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Title: Ecological Monitoring and Compliance Program 2014 Report

The Ecological Monitoring and Compliance Program (EMAC), funded through the U.S. Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration Nevada Field Office (NNSA/NFO, formerly Nevada Site Office), monitors the ecosystem of the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) and ensures compliance with laws and regulations pertaining to NNSS biota. This report summarizes the program’s activities conducted by National Security Technologies, LLC (NSTec), during calendar year 2014. Program activities included (a) biological surveys at proposed activity sites, (b) desert tortoise compliance, (c) ecosystem monitoring, (d) sensitive plant species monitoring, (e) sensitive and protected/regulated animal monitoring, and (f) habitat restoration monitoring. During 2014, all applicable laws, regulations, and permit requirements were met, enabling EMAC to achieve its intended goals and objectives. Sensitive and protected/regulated species of the NNSS include 42 plants, 1 mollusk, 2 reptiles, 236 birds, and 27 mammals. These species are protected, regulated, or considered sensitive according to state or federal regulations and natural resource agencies and organizations. The desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) and the western yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) are the only species on the NNSS protected under the Endangered Species Act, both listed as threatened. However, only one record of the cuckoo has ever been documented on the NNSS, andmore » there is no good habitat for this species on the NNSS. It is considered a rare migrant. Biological surveys for the presence of sensitive and protected/regulated species and important biological resources on which they depend were conducted for 18 projects. A total of 199.18 hectares (ha) was surveyed for these projects. Sensitive and protected/regulated species and important biological resources found during these surveys included a predator burrow, one sidewinder rattlesnake (Crotalus cerastes), two mating speckled rattlesnakes (Crotalus mitchellii), and several species of cacti. NSTec provided to project managers a written summary report of all survey findings and mitigation recommendations, where applicable. Of the 18 projects on the NNSS, 15 occurred within the range of the threatened desert tortoise. Approximately 2.19 ha of desert tortoise habitat were disturbed. No desert tortoises were accidentally injured or killed by project activities, and no tortoises were killed by vehicles. On 13 occasions, tortoises were moved off the road and out of harm’s way. Six tortoises were found and transmitters attached as part of an approved study to assess impacts of vehicles on tortoises on the NNSS. NSTec biologists continued to monitor 37 juvenile desert tortoises as part of a collaborative effort to study survival and temperament of translocated animals. From 1978 until 2013, there has been an average of 11.2 wildland fires per year on the NNSS with an average of about 83.7 ha burned per fire. There were no wildland fires documented on the NNSS during 2014. Results from the wildland fuel surveys showed a very low risk of wildland fire due to reduced fuel loads caused by limited natural precipitation. Limited reptile trapping and reptile roadkill surveys were conducted to better define species distribution on the NNSS. Sixteen reptiles were trapped representing five species. Combined with data from 2013, 183 road kills were detected, representing 11 snake and 8 lizard species. Selected natural water sources were monitored to assess trends in physical and biological parameters, and one new water source was found. Wildlife use at five water troughs and four radiologically contaminated sumps was documented using motion-activated cameras. As part of the statewide effort to disseminate information throughout the botanical community, NSTec prepared a shape file with site-specific data for all 17 sensitive plants on the NNSS and provided it to the Nevada Natural Heritage Program for inclusion in their statewide database. No field surveys were conducted this year for sensitive plants on the NNSS due to poor growing conditions. Surveys of sensitive and protected/regulated animals during 2014 focused on winter raptors, bats, wild horses (Equus caballus), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), desert bighorn sheep (Ovis Canadensis nelsoni), and mountain lions (Puma concolor). Two permanent, long-term winter raptor survey routes were established and sampled in January and February. A total of 27 raptors representing 4 species were observed. The wild horse population increased from 30 to 41, with several yearlings recruiting into the population, possibly due to the death of a mountain lion known to prey on horse foals. Mule deer abundance and density measured with standardized deer surveys was similar to 2013 and appears to be stable. Desert bighorn sheep, including rams, ewes, and lambs, were detected using motion-activated cameras at four water sources. There are plans to conduct helicopter surveys to census the population during September 2015 and then capture and radio-collar up to 20 sheep during November 2015. Over 150 sheep scat samples have been collected for genetic analysis to try to determine how sheep on the NNSS are related to surrounding sheep populations. Information is presented about bird mortalities, Migratory Bird Treaty Act compliance, and a summary of nuisance animals and their control on the NNSS. A total of 93 mountain lion images (i.e., photographs or video clips) were taken during 220,379 camera hours at 16 of 32 sites sampled and another 11,946 images of at least 29 species other than mountain lions were taken as well. A mountain lion telemetry study continued in 2014. NNSS7 was tracked from January 1 to November 15 using a global positioning system satellite transmitter. He consumed 21 mule deer, 17 desert bighorn sheep, 1 juvenile bobcat, and 3 coyotes. Mule deer were primarily taken in the summer and fall. No new mountain lions were captured. A minimum of four adult lions (two males, two females), a subadult male, and three kittens were known to inhabit the NNSS during 2014. Two previously revegetated sites on the NNSS and one on the Tonopah Test Range (TTR) were monitored in 2014. The cover cap on the U-3ax/bl disposal unit, revegetated in 2000, and the 92-Acre Site at the Area 5 Radioactive Waste Management Complex, revegetated in 2011, were the restoration sites monitored on the NNSS. The Corrective Action Unit 407 Rollercoaster RADSAFE site, revegetated in 2000, was the restoration site monitored on the TTR. Plant cover and density were recorded at all sites except U-3ax/bl (qualitative monitoring), and reclamation success standards were evaluated, where applicable.« less
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  1. National Security Technologies, LLC, Las Vegas, Nevada (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
National Security Technologies, LLC, Las Vegas, Nevada (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
Contributing Orgs:
Nevada Test Sites
Country of Publication:
United States
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES EMAC, ecology, monitoring, 2014, Nevada National Security Site, NNSS