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Accomplishments of the plum creek timber company native fish habitat conservation plan at 5 years

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Watershed ManWatershed Management to Meet Water Quality Standards and TMDLS (Total Maximum Daily Load) Proceedings of the 10-14 March 2007, San Antonio, Texas  701P0207.(doi:10.13031/2013.22497)
Authors:   Brian D Sugden
Keywords:   Habitat Conservation Plan, BMP Effectiveness, TMDL, Fisheries

The Native Fish Habitat Conservation Plan (NFHCP) is a 30-year agreement with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to conserve habitat for native bull and cutthroat trout on 1.3 million acres of Plum Creek Timber Company forestland in western Montana. In the five years since the plan was approved, 3,700 miles of logging road have been upgraded to reduce sediment delivery to streams, 36 stream crossing culverts have been improved to facilitate fish passage, 160 miles of road have been decommissioned, and range management and monitoring plans have been implemented by grazing leaseholders. Additionally, hundreds of miles of streams have been protected with forested buffers specifically designed to maintain stream temperatures and ensure an adequate supply of woody debris to the streams for creation of fish habitat. Effectiveness of the plan has been extensively evaluated by University researchers, consultants, and Plum Creek scientists. Results of this research were evaluated with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 2006 during a major periodic (5-year) review, and the NFHCP was found to be on course for achieving its biological goals. Over the past five years, the NFHCP has been cited in numerous Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) implementation plans developed by Montana Department of Environmental Quality as Plum Creeks program for achieving TMDL load allocations. However, the NFHCP has no direct Clean Water Act assurances that preclude the need for TMDL development altogether. This paper provides an overview of the NFHCP, summarizes accomplishments to date, and describes what has been learned about plan effectiveness. Further, it explores the hurdles for gaining full Clean Water Act credit for this comprehensive landscape management plan.

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