Application Deadline: October 1, 2017
Anticipated Start Date: November 2017. This is a full-time temporary position. The agreement for this position ends on December 31, 2019, the agreement can be extended.
Duties and Responsibilities: This position will foster the mutual conservation objectives of Pheasants Forever (PF), Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (MTFWP), and The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) by developing bird habitat on lands owned by USFWS and MTFWP throughout the Mission Valley, Montana. The Habitat Specialist will physically enhance habitat on partner owned public lands by planting and cultivating small grain crops and native grass/forb mixes, and other duties associated with habitat enhancement projects. These cooperatively funded positions will receive weekly work direction from USFWS employees at the National Bison Range and MTFWP managers at Ninepipes Wildlife Management Area.
Onsite work will include, but will not be limited to: small and large equipment operation, equipment transport, site preparation, seed mixing & planting, mechanical & chemical weed control, tillage and mowing practices, water manipulation, fencing, posting and signing, livestock management practices, controlled burning and other agricultural practices. The ability and willingness to work long hours during crucial periods of the growing season, and coordinating work activities with the partners is required. Administrative duties will include, but not be limited to; detailed record keeping, accomplishment reporting, time and budget management, procurement of materials, and coordination with and assisting USFWS & MTFWP staff with area management plans. Pheasants Forever organizational training will be provided by Habitat Forever LLC and PF National Office. USFWS equipment training and certifications will be provided by the National Bison Range certified instructor. Applicant must be able to obtain USFWS equipment operation certificate through successful completion of DOI courses provided by NBR certified instructor. Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks will provide training and direction for equipment use on MTFWP WMA.
Minimum Qualifications: Graduation from an accredited college or university with a Bachelors Degree in Wildlife Management, Biological Sciences or Agriculture is a benefit but is not required for these positions. Habitat Forever and partners are looking for motivated individuals with the ability to work long hours in the field during peak seasons of the year. Practical experience in the operation and repair of equipment including: tractors, tillage equipment, grass drills, mowers, ATV’s, trucks, bumper and gooseneck trailers is very important. Candidates must show experience that includes practical knowledge of establishment, maintenance, and the long-term management of grasslands, shrubs and small grain crops. Knowledge, experience, and training in prescribed burning are helpful. Applicants must be an innovative and resourceful self-starter with excellent communication skills and be able to work with minimal supervision. Successful applicants must also possess or be able to acquire a Montana CDL Operators License and an Herbicide Applicators License. This is a demanding but rewarding job. The right individual will gain incredible experience working with landowners, resource agency personnel and volunteers while building, enhancing and maintaining conservation projects and wildlife habitat.
Core Competencies and Special Ability Requirements: We expect the persons in these positions to accept varied and changing responsibilities in the job, develop and sustain cooperative working relationships with partner agencies and the public, effectively communicate both orally and in writing, develop solutions to solve problems, employ computer technology to enhance work quality, understand needs of customers, and to work evenings, Saturdays and Sundays on occasion.
Description of Area:
All the work will take place in the Mission Valley of NW Montana. The Lake County Wetland Management District, administered by the National Bison Range Complex (NBRC), includes nine WPAs: the 80-acre Montgomery piece in 1974; the 80-acre Herak and 400-acre Sandsmark tracts in 1975; the 719-acre Duck Haven in 1988; the 80-acre Johnson 80 and the 1,549-acre Crow tracts in 1989; 163-acre Anderson and 169-acre Kicking Horse in 1991; and the 28-acre Ereaux in 1998. Former land use on most of these acres was primarily agriculture grain and forage production. Most WPAs were intensively managed through farming activities by FWS and partners until the late 1990s, with the objectives of reducing invasive forb populations and establishing dense nesting cover (DNC) for breeding waterfowl. Species commonly used in DNC vegetation mixtures were smooth brome, tall and intermediate wheatgrasses, basin wildrye, orchard grass, alfalfa, and yellow sweet clover. From the late 1990s to the present, the FWS has employed a variety of methods to minimize establishment and spread of the invasive species in the area. These efforts have met with mixed success. While purple loosestrife and leafy spurge infestations were kept at bay, whitetop, Canada thistle, teasel and spotted knapweed have become established to varying degrees. Concurrently, several of the seeded DNC species smooth brome and both wheatgrasses have not only persisted, but have become near monocultures with correspondingly low structural diversity and forb production.
Now, over 20 to nearly 40 years after initial acquisition, we propose a multi-year, multi-phase project to begin to renovate habitats at these WPAs. We use “renovate” to indicate that our objective is not to attain some selected historic benchmark or reference condition, but rather to aggressively combat invasive species, increase structural diversity for breeding birds, increase forb production to support high invertebrate abundance, and establish a resilient plant assemblage of native and desired non-native species.
The setting of the 4,200-acre Ninepipe WMA in the Mission Valley of western Montana, with the snow-capped Mission Mountains as a backdrop, is on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The Ninepipe name is that of an indigenous family that was displaced when an irrigation reservoir was constructed in the early 1900s. Ninepipe Reservoir is entirely within the Ninepipe NWR. The NWR is, in turn, almost completely surrounded by the Ninepipe WMA.
In addition to the WMA and NWR, other lands in the vicinity are also managed specifically as wildlife habitat, which are administered by federal and tribal governments. The land in this intermountain glacial valley has been severely impacted by human activities. Agricultural practices like plowing and flood irrigating have essentially eliminated the natural upland vegetation and natural water runoff patterns. These changes have been detrimental to some native species, but have been generally beneficial to waterfowl populations and have allowed for the introduced pheasant to thrive.
At approximately 3,000 feet above sea level, the WMA consists of rolling, open grasslands and numerous prairie potholes, or kettle ponds. Remnants of native rough fescue grasslands exist, but today the area vegetation is mostly introduced grasses, croplands, and exotic woody plants. Many of the upland plants now growing here are naturalized species that were accidentally or intentionally introduced. Many state-listed noxious weeds and other exotic invasive plants occur on the WMA and surrounding lands. 12 Primary canals and laterals, which deliver water to a significant portion of the Charlo area, traverse the WMA on linear easements that pre-date ownership of any land by FWP. Almost all water that leaves or enters the Ninepipe Reservoir crosses the WMA. Additionally, water released from Kicking Horse Reservoir flows to and/or through WMA land.
US Highway 93 and Montana Secondary Highway 212 both cross through the WMA, as do numerous secondary county roads. Almost every section line on the WMA is roaded, with pull-outs and parking lots providing easy access for the public. The only FWP road that is seasonally open to the public provides vehicle access to a multi-agency wildlife viewing/interpretive site, family fishing pond, and angler access to Ninepipe Reservoir. This road is closed to vehicles during the hunting season.