Running Buffalo Clover Status: Recovered

Running Buffalo Clover Status: Recovered

Good News!

Exciting news in the botany world! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is removing Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for running buffalo clover (RBC) (Trifolium stoloniferum). Recently, they have determined that the species has recovered and no longer faces the threat of extinction. The final rule removing RBC from the federal list will become effective on September 6, 2021. RBC was previously listed as endangered, with a global rank of G3 (Vulnerable) and a WV state rank of S3 (Vulnerable).

 

Some Background on Running Buffalo Clover

RBC is found in WV in rich soils, usually of limestone origin. The species prefers occasional disturbance, partially open areas, and calcareous geological associations. RBC was named for the stolons (runners) by which it spreads. Historically, RBC was found in habitats which were maintained by bison. It is now found in other disturbed habitat types, such as old log roads, ATV trails, pastures, game trails, road edges, forest gaps, and forest edges. It prefers dappled sunlight and is not usually found in full shade or full sun.

 

Recovery Efforts

RBC was thought to be extinct prior to 1983, when a single population was discovered in WV. The species was listed as endangered in 1987. Since it was listed as endangered, 175 populations have been found throughout Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Contributing causes for the drop in population include competition from invasives such as bluegrass and white clover and loss of suitable habitat. Oddly enough, the recovery of RBC may have been helped by the loss of some trees to the Emerald Ash Borer which gave rise to new plantings. Managing illegal use of off-road vehicles also prevented habitat from extreme disturbance. Other research objectives outlined in the US Fish and Wildlife Service recovery plan helped increase understanding of RBC to more effectively implent recovery strategies.

 

Doing Our Part

ASE botanists have been conducting RBC surveys throughout WV for over ten years. During these surveys, ASE botanists have located an estimated 300,000 plants in WV. ASE has worked with clients to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to the species. As part of this process, ASE has also developed a conservation site in Pocahontas County, WV to conserve and promote the species. ASE botanists conduct annual monitoring at the conservation site, as well as active management for the species, including habitat enhancement and invasive species control. ASE is excited to be part of the conservation and recovery of RBC in WV.

 


Archaeology Staff Writes for WV Explorer Magazine

Since 2019, one of AllStar Ecology’s cultural resource management (CRM) staff has volunteered ocassionally as an archaeology correspondent for the West Virginia Explorer. The West Virginia Explorer is an online magazine designed to “investigate West Virginia and its natural and cultural resources.” 

The collaboration started in response to an open letter by the Council for West Virginia Archaeology (CWVA), which highlighted issues with popular – but unfounded – assumptions about archaeology and prehistory.  Ms. Norton partnered with WV Explorer’s editor, David Sibray, to write a number of articles with scientifically-sound evidence and professionally-qualified interpretations.  In the process of writing these articles she interviewed various personnel from state and regional organizations. These included the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office (WV SHPO), Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex, and the CWVA. With their help, she was able to gather information on topics such as historical rock piles, how to document a new archaeological site, and myths about mound builders and giants.

You can read a few of her articles by following the links below:

West Virginia Explorer Articles

Section 106 Compliance: Six Things You Should Know

The law may require that your project is evaluated for impacts to archaeology, cemeteries, old architecture, historic viewsheds, etc.  Often called “Section 106 review,” this process involves consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), who may request a Phase I archaeological survey, architectural reconnaissance survey, or for you to evaluate historic properties. 

Only a professionally qualified cultural resource management (CRM) consultant can fully navigate the Section 106 process, but here are a few basics that YOU should know.


