Tue Mar 12 10:06:00 MDT 2013
Elk Island WMA was purchased by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MFWP) to provide hunting opportunities, primarily for white-tailed deer and pheasants, while also maintaining wildlife populations and the unique riparian ecosystem in a viable and healthy condition. The fields in the proposed project area currently contain stands of rank, minimally productive vegetation that is too thick to provide ideal nesting and brood rearing habitat for pheasants and other bird species. The proposed action is to implement a 3-pasture rest rotation grazing system that will allow for a range of habitat conditions to be maintained long-term while improving vegetation and soil health. Rest-rotation grazing systems provide a myriad of benefits. Grazing of one-third of pastures during the growing season provides disturbance to “set back” rank vegetative growth and promote plant species diversity. Grazing one-third of pastures after seed ripe allows cattle to trample mature seeds into the soil, which promotes germination. The remaining one-third of pastures are completely rested, which allows plants to restore vigor and seedlings to establish. The result will be healthy plant communities that are diverse, provide excellent nesting and brood rearing cover for birds, and improved forage for a variety of wildlife species. FWP’s analysis supports the grazing lease of Elk Island WMA as proposed. We find there to be no significant impacts on the human and physical environments associated with this project. Therefore, we conclude that the Environmental Assessment is the appropriate level of analysis, and that an Environmental Impact Statement is not required. After review of this proposal, it is our decision to accept the draft EA as supplemented by this Decision Notice as final, and to recommend the continuation of the grazing lease for Elk Island WMA.