Inventory of plants, plant communities and herpetofauna of concern in the vicinity of the Snow-Talon burn, Helena National Forest

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Montana Natural Heritage Program , Helena, Mont
Wetlands, Reptile surveys, Amphibian surveys, Geographical distribution, Herpetological surveys, Rare plants, Amphibians, Wetland management, Fire ecology, Plant communities, Wetland ec
About the Edition

Montana Natural Heritage Program (MTNHP) biologists inventoried sensitive vascular plants, riparian and wetland associated plant communities, and herpetofauna near and within the Snow-Talon Fire of 2003 on the Helena National Forest. Appropriate habitat was searched for 14 vascular plant species of concern that are potentially present in the area, however, none were encountered. Ninety percent of the twenty sites had herpetofauna with four amphibian species (Longtoed Salamander, Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog, Western Toad, and Columbia Spotted Frog) and two reptile species (Terrestrial Gartersnake and Common Gartersnake) recorded. Detections of the Western Toad, a Montana Species of Concern as well as a U.S. Forest Service Northern Region Sensitive Species (MTNHP 2004), were noteworthy and encouraging. It was breeding in all four drainages surveyed, indicating that a relatively large population is now in the area and is possibly expanding because of the fire and the Western Toad preference for disturbed forest and wetland habitats. This is especially significant given declining trends for this species elsewhere in western Montana during the last 50 years. We recommend monitoring of Western Toad populations in the area and systematic surveys of stream habitats in order to better document the distribution and status of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs in the area; there is only one record in this locale other than the two sites we found. Detailed vegetation surveys were conducted at several wetland and riparian sites. Baseline early post-burn vegetation data will enable further monitoring of the effects of wildfire on vegetation and herpetofauna habitat in these important ecosystems. About half of the 50 potentially occurring riparian and wetland plant communities having a rank of G3, S3, or less were documented. Generally, these sites were ecologically intact and represented important habitat in this relatively arid environment. A few sites are unique and the diversity of wetland plant communities is considerable. One large wetland (Copper Creek, Lower Drainage site) contained an extensive carr, a type of fen, which is a very uncommon community type in Montana. This site has an extensive bryophyte component and warrants further survey for this taxonomic group. At Porcupine Basin we putatively identified the easternmost documentation of Northern licorice-root, a species more typically found in mesic northern Idaho. The lack of seeds for a positive identification suggests that another visit at the appropriate time would be worthwhile, as this would be a considerable range extension. Keep Cool Lakes has a community type that may have once been a species-rich blue wildrye meadow, a G2 rank community previously known only from California and Oregon. Nonnative timothy grass now dominates. Keep Cool Lakes is still an intact and diverse wetland, but typifies a problem often encountered when ATV use occurs in these open and easily accessible types. Nonnative species were invading along the disturbed track, one vegetation type was degraded, and large disturbances were created where ATVs had to be extricated from wetter areas. Western toads were breeding here and ATV tracks were noted within a few feet of where toads were depositing egg strings. The ecological integrity of this site and most other accessible wetlands will be threatened if the disturbance and resultant weed infestation and habitat degradation from ATV use continue.

Statementby Stephen V. Cooper, Gregory M. Kudray, Paul Hendricks, Bryce A. Maxell, W. Marc Jones, Coburn Currier, and Susan Lenard
ContributionsKudray, Gregory M., Hendricks, P. (Paul), Maxell, Bryce, Jones, W. Marc, Currier, Coburn, 1970-, Lenard, Susan, Montana Natural Heritage Program
The Physical Object
Pagination1 v. (various pagings) :
ID Numbers
Open LibraryOL25528221M