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Thursday, 30 October, 2014

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Southern Idaho Wildlife Mitigation Program properties map. (Submitted photo)

Southern Idaho Wildlife Mitigation Program update

Sho-Ban News
FORT HALL — The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Southern Idaho Wildlife Mitigation Program (SIWM) staff is presenting information at Fort Hall Reservation districts to update and give additional information about the programmatic portion of the management plan presented in 2013.
They are also providing information on the individual properties in the area management guidance section said Aren Eddingsaas, SIWM wildlife biologist.
Travis Stone, SIWM natural resource specialist, did a PowerPoint presentation that explains the goals that include informing the membership on the program, the draft programmatic management program, the draft area management guidance and proposed 2015 management activities. They are also requesting comments.
SIWM is under the Fish and Wildlife Department and was created in 1997 when the Tribes entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Bonneville Power Administration to implement it. The program was mandated by the Northwest Power Act of 1980 (Public Law 96-501) that is overseen by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council and the BPA administers it to protect, mitigate (make up for or lessen the impact), along with enhance wildlife habitat because of the development of hydroelectric projects in the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife program. The Tribes program is habitat based in which wildlife populations and habitat are protected and enhanced through the acquisition, protection and restoration of habitat.
SIWM acquires private lands and transfers it to tribal ownership to provide for wildlife habitat and public use. It provides the Tribes an opportunity to be co-managers of natural resources and wildlife so the wildlife continues to thrive and allows for the practice of Treaty rights.
The management plan provides background and justification, along with formalizes how SIWM operates. Concerning area management guidance, it provides background on individual properties and identifies potential on the ground action. It is available for public comment and the final version goes to BPA by the end of this year.
Management issues include: Protection through acquisition or easement, habitat restoration, water resources, public use and access, fish and wildlife, cultural resources, operation and maintenance and administration.
The Area Management Guidance provides information on individual properties including habitat, public use and access, along with operation and management. It identifies current conditions and desired future conditions.
The properties thus far acquired include: Rudeen Wildlife Mitigation Area south of American Falls; the Soda Hills Wildlife Management Area west of Soda Springs; the Bannock Creek Wildlife Mitigation Area just north of Interstate 15; Legacy Springs Wildlife Mitigation outside of Springfield located on the American Falls Reservoir and the Lavaside Wildlife Mitigation Area south of Firth.
• Rudeen Ranch property encompasses Cold Creek and Bowen Canyons on the north end of the Deep Creek Mountains south of American Falls. It’s adjacent to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Bald Eagle Area of Critical environmental concern – an important wintering area for bald eagles in southeast Idaho. Big game is plentiful including summer and early winter range. The Tribes purchased it in 2000 using BPA funds to protect eagles, upland birds and big game habitat as mitigation for the Mindoka Dam. It has 2,450 acres of sagebrush, mountain brush, aspen and conifer habitats. It provides raptor nesting, upland birds, small mammals, reptiles and big game. The property also includes a 2,400 acre BLM gazing allotment adjacent to the property.
In 2015, SIWM plans to remove juniper expansion into priority low shrub habitat. Historic juniper stands will be retained the goal is maintain high quality shrub habitat for big game. There is open motorized access on county roads and no off-road motorized access. Hunting is open during applicable seasons.
• Soda Hills includes 2,560 acres west of Soda Springs that the Tribes co-manage with BLM. It’s a wintering range for mule deer in southeast Idaho with winter populations reaching up to 5,000 deer in heavy snow years. The Tribes SIWM in coordination with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s wildlife mitigation program purchased a number of inholdings within the Soda Hills for $1.282 million using BPA funds in 1997 to protect eagle and big game wintering habitat, upland birds and resident big game. The agreement says the BLM holds fee title to the property but the Tribes serve as co-manager. Hunting is open during applicable seasons.
• Bannock Creek Wildlife Mitigation Area is the only SIWM property within the Fort Hall Reservation. It was purchased in 2009 to return private land on the reservation to Tribal ownership and protect big game, waterfowl and upland bird habitat. The Bannock Creek property is 147 acres with the majority rangeland with 30 acres of irrigated farmland planted to alfalfa and a small homestead. Bannock Creek runs through the middle of the rangeland but is deeply incised limiting riparian habitat. Management includes focusing on maintenance and control of noxious weeds.
2015 proposed management actions include upland replanting; Russian Olive removal; weed control; prescribed burning and herbicide application. The area is open walk-in access under Tribal laws and regulations to tribal members. It has two parking lots.
• Lavaside Wildlife Mitigation Area: Located on the Snake River south of Firth, the Lavaside property has one of the largest areas of privately owned cottonwood corridor in Eastern Idaho, and protects waterfowl, raptors, upland birds, and big game wintering habitat. Lavaside is 578 acres of upland vegetation, riparian vegetation, grasslands, and open water that provides forage, nesting, and brooding opportunities for wildlife; however, there is 43 acres of irrigated agriculture that is leased for farming on the Lavaside property. They hope to improve the health of the Cottonwood forest, improve upland vegetation and control invasive plant species. Potential management actions include weed control, Russian olive removal and native vegetation plantings.
Access is walk-in only. There are plans to improve access.
• Legacy Springs was purchased in 2011 and consists of 660 acres. It has upland birds, big game and waterfowl. The goal is to protect, enhance and restore habitat. The program plans to improve riparian health and marshes. Improve upland vegetation. Improve hydrology. Control invasive plant species. Management actions include weed control, Russian olive removal, stream improvement and native vegetation plantings. They also want to improve waterfowl nesting and remove non-native vegetation.
In 2015 the proposed vegetation restoration for Legacy habitat management is prescribed burning, riparian planting, grassland seeding and weed control. Walk in access is from parking lots.
Comments are due December 8. They can be sent to siwm@sbtribes.com or call 208-239-4577. Mailing address is SIWM-Fish and Wildlife Department, PO Box 306, Fort Hall, Idaho 83203.