified $179,293 as a baseline annual O&M funding level, not including any major project expenses. This budget is approximately $5 per acre per year to manage this 33,557-acre mitigation project. This is certainly one of the most efficient mitigation sites in the region. The Tribes requested FY04 and FY05 O&M funding at NPCC Provincial Meetings in 2003. The FY04 request was $351,405, and the FY05 request was $325,206. A fish passage culvert replacement and roadway erosion control and maintenance were included for FY2004, and for FY2005, $145,000 was sought for a 5800-acre prescription fire for juniper control. These funds were not approved by the NPCC, although these activities were anticipated in the project proposals approved by the NPCC and ISRP. The culvert projects and prescribed fires have since been funded, primarily through outside sources. The erosion control and road maintenance project requires funding from BPA. The funding level of $154,722 is NOT adequate for management on this 33,557-acre mitigation property. A $210,772 budget would allow implementation of the erosion control project in FY2006.

Accomplishments since the last review

Management Highlights • The Wildlife Habitat and Watershed Management Plan was approved by BPA in 2004. • Riparian vegetation on Pine Creek is recovering rapidly. • Volunteers have helped remove 30 miles of interior fences. • Substantial progress has been made in reducing infestations of noxious weeds. • Irrigation water rights on Pine Creek and the John Day River are leased to instream flow. • Three fish passage barrier culverts on Pine Creek have been removed. • The lower 5.4 miles of Pine Creek are enrolled in the CREP riparian buffer program. Bunchgrasses and trees and shrubs were planted in to improve wildlife habitats and watershed function. • A prescribed fire was conducted with Prineville District BLM to reduce encroachment of western juniper into grassland and shrub steppe wildlife habitats and improve watershed function. • Junipers have been cut on approximately 3 miles of Pine Creek and tributary drainages to improve riparian habitats. Outreach and Education • A successful public access program includes 500-800 annual user-days for hiking or hunting and thousands viewing the area from the John Day River or Highway 218. • OMSI brings approximately 1,000 students to the Conservation Area yearly. • Wheeler SWCD highlights the Conservation Area in watershed tours. Monitoring Monitoring is vital to the project’s value as an example of watershed recovery and wildlife habitat management. The following types of monitoring are being conducted: • Photo monitoring • Pine Creek Stream flow & Water Temperature • Pine Creek Water Quality, Macro-invertebrates, Channel & Vegetation conditions • Pine Creek Proper Functioning Condition Assessment • John Day River Habitat conditions Channel & Vegetation • Steelhead Spawning Redd Surveys • Breeding Bird Point Counts • Winter Game Survey • Upland Vegetation: Orthophotography, transect sampling, & mapping • Weather • HEP (baseline estimate 19,610 HUs)

FY 2006 goals and anticipated accomplishments

The following goals are from the Pine Creek Conservation Area Wildlife Habitat and Watershed Management Plan. Objectives do not fit in the allowed response form. Pine Creek Conservation Area is intended, as a wildlife and watershed mitigation site, to partially offset wildlife habitat losses caused by John Day Dam on the Columbia River. Habitat management will, as specified in the MOA between BPA and the Tribes, to the extent possible, focus on strategies designed to achieve and maintain native habitat that is naturally self-sustaining. In many cases, recovery of watershed functions or native plant communities may only occur over the course of several decades. Other changes, such as community dominance by invasive species, may be permanent without active intervention on the part of land managers. Future climate changes may also limit or prevent recovery to historic conditions. Where possible, altered or damaged ecosystem functions will be restored through passive restoration techniques, such as the prevention of activities which degrade or prevent recovery. Passive restoration strategies will be paired with active interventions as needed, such as replacement of culverts creating fish passage barriers. It is hoped that these efforts will lead to conservation of biodiversity in the form of native fish, wildlife, and plant communities. An additional goal for the project is to work in partnership with neighboring landowners, local, state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, and educational groups. Pine Creek Conservation Area has the potential to serve as a model for watershed recovery and wildlife habitat management in the lower John Day Basin. Successful monitoring of changes to vegetation, wildlife, fish use and distribution and hydrology will be critical to this effort, and collection of baseline data is thus an immediate management priority.

Subbasin planning

How is this project consistent with subbasin plans?

4 Inventory of Existing Activities Tribal Mitigation Properties, p. 202 “The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon manage three fish and wildlife mitigation properties in the John Day Subbasin. The 33,557-acre Pine Creek Conservation Area is in and near the Pine Creek watershed on the lower mainstem John Day River” “Legally binding agreements are in place between BPA and the Tribes to achieve “the protection, mitigation, and enhancement of wildlife habitat permanently to help fulfill BPA's duties under the Northwest Power Act.” These agreements call for the Tribes to prepare site-specific management plans for each property, and for BPA to “provide a reasonable amount of additional funds for operation and maintenance to help the Tribe ensure the habitat's natural characteristics and mitigation qualities are developed and self-sustaining.” The Tribes will manage these properties for fish and wildlife habitat in perpetuity.”” Tribal Wildlife Habitat and Watershed Management Plans, p. 209 Table 62. Monitoring programs in the John Day Subbasin, p. 216 Comment: Table 62 includes monitoring activities on the Pine Creek Conservation Area 5 Management Plan 5.1 Vision for the Subbasin, p. 224 Tribal management of the Pine Creek Conservation Area will provide healthy and productive fish and wildlife habitat, supporting traditional resource-based activities such as hunting and fishing that are of importance to the social, cultural, and economic well-being of the subbasin and the region. Subbasin Biological Objectives & Habitat Objectives, p. 236-242 The Pine Creek Conservation Area is directly relevant to achieving these objectives by improving spawning and rearing habitat for steelhead and redband trout, and migratory habitat for Chinook salmon. Subbasin Habitat Objectives, p. 242 Watershed restoration on the Conservation Area directly or indirectly addresses each identified Habitat Objective.

How do goals match subbasin plan priorities?

5 Management Plan Restoration Strategies and Priorities, p. 249 In Lower JDR Muddy Creek, Passage, Fish Screening, Flow Restoration, and Protect Existing Habitat are Very High Priority Strategies. Riparian and Upland Habitat Improvements are High Priority Strategies. The Lower JDR Muddy Creek 5th field was assigned the 3rd highest (of 7) overall priority restoration category for 5th fields in the lower and middle John Day. Project Prioritization Framework, p. 285 The Prioritization Framework was intended by subbasin planners to be applied only to new fisheries restoration projects. However, the Pine Creek Conservation Area clearly meets the following criteria: Set 1: Benefits to Focal Species 1. The project addresses a direct threat to focal species True: Prior to acquisition, habitat for steelhead and redband trout in Pine Creek was chronically dewatered for irrigation. 2. The project improves habitat quality for focal species in priority areas. 5. The project benefits terrestrial wildlife as well as aquatic species. Set 2: Technical Soundness 1. The project relies on sound principles established by research and/or local experience. 2. The project addresses the need for monitoring and evaluation. Set 3: Socio-Economic Integration 1. The project complements local efforts/organizations. 2. The project has community and/or landowner support. 3. The project integrates with economic uses of the watershed. 4. The project promotes awareness and education about watershed functions. 5. The project creates benefits that are long-term and self-sustaining. Terrestrial Species, p. 288 The Pine Creek Conservation Area can contribute to objectives in focal habitat types, especially Shrub-Steppe, Interior Grassland, and Western Juniper and Mountain Mahogany Woodlands. Research Needs, p. 314 The Conservation Area contributes to the research need of evaluating restoration potential of the lower subbasin.

Other comments