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United States Department of the Interior
Montana State Office
5001 Southgate Drive
Billings, Montana 59101-4669

September 14, 2007

In Reply To: 
6600 (923) P
Instruction Memorandum No. MT-2007-077
Expires: 9/30/08
To:      Field Managers
From:  State Director
Subject: Wildlife Escape Ramps in Water Developments          DD: 10/11/2007
Program Area:  Resource Improvement Projects - Water Developments
Purpose:  To remind field offices that escape ramps shall be installed and maintained in water development projects on public lands.
Policy/Action:  In accordance with WO IM No. 2007-178, Wildlife Escape Ramps in Water Developments, Montana/Dakotas BLM will adhere to the policy as necessary.  It continues to be the policy of the BLM that water developments on public lands shall be equipped with escape ramps. This includes both existing and future water developments on public lands regardless of who constructed them, when they were constructed, or how the construction was authorized. All future water developments except for dirt tanks, pit reservoirs, naturally occurring waters, or closed tanks not accessible to wildlife, shall have escape ramps installed immediately upon completion of the project and before use. Authorization for the installation of new water developments must document who is responsible for maintaining the escape ramp.
While it may be impossible to prevent all wildlife fatalities associated with water developments, the BLM shall make a reasonable effort to ensure that these projects are as wildlife safe as possible.
  • Field officials shall inspect, or oversee the inspection of, all existing water developments that require escape ramps to document their presence and condition. Coordination of this work should occur with any personnel in the field that would encounter water developments and could report on the presence and condition of escape ramps, particularly all range and wildlife staff. To facilitate accomplishment of this workload, grazing permittees/lessees or any other cooperators responsible for water developments can be asked to report on wildlife escape ramps on the projects for which they are responsible.  If an escape ramp is absent or the existing ramp is in need of repair/replacement, field officials must correct the situation as quickly as possible. Individual Cooperative Range Improvement Agreements or Range Improvement Permits (RIPs) need to be reviewed to    determine whether or not the installation or maintenance of wildlife escape devices would be the responsibility of the grazing  permittee/lessee or other cooperators responsible for the water development.  
  • Field officials shall ensure maintenance of the escape ramps on existing projects is accomplished within a reasonable amount of time and in accordance with the project construction authorization (e.g., Cooperative Range Improvement Agreement or RIP). Where maintenance responsibility for the escape ramp is not specified on the project authorization or cooperative agreement, field officials must either assign maintenance responsibility to the project cooperator or permittee, or ensure that the BLM’s responsibility for maintenance is documented in writing and placed into the project file. 
  • To the extent possible, all activities (inspection, maintenance, etc.) shall be documented using the Project Inspection and Maintenance Record Form 1740-1 and entered into the RIPS prior to September 25, of each year. Proper documentation to the project file and correct entry into the RIPS will help ensure that managers and staff are sufficiently aware of the inspection and maintenance needs of existing projects, and may appropriately devote the necessary resources to complete these important tasks.  
  • Resource Improvement Funds (8100/8200) may be used for this endeavor. A single financial project code can be used for inspection and maintenance of all water developments. Units of accomplishment for installation or maintenance will be coded to project element “JC” (Shrub, Grassland, and Forest Projects Maintained).  
Timeframe:  Field offices are encouraged to program their workload to ensure every water development on public lands that requires escape ramps are equipped with a functioning escape ramp in a timely manner. A progress report is due back to the National Resource Improvement Coordinator in WO-220 by October 15, 2007, and every year thereafter until all water developments that require escape ramps have been inspected and escape ramps have been installed or repaired. Significant progress has been made during the last
3 years to inspect and maintain all wildlife escape ramps; however, an increased effort must be made to complete inspections on all remaining water development projects that require escape ramps by the end of FY 2009. A progress report for each Field Office/Station is due to MT-923 no later than October 11, 2007.  
Budget Impact: It is not known at this time exactly how many water developments are lacking escape ramps or have ramps that are in need of maintenance. Inspection of all water developments on public lands that require escape ramps will take a significant amount of time and fiscal resources. Maintaining, purchasing, or fabricating and installing any missing or inadequate escape ramps will also take time. This activity has the potential to be expensive in both labor and operational dollars.
Background:  Water developments on public lands are designed to meet the needs of livestock, wild horses, and wildlife. To reduce the risk of wildlife fatalities, the BLM has required installation of escape ramps in water developments for many years. (See BLM Manual Handbook H-1741-2 - Water Developments, November 6, 1990.  The BLM policy has been to install escape ramps in open water troughs and tanks to protect water quality and to reduce wildlife loss.  Water developments that require escape ramps include all troughs, open spring boxes, open tanks, and guzzlers. The policy does not include dirt tanks, pit reservoirs, naturally occurring waters, or closed tanks not accessible to wildlife.
Escape ramp designs are limited only by the configuration of the water holding facility. Designs and installation specifications can be found in BLM Handbook 1741-2 - Water Developments, November 1990; and Technical Bulletin 89-4, Wildlife Watering and Escape Ramps on Livestock Water Developments: Suggestions and Recommendations, Idaho State BLM Office, November 1989 (Update of Technical Note 305).    
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected: H-1741-2 - Water Developments
Coordination: All Field Offices, Field Stations, and Montana State Office. WO IM 2007-178 and response forms have been forwarded to all offices for information.
Contact: Questions regarding this IM should be directed to Bill McIlvain or Gayle Sitter, MSO Program Leads, at 896-5028 and 896-5024, respectively.
Signed by: Howard A. Lemm, Acting
Authenticated by: Kathy Iszler, Staff Assistant (MT-924)
SOMT – 1
Assistant Manager, Havre Field Station – 1
Assistant Manager, Glasgow Field Station – 1

Last updated: 03-18-2013