While bushwhacking up a stream in the Selkirk Mountains last summer I came across a mineral lick that had quite a bit of mountain goat sign at it. Mountain goats, a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Idaho, are known to make serious side-trips from their normal routine to visit such areas typically rich in sodium and other important minerals.
Multi-species Baseline Initiative
Why a Multi-Species Baseline Initiative?
The world is changing fast and natural resource managers are facing a new age. Gone are the days when the wildlife manager's only job was tracking harvest rates and setting next years big game season. Today's wildlife manger is faced with issues our predecessors may never have imagined. Urban development, changes in the power grid, and climate change are just some of the issues that make a natural resource managers head spin.
Will a new subdivision leave enough room for songbirds to nest? How will a new wind turbine affect bat migration? What's a sustainable way we can maintain tree harvest while leaving a buffer zone for snails to adapt to climate change? Should fishers be listed as an endangered species or should we open a trapping season?
These are the types of questions that come across our desks at IDFG every day. Sometimes we know the answer, but all too often we just don't have the data we need to make an informed decision. It's not unusual for us to only have a vague idea about the status of the population in question and, in some cases, it's been decades since the species in question has even been documented to occur in Idaho.
How can we be expected to make the best decisions for species conservation and land management if we don't even know if the species is present on the landscape?
With the exception of game and some endangered species, there's not a lot of money available for inventory and monitoring of species. Correctly identifying specimens and cataloguing species occurrence data is highly specialized work. Protocols to conduct field surveys for different species tend to occur at different times of the year and are highly specialized as well.
The challenges to getting the data we need to make informed natural resource management decisions are intimidating, but not insurmountable. It would be easy to throw up our hands and say, 'it's too hard and it can't be done'.
EASY isn't what MBI is after. Instead of seeing obstacles, MBI seizes opportunity.
MBI is a forward looking group of partners that is dedicated to providing a comprehensive data set of occurrence data for a variety of wildlife species in the Idaho Panhandle and adjoining mountain ranges. We inventory a variety of taxa groups including amphibians, beetles, forest carnivores, slugs, and snails. Our main focus is inventory of 20 Species of Greatest Conservation Need listed in State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAP):
MBI is implementing State Wildlife Action Plan recommended conservation actions for 20 Species of Greatest Conservation Need
|Wood Frog||Rana sylvatica|
|CDA Salamander||Plethodon idahoensis|
|Northern Leopard Frog||Rana pipiens|
|Tiger Salamander||Ambystoma tigrinum|
|Western Toad||Anaxyrus boreas|
|GASTROPODS (slugs & snails)|
|An Oregonian||Cryptomastix mullani blandi|
|Fir Pinwheel||Radiodiscus abietum|
|Humped Coin||Polygyrella polygyrella|
|Kingston Oregonian||Cryptomastix sanburni|
|Lyre Mantleslug||Udosarx hyrata|
|Magnum Mantleslug||Magnipelta mycophaga|
|Pale Jumping Slug||Hemphillia camelus|
|Sheathed Slug||Zacoleus idahoensis|
|Thinlip Tightcoil||Pristiloma idahoense|
|Blue-grey Taildropper||Prophysaon coeruleum|
|Smoky Taildropper||Prophysaon coeruleum|
Because both Idaho and Washington have committed to including climate change in the next SWAP revision we are taking the innovative approach of co-locating climate monitoring stations with SGCN survey plots. This micro-climate data will provide a baseline of climatic regimes necessary for management of different suites of species.
North Idaho and northeastern Washington are working landscapes. They are not national parks or wilderness areas. They are places where people live, work, and play. Our goal is to provide standardized information for a suite of species so that we can continue to hike, hunt, log, plant, ride, ski, watch wildlife, and just enjoy the land we love. Our goal is to develop a data set that will help us use our land without abusing our land.
MBI’s strong partnerships and contributors have enabled a massive survey effort from 2010-11. In each yellow and purple 5x5 km cell MBI co-located a climate monitoring station with a summer survey for beetles, gastropods, and forest carnivores. In each purple cell, MBI has established a winter forest carnivore monitoring bait station.
52 switchbacks up and 52 switchbacks down made for a 4,000 vertical foot and 14 mile day for IDFG wildlife biologist Lacy Robinson. Last week Lacy took on one of north Idaho's most punishing trails up Parker Ridge to swap out a MBI temperature data logger.
During the summer of 2012 MBI crews deployed remote cameras along roads and trails in northern Idaho's Purcell and Selkirk mountain ranges. Our goal was to obtain images of lynx. Idaho's State Wildlife Action Plan recommends several conservation actions for this species which include gathering basic information on where it occurs. We successfully obtained images of lynx at three separate camera sets. All of the lynx images were obtained in Idaho's Purcell Mountains within the geographic area the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated as critical habitat for lynx. We also got some great shots of other animal species!
Scott Rulander is producing a documentary film about MBI. Check out the preview which features MBI winter field work. Thanks so much to the Shook Twins for providing their incredible music for the video!
Photo: Scott Rulander filming carnivore field work. Scott is a seasonal MBI Wildlife Technician.
Environmental DNA (eDNA) is DNA found in the environment. This can be in the form of scats, saliva left on twigs, or in this case water. Amphibians leave DNA in their environment in several ways such as shedding skin cells or defecating. We use a pump to force water from a wetland through a membrane. The membrane is later analyzed in the lab to see which species left their DNA in the wetland (and then we can tell which species lives in the wetland). Because this is a new technique, we don't yet know how sensitive it is.
'Citizen scientists' are community members that provide a variety of volunteer services to research projects. Citizen science is an important component of MBI. For instance, during the winter season of 2011-12 over 120 citizens donated over 2,000 work hours to forest carnivore bait station monitoring. These citizen scientists established nearly half of the 86 bait stations maintained by a group of seven partner organizations.