for the Washington County Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP)

A regular meeting of the Habitat Conservation Technical Committee (TC) was held in the conference room of the Division of Wildlife Resources, Washington County Field Office onApril 6, 2017.

Members present were:

John Kellam, ChairmanBureau of Land Management (BLM)

Ann McLuckieUtah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR)

Kristen ComellaSnow Canyon State Park (SCSP)

Hilary Whitcomb, Vice ChairU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)

Marshall TophamLocal Biologist

Mike SchijfHCP Biologist

Also present were:

Sarah ThomasWashington County HCP Recorder

Cameron RognanWashington County HCP Administrator

Linda AllisonU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)

1.Call to Order

Chairman John Kellam noted a quorum existed and called the meeting to order at 3:00 p.m.

2.Approval of Minutes

  1. March 2, 2017

Page 4, Paragraph 1, Sentence 2:

Changed from: “Ann and Linda Allison, visiting biologist from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, led the committee in comparing and contrasting two different scenarios for transects: the current method used at Red Cliffs (3 person check of the line) versus the method Linda uses in California and Nevada (2 person check of the line).”

Changed to: “Ann and Linda Allison, visiting biologist from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, led the committee in comparing and contrasting two different scenarios for transects: the current method used at Red Cliffs(3 pass recommended by Burnham and Anderson, 1996) versus the method Linda uses in California and Nevada (2 pass).”

Page 4, Paragraph 2, Sentence 3:

Changed from: “They can walk off the line to investigate objects that aren’t clearly visible, but only if those objects fall within 6 meters of the line (the being line in the center).”

Changed to: “They can walk off the line to investigate objects that aren’t clearly visible, but only if those objects fall within 6 meters of the line (the line in the center).”

Page 4, Paragraph 4, Sentence 2:

Changed from: “Linda said that the straight line method suits the landscape, enabling them to cover more distance and conduct longer transects that span multiple habitat variations (slope, soil, vegetation).”

Changed to: “Linda said that the straight line method suits the budget and the landscape, enabling them to cover more distance and conduct longer transects which include expansive terrain with large, open areas.”

Page 4, Paragraph 4, Add Sentence:

After Sentence 4, add: “Due to the thick vegetation and extreme rockyterrain at Red Cliffs, walking offline is necessary to be sure all tortoises within a shoulder of the line (4-6 m) are detected.”

3.GENERAL Business

  1. Discussion of field trip to Quail Creek Reservoir trail

The committee met with Quentin and DJ from Over the Edge Sports in Hurricane, Utah to walk sections of the proposed Quail Creek Reservoir trail. Quentin and DJ plan to build approximately 6 miles of trail that will accommodate mountain bikers and hikers. The trail will pass through private property, a National Conservation Area (NCA), and Washington County Water Conservancy District property.

After reviewing the field trip, the committee discussed plans for moving forward with the trail. DJ and Quentin need to contact the private property owner for permissions. John will check the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) new Resource Management Plan (RMP) to see if the trail will be allowed to pass through the Red Cliffs NCA.The committee agreed to table the discussion until the next meeting.

  1. Continuation of TC Assignment #3-c-1, March 2, 2017 – Evaluation of tortoise monitoring program

Hilary presented Exhibit 3-b-1, a power point titled“Distance Sampling in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.”She led the committee in a review of monitoring objectives at the Reserve and the importance of precise data that is unbiased and accurate. Other topics of discussion included:density estimates, detection probability, truncation of data, model selection, estimating variance, and statistical power and trends.

Following the presentation, the committee discussed strategies Hilary can use in the future for calculating power analysis. Linda suggested reviewing Anderson and Burnham’s study from 1996 and recreating their scenarios. She also suggested trying different powers, going up from a .8 power to a .9 power.

Next, the committee discussed the history of tortoise monitoring in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. Linda asked Ann how she arrived at the original number of transects to complete in the Reserve. Ann replied that in 1997 they conducted a pilot study to determine tortoise encounter rate. After doing transects in spring and in fall, they concluded that the encounter rate was greater in spring. They used that encounter rate and calculations from the Burnham and Anderson paper to calculate that they’d need over 300 km of transects to get a target coefficient of variation (CV) of 15-20 percent.