  1. Section 106 is part of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), which regulates projects with a “federal nexus.” Such projects are defined as an “undertaking” and are triggered by permits, land, funding, jurisdiction, or any other direct involvement from a federal agency.  One of the most common is a Nationwide Permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  2. When an undertaking could impact a “historic property,” a Section 106 review helps government agencies to manage or mitigate impacts in a responsible way. This consultation requirement cannot stop development or force preservation, but all of the steps must be completed according to federal and SHPO guidelines.  Click here for a printable flowchart of the Section 106 process.
  3. Cultural resources must meet one of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) eligibility criteria to be considered “historic properties.” They usually must be more than 50 years old and can include archaeological sites, houses and other architecture, farmsteads, historic areas, bridges, cemeteries, rock walls, etc.  If a cultural resource fails to meet one of the NRHP criteria, they must still be documented for due diligence.
  4. State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs) advise government agencies on how to comply with Section 106, make recommendations for archaeological or architectural surveys, and provide expert opinions about which cultural resources may be impacted and/or NRHP-eligible. Although a CRM consultant can make professional recommendations, only SHPO and the involved agencies make final determinations.
  5. Historic properties are uncommon; however, agencies often require due-diligence background research and surveys to check for undocumented cultural resources. Most areas have never had a historic survey, so boots-on-the-ground is generally the only way to clear a project area.  Archaeology is particularly challenging, since most resources are invisible below the ground surface.
  6. Regulated impacts are limited to changes to a historic property that negatively affects its NRHP-eligibility. However, agencies often focus on physical disturbance (direct effect) and alterations to the property’s viewshed, including newly-built aboveground components and tree-clearing (indirect effect).  Not all indirect effects are considered “adverse effects” and even adverse effects can be minimized or mitigated.

You can learn more about the federal review process in the ACHP’s “A Citizen’s Guide to Section 106 Review” here and more about the WV SHPO’s specific guidelines here.

Timber Stand Improvement for Red Spruce Trees

Timber Stand Improvement for Red Spruce Trees

Red Spruce Forests

Picea rubens, most commonly known as red spruce, was once abundant in the West Virginia highlands covering over one million acres until the late 1800s. Its natural ecosystem contributions include providing food and cover for many animals such as the Northern flying squirrel and the Cheat Mountain Salamander. The dense canopy cover found in a red spruce forest creates a moist cool climate that provides a thriving environment for many of its inhabitants. Streams are also shaded by this canopy which helps to regulate temperature and light, thus sustaining water quality and biodiversity.

 

Forest Stand Reduction

Starting in the mid-1700s, clearing of red spruce forests for grazing and farming by slash and burn practices started the reduction of these forest stands. The mass harvesting of the late 1800s for lumber, paper, and musical instrument manufacturing, destroyed most of the spruce forests by 1920. This reduced spruce stands in West Virginia to approximately five percent. Today, only about 30,000 acres of red spruce remain in the West Virginia highlands.

Red Spruce Restoration

In an effort to help restore red spruce forests, Allstar Ecology was contracted by the U.S. Forest Service to work in the Monongahela National Forest within 27 timber stands totaling 1,095 acres in both Randolph and Pocahontas Counties, West Virginia. These forest stands were dominated by hardwood tree species, but had a red spruce component within their understories.

 

Beginning in 2016, Allstar Ecology Environmental Scientists started treating selected species of trees with herbicide utilizing a hack-n-squirt application method. Targeted trees included shade tolerant species such as beech and striped maple that compete with the red spruce in the understory. After the treatment of each stand, the Forest Service planned timber sales of the overstory hardwood trees. The following regeneration should result in the reestablishment of red spruce in these stands.

The project was completed in July of 2018 with the expectation that red spruce populations in these treated areas will not only thrive, but will continue to expand to form large-scale red spruce forests where they once historically flourished to sustain this unique ecosystem.

 

AllStar Welcomes New Staff

AllStar Welcomes New Staff

AllStar Ecology is excited to announce the addition of four new staff members with a wide range of biological and environmental experience and expertise.

Matthew Gilkay, Environmental Scientist I / Aquatic Biologist, is assisting AllStar with freshwater mussel surveys, flow monitoring, macroinvertebrate field and laboratory work, and water quality sampling. Matt obtained his B.S. in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology with minors in Environmental Science, Sustainability Studies, and Marine Biology in 2018. Mr. Gilkay also brings six years of open-water SCUBA diving experience in the Upper Midwest to AllStar’s dive team.

