While the weather has been chilly and keeping some hunkered down, AllStar Ecology has been throwing on our long johns, brewing extra coffee, and watching the sunrise in the field. Oh yes, and we should mention the work we’ve been doing!
North Eastern Bat Working Group (NEBWG) Conference
Our Bat Crew delivered a presentation and poster at the NEBWG conference in January. They covered our findings for different methods of snag creation for bat roosting which took into account tree species, tree girdling methods, and time for a tree to be considered suitable based on decomposition. The study built on previously tested snag creation methods and sought to fill gaps by studying the time needed to create snags using two different methods across three genera of trees and determine the effect of tree species on the creation of snags when paired with the two methods. The findings were also published in the peer-reviewed, open-access journal Forests alongside other papers focusing on the “Effects of Forest Management Practices on Bat Habitat and Community Structure.” The paper can be found here for more details.
Greenbrier County Mitigation Bank Existing Conditions Survey
In February, we were back at it in Greenbrier County to gather topographic and reference reach data to start our designs for the mitigation bank portion of land along the Meadow River. Our teams surveyed roughly 28.5 acres covering 3 valleys. These points help to field truth elevations and boundaries acquired from preliminary GIS data. After taking our almost 3,000 points back to the office, we will use reference data gathered from a nearby stable stream to begin designing for ~750 linear feet(LF) of restorative intervention along the original channel and the creation of ~3,000 LF of new channel to re-establish the historic morphology that has deteriorated over the years. We will also enhance ~3,900 LF of existing channel and preserve an additional ~1,000 LF of intermittent/ephemeral streams on site.
Greenbrier County Mitigation Bank Archeological Survey
Our hardworking Archaeology Crew was right there alongside our Survey Crew doing a Phase I archaeology survey. Over the course of two weeks, they excavated 373 Shovel Test Probes (STPs) covering approximately 14.5 acres of testable area. From those, 77 positive STPs yielded several prehistoric stone tools and spearpoints, hundreds of flint flakes, a hammerstone, and several kilograms of Fire Cracked Rock (FCR). These STPs define the boundaries of three prehistoric lithic scatters and two isolated prehistoric finds which will allow for the development of the project to proceed while protecting our state’s cultural resources.
Tucker County Aquatic Organism Passage Enhancement
AllStar Ecology has been contracted to design an Aquatic Organism Passage Enhancement Project in Tucker County, WV. The project will involve removing existing degraded dual culverts and installing a pre-engineered bridge to daylight the stream and provide natural substrate and habitat for aquatic organisms including Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis).
Upshur County Mitigation Bank Green Light
AllStar recently received the green light to begin work on a 40 acre mitigation bank in Upshur County which will cover 7,176 linear feet(LF) of stream intervention. Level 1, level 3, and creation intervention will make up 30% of the stream work done while enhancement reaches make up 70% of the proposed stream work. AllStar is also planning to restore half an acre of wetlands on the site. Work is currently underway to clear invasives and prepare the site for construction.
Ohio In-Lieu Fee Mitigation Project
AllStar Ecology has been contracted to design and build a portion of a stream as well as create wetlands for a wetland, stream, and buffer restoration and rehabilitation project in Jackson County, Ohio. The project includes restoring 2,000 linear feet of stream and re-establishing roughly 5 acres of forested wetland. AllStar will also be taking measures to prevent invasive plant growth and revegetate the project site through seeding and planting of native species.
Rusty Patch Bumblebee Surveys
We are going into our 3rd year of presence/absence monitoring for a WVDOH project. Over the course of our monitoring, our botany team has been tasked with conducting bio assessments and reporting their findings along with our bee team’s habitat assessments and surveys. So far, there have been no sightings of the endangered Rusty Patch Bumblebee, but we have found a Bombus terricola which is another rare find. These surveys ensure that new construction projects are minimizing their impacts on potential habitats for endangered species. Check out one of our older posts on Facebook about our other RPBB presence/absence surveys.
Pennsylvania Bank Stabilization
This project, completed over two weeks, stabilized 500 linear feet of banks by installing stream structures to redirect flow within the channel. Our construction crew then replanted and seeded all disturbed areas to prevent erosion and destabilization. Species planted include Silky Dogwood, Red Twig Dogwood, Black Willow, and American Sycamore with the majority of planting made up of Dogwoods and Black Willow.
Highway Pollinator Planting and Management
We will also be traveling across the great state of West Virginia for a pollinator mitigation planting project which will cover more than 130 acres. We will be planting a variety of native flowers using a no-till drill and following up with invasive monitoring and management. AllStar Ecology will maintain the new planting sites for 3 years, after which we will train the new stewards to take over. Be sure to keep your eyes out for signs along interstates and highways next year, but maybe don’t stop to smell the flowers.
Pipeline Right-of-Way Archaeological Survey
The AllStar Ecology Archaeology crew conducted a Phase I archaeological survey in Marshall County along a 1.9 acre proposed pipeline right-of-way. Due to a previously identified archaeological site adjacent to the proposed pipeline, we were contracted as part of their due diligence to protect potential culturally significant land. Alternative routes for the pipeline have been considered in the event that the site meets the threshold for protection. Once a thorough investigation has been conducted, a report detailing recommendations for classification will be submitted to WVSHPO for review.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
When an undertaking could impact a “historic property,” a Section 106 review helps government agencies to manage or mitigate impactsin 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
AllStar Ecology was formed in 2007 to provide sound environmental consulting on natural resource issues for industry, engineering firms, government agencies, non-profits, developers and other businesses.