Ann took guidance from the distance sampling book and the standard protocols for distance sampling analysis to truncate the data. Ann truncates data to filter out extreme perpendicular distances as is recommended by the distance sampling book and the Desert Tortoise Recovery Office. In 1997, they truncated in the field, but it was problematic and caused heaping of data. Ann took guidance from the distance sampling book that recommended truncating at a certain point where you’re seeing 15% of the data. Linda told Hilary that desert tortoises have almost perfect detection curves and recommended throwing out as little of the data as possible.

Next, the committee discussed what they will do with the results of their evaluation of the tortoise monitoring program. Linda asked how, and if, the information gathered will be compiled. Ann replied that they will gather the results of the evaluation into a TC (Technical Committee) Recommendation that will be presented to the HCAC (Habitat Conservation Advisory Committee), as is standard with all assignments. John reminded the committee that they need to analyze the relationship between total transect length and goal CV. Kristen added that after this relationship is understood, the committee needs to see if any modifications can be made for cost savings.

Finally, the committee discussed the possibility of comparing Red Cliffs data to Linda’s data to help analyze the relationship between transect length and goal CV. Linda said she would provide data for a table that would help people judge the amount of effort necessary for tortoise monitoring at the Reserve.

  1. HCP Administrator Updates
  1. New intern

Cameron updated the committee that a new intern, Nathan Kelly, will be helping with raven monitoring, clearance work, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plots, weed control, and recreation management.

  1. Surveys / clearances this spring

Cameron updated the committee that the Long Valley clearance is coming up, and there are over 600 acres to be surveyed. Additionally, surveys in the Green Valley Gap and Tonaquint areas will begin soon. He passed out Exhibit 3-c-2, a map of the planned tortoise survey area. Cameron said that he’s been consulting with Linda to design a study. There are 6,000 acres to be surveyed: 3,000 acres on Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA)property and 3,000 acres on BLM property. The purpose of the survey is to know what’s out there for use as a potential mitigation alternative. They plan to do 200 km of belt line transects on the BLM portion and 200 km of belt line transects on the SITLA portion. Linda arrived at this effort levelby calculating for a 20-tortoise encounter rate per portion, or 40 total tortoises. Depending on the effort level required, John asked if they would consider contracting part of the survey out. Linda recommended to pool robustness, or make sure that both inexperienced and experienced surveyors contribute with the same level of effort. She cautioned the committee that it would not be wise to have an inexperienced surveyor work for only a day or two.


  1. Mike and Cameron reported on raven activity in Paradise Canyon. Ravens there have predated tortoise hatchlings in previous years. Cameron asked the committee if he should initiate protocol with animal control services to remove the ravens if the problem continues.The committee requested to see the 2015 Raven Report and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) protocols.
  1. Hilary asked the committee if they agree with USFWS that any tortoises found in the Long Valley clearance should be kept on the same property butmoved to the other side of the fence. The committee agreed that tortoises should be moved to the Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) in Long Valley. Next, they discussed fencing options. John agreed to investigate whether the BLM could provide fencing that ties into topography to prevent tortoises from getting onto the Southern Corridor.
  1. Hilary said that it has been brought to USFWS attention that they’re not adequately dealing with tortoise hatchlings in Biological Opinion (BO) papers. The USFWS needs to make sure they address incidental take for hatchlings. They plan to do “mini” BO’s with informal consultations (but stillwrite incidental take statements) until they can set up programmatic BO’s with the BLM and other agencies. Hillary added that this will need to be considered in HCP renewal.
  1. Hilary asked if the HCP could deliver an overview on fencing protocols, responsibilities, and monitoring in the future. As HCP renewal moves forward, they need to be thinking about how the integrity of fencing will be maintained in perpetuity.
  1. Ann announced the quarterly law enforcement meetingscheduled for Thursday, April 20th. She asked Cameron for a list of issues to discuss in that meeting concerning Zone 4.

5.Next meeting dates

  1. May 4, 2017


The meeting was adjourned at 4:35 p.m.

Minutes prepared by Sarah Thomas.

Approved Technical Committee Meeting Minutes –

April 6, 2017