Grant Maltba, Environmental Scientist II / Bat Biologist, has joined our Bat Services team bringing eight years of experience in environmental services. Grant has a Federal Recovery Permit and West Virginia Scientific Collecting Permit for Indiana, gray, and northern long-eared bats. In 2013, he obtained his B.S. in Environmental Studies. Mr. Maltba is assisting AllStar with bat mist netting and acoustic surveys, bat box construction and installation, permitting and report writing, and bat habitat research.

Matt Safford, Environmental Scientist I / Bat Biologist, has also joined AllStar’s Bat Services team with five years of experience in wildlife and ecological monitoring and research. Matt obtained his B.A. in Ecology in 2013 and his M.S. in Entomology in 2018 studying the interactions between bats and their insect prey. Mr. Safford has a West Virginia Scientific Collecting Permit for bats and is assisting AllStar with bat box construction and installation, mist netting and acoustic bat monitoring, report writing, and bat habitat research.

Jason Clingerman, Environmental Scientist II, has joined our Stream and Wetland Delineation team. Mr. Clingerman has 8 years of experience in environmental consulting, and 12 years of experience utilizing GIS for various natural resource applications. He obtained his B.S. and M.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Resources in 2005 and 2008, respectively. He is assisting AllStar with stream and wetland delineations, permitting, and report writing.

Please join us in welcoming these four great additions to the AllStar Team!

To read more about AllStar Ecology, visit our About Us page.

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Thanks for reading!

Pollinator Conservation:  West Virginia’s Native Bees

Pollinator Conservation: West Virginia’s Native Bees

Native Bees are Important to West Virginia

West Virginia’s native bees including bumble bees, mason bees, leaf-cutter bees, miner bees, and sweat bees are important to the pollination of most flowering trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants within the forests and fields of the Mountain State. Therefore, our native bees are important mechanisms for feeding West Virginia’s people and wildlife. West Virginia is rich with a diversity of habitats such as large river valleys, high-elevation mountains, forests, fields, etc. that are home to a diversity of flowering plants that provide pollen and nectar for a diversity of native bees. There has been a rapid decline of bumble bee species (Bombus spp.) throughout much of North America, including some that were once common in West Virginia. This has created the need for inventories to determine the current status of all native bee species. The use of published bee research, museum specimens, and historical records coupled with field data is needed to develop a list and determine the status of West Virginia’s native bees.

Top left: Megachile latimanus;  Bottom left: Halictus ligatus;  Center: Augochloropsis metallic; Top right: Coelioxys sayi;  Bottom Right: Osmia texana

Surveying West Virginia’s Native Bees

In 2018, AllStar Ecology began coordinating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to document West Virginia’s native bees. The WVDNR, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service (USFS), West Virginia State Parks, and private landowners granted permission for AllStar Ecology personnel to survey native bees on lands under their ownership and management. Four AllStar Ecology Environmental Scientists conducted 242 native bee surveys using hand nets within 45 of the 55 West Virginia counties that resulted in the collection of 6,377 bees. These surveys identified 124 species including a new location of the rusty-patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis), which is currently on the USFWS’s Endangered Species List (List). The male was discovered in Tucker County and with a rare color pattern. The yellow-banded bumble bee (Bombus terricola), a candidate species to be placed on the List was found at eight locations, representing the first records of this species in West Virginia since 1979. Also found were 16 species of specialist bees, which are species that only collect pollen and nectar from a specific plant species or plant group.  Four species of the located specialist bees are considered to be rare. Three species that were not previously recorded in West Virginia were discovered, including a cuckoo bee (Nomada graenicheri), leaf-cutter bee (Heriades leaviti), and mining bee (Andrena illinoiensis) in Ritchie, Mingo, and Lewis Counties, respectively. This initial data is useful in determining which bee species are common and help to determine the distributions of rare, threatened, and endangered bee species. Future surveys will likely discover new species records for the state and additional locations of rare, threatened, and endangered native bee species.  Click here to view the 2018 rusty-patched bumble bee collected in Tucker County, WV along with other WV native bees on the USGS Native Bee Monitoring and Inventory Lab’s Flickr page.

