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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
KLAMATH FALLS FWO: Recovering Applegate's Milk-vetch: a Cross-Program Project with Collins Products
Region 8, November 12, 2009
Applegate's Milk-vetch Habitat, Collins Products lands, Klamath County Oregon on July 18, 2008 (photo: Trisha Roninger, USFWS)  
Applegate's Milk-vetch Habitat, Collins Products lands, Klamath County Oregon on July 18, 2008 (photo: Trisha Roninger, USFWS)   - Photo Credit: n/a
Milk-vetch exclusion fencing following fence construction, May 2009. (photo: USFWS)
Milk-vetch exclusion fencing following fence construction, May 2009. (photo: USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a

by Dave Ross, Klamath FWO
The Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program had previously implemented a wetland project with Collins Products, a wood products firm based in Oregon.  During relicensing activities on the Klamath River, it became apparent that a population of the Federally Endangered Applegate's milk-vetch occurred on the property owned by Collins Products.

Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife Office Endangered Species staff asked for the assistance of the Klamath Falls Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program as it appreared that the majority of the milk-vetch plants occurred on unused lands that were leased out to a local rancher for grazing livestock.  A meeting was held with Collins Products and the leasee to determine a strategy to protect the endangered plant while simultaneously addressing the needs to the livestock operator. Other project partners, including The Nature Conservancy, Oregon Natural Heritage Program and Oregon Department of Agriculture, were brought in to develop a management plan and to conduct surveys for the milk-vetch.

The initial plan determined that placing livestock exclusion fences around the largest and most robust sub-populations of milk-vetch was warranted.  Since the effect of grazing pressure from livestock, a "graze-no graze" monitoring protocol was designed and implemented around the proposed fencing strategy.  With this strategy in place, the project partners could determine the effect livestock may are may not have on the milk-vetch populations.

In 2009, surveys for the milk-vetch documented the presence of over 8,000 individual plants! In anyones book, this is a large population and, when fully protected, will protect 30% of the known populations of the endemic species, leading toward down-listing!   There are only 5 known populations extant. The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program funded the fencing of over 8,741 plants!!

Through their partnership, the ES budget paid for the monitoring and management plan development and the Klamath Falls Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program paid for the livestock exclusion fencing. Partnerships are a wonderful, and effective, way to pool respective abilities and resources to accomplish the task at hand - species conservation!

In an unusual set of ecological circumstances, it was documented that the milk-vetch occuped the slightly wetter portions of the pastures where the nutritive value of the vegetation was below what the livestock preferred.  What this meant was the livestock operator was not concerned about losing the wetter ground to protect the milk-vetch populations as the plants were not used by his stock. This is illustrative that endangered plant conservation CAN be compatible with livestock management!

While the question remains, do livestock help disperse the milk-vetch seeds and does the timing of grazing impact populations of milk-vetch, the outlook for compatibility seems quite good. 

Contact Info: David Ross, 541-885-2518, dave_ross@fws.gov