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Biological assessment of a proposed vegetation management program to benefit tribes in eastern Oklahoma

July 2, 2020

Tribal communities may benefit from land management activities that enhance their use of resources on tribal lands. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is implementing a 5-year vegetation management program to provide support for projects that develop and use natural and cultural resources and improve opportunities for agricultural activities to benefit 20 Indian Tribes and Nations in the Eastern Oklahoma Region of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The bureau is working with individual Tribes to identify project objectives and design treatments, which include prescribed burning, timber removal, thinning, and reduction of hazardous fuels. The total action area for the vegetation management program is estimated to be 236,575 acres, representing approximately 1 percent of the region.

A biological assessment was prepared, in cooperation with the bureau and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to evaluate the potential effects of the proposed vegetation management program on 22 federally threatened, endangered, and candidate species that may occur within the Eastern Oklahoma Region. The species evaluated included one plant, two insects, one reptile, five fresh-water mussels, four fishes, five birds, and four bats. Because the proposed treatments will be largely restricted to terrestrial systems, it is expected that there will be no adverse effects on the 15 species associated with aquatic habitats, provided that best management practices are followed. The proposed treatments may affect but are unlikely to adversely affect six of the primarily terrestrial species (the Papaipema eryngii [rattlesnake master borer], Picoides borealis [red-cockaded woodpecker], Myotis grisescens [gray bat], Myotis sodalis [Indiana bat], Myotis septentrionalis [northern long-eared bat], and Corynorhinus townsendii ingens [Ozark big-eared bat]), provided that best management practices are followed, including avoidance of critical habitat features.

The only species likely to be adversely affected by the proposed treatments is Nicrophorus americanus (American burying beetle) as a consequence of short-term disturbances to soils and vegetation. Most adverse effects of the treatments (such as soil compaction and decreased cover in the forest understory) are expected to be short term (habitat will recover or be restored within 5 years of treatments). Less than 1 percent of the action area is expected to result in long-term adverse effects to the American burying beetle as a result of permanent cover changes that persist for more than 5 years. It is expected that the primary treatments will be largely beneficial to the American burying beetle population in the region by reducing the risk of high-severity fires and expansion of invasive woody shrubs, such as Juniperus virginiana (eastern redcedar) within potential beetle habitat and the surrounding landscape. Overall, the proposed management program is expected to provide long-term benefits to American burying beetle habitat across 91 percent of the action area.

Publication Year 2020
Title Biological assessment of a proposed vegetation management program to benefit tribes in eastern Oklahoma
DOI 10.3133/ofr20201013
Authors Benjamin R. Harms, Heidi L. Bencin, Natasha B. Carr
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2020-1013
Index ID ofr20201013
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center