Bombus affinis                                        Bombus terricola                                          Heriades leavitti

West Virginia, a Mountain Refuge

The rusty-patched bumble bee found in 2018 is the second to be documented within West Virginia since the 1990’s. This is encouraging that there are additional areas where the species is finding refuge within the Mountain State. The West Virginia locations, along with locations found in western Virginia over the last few years, are the only locations where the rusty-patched bumble bee is being found east of Illinois. The USFWS has a rusty-patched bumble bee map that shows the areas where the species has been found in recent years.   Click here to view USFWS map.

The rediscovery of yellow-banded bumble bees in WV is also encouraging. All eight locations where yellow-banded bumble bees were recorded are within the USFS Monongahela National Forest and occur in high-elevation habitats, averaging close to 4,000 feet above sea level.

Native Bee Pollinator Awareness

With the importance of native bees to the health and well-being of West Virginia’s people and wildlife, an effort is being made by AllStar to share the data and knowledge gained from these surveys with scientists and the general public. Mark Hepner is leading this effort and has presented about West Virginia’s native bees to community groups and organizations, encouraging everyone to learn about our native bees and to provide habitat wherever possible. A key point of Mark’s message is the need to provide flowers, native flowers are best, throughout the spring, summer, and fall. This is something most West Virginian’s can provide for our native bees by mowing less frequently or not mowing certain areas to allow flowers to bloom. The more we can learn about West Virginia’s native bees, the better we can understand the role they play in pollinating our forests and fields to help keep our state Wild and Wonderful.

Halictus ligatus

Useful Native Bee Resources

  • Colla, S., L. Richardson, and P. Williams. 2011. Bubble Bees of the Eastern United States
  • Discover Life, https://www.discoverlife.org/20/q?search=Apoidea
  • The Very Handy Manual: How to Catch and Identify Bees and Manage a Collection. 2015.
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, WV Division of Natural Resources, and The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, 2012. West Virginia Pollinator Handbook. A Field Office Technical Guide Reference to management of pollinators and their habitats.
  • USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab | Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/usgsbiml/
  • Williams P., Thorp, R., Richardson, L., and Colla, S. 2014. Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide. Princeton University Press.
  • Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation, http://www.xerces.org

References

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, WV Division of Natural Resources, and The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, 2012. West Virginia Pollinator Handbook. A Field Office Technical Guide Reference to management of pollinators and their habitats.
  • Cameron S., J. D. Lozier, J. P. Strange, J. B. Koch, N. Cordes, L. F. Solter, and T. L. Griswold. 2011. Patterns of widespread decline in North American bumble bees. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108(2):662-667.
  • Evans E., R. Thorp, S. Jepsen, and S. H. Black. 2008. Status review of three formerly common species of bumble bee in the subgenus Bombus.
  • Fowler, J. Host plants for specialist bees of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States. http://jarrodfowler.com/host_plants.html
  • Fowler, J. and S. Droege. Specialist bees of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States. http://jarrodfowler.com/specialist_bees.html
  • McKinney M. Bee Natural History, Diversity, and Management in West Virginia. Dissertation submitted to the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design at West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia 2016.
  • Schweitzer D. F., N. A. Capuano, B. E. Young, and S. R. Colla. 2012. Conservation and management of North American bumble bees. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, and USDA Forest Service, Washington, D.C.
  • Williams P., Thorp, R., Richardson, L., and Colla, S. 2014. Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide. Princeton University Press.
  • Ascher, J. S. and J. Pickering. 2018. Discover Life bee species guide and world checklist Hymenoptera: Apoidae: Anthophila). http://www.discoveerlife.org/mp/20q?guide=Apoidae_species
  • The Very Handy Manual: How to Catch and Identify Bees and Manage a Collection. 2015.
  • USFWS Rusty-patched bumble bee webpage. https://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/insects/rpbb/index.html