Endangered species and timber harvests can coexist
Forests can be managed for endangered species and economic returns
In 1973, Congress recognized that species of fish, wildlife, and plants are of esthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational and scientific value to the country and its people. To prevent the extinction of species they enacted the Endangered Species Act to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.
What is critical habitat?
Critical habitat is a term defined and used in the Endangered Species Act. It is specific geographic areas that contain features essential to the conservation of an endangered or threatened species and that may require special management and protection. Critical habitat may also include areas that are not currently occupied by the species but will be needed for its recovery.
Can harvests take place in critical habitat?
Private individuals, corporations, tribes, states, and local municipalities which have endangered or threatened species on their lands are prohibited from taking that listed species or harming its habitat. However, landowners may develop a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to gain an incidental take permit, which allows certain projects or activities to continue. An HCP spells out required practices that minimize impacts to the listed species or that compensate for impacts that cannot be eliminated or minimized. The idea is to provide landowners with stability and certainty so they can make long-term investments necessary to manage lands for profit while protecting the listed species. The challenge is that developing an HCP can be complex and may take several months or years to finalize, depending on the proposed land use actions and how they affect the target species.
Forest Management in Action: SALMON
The loss of salmon populations in the Pacific Northwest is a major concern. Salmon need clean gravel of the right size and depth in which to spawn. They also need pools and shaded areas during water flow fluctuations. Foresters invest in stream enhancement and watershed restoration projects to help improve fish habitat and streamside areas with active forest management.
Leaving trees along streams to provide shade, bank stability, and future woody debris and active management of riparian areas is the most effective way to improve salmon habitat. Forest managers work to ensure a mixture of tree species appropriate for each specific site which helps prevent insect and disease epidemics and accelerated tree mortality. Providing the right conditions reduces the danger of catastrophic wildfire and keeps forests and watersheds healthy.