News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

State developing plan for private forest practices

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

Oregon has begun the process of producing a habitat conservation plan for private forest properties that will link the survival of aquatic species with logging practices.

The Oregon Board of Forestry on Dec. 19 unanimously directed the Oregon Department of Forestry to draft a habitat conservation plan (HCP) by 2027. The work is required by state legislation passed in 2022 and the Private Forest Accord (PFA) that revised forest practices.

A key outcome of the process will be the establishment of “incidental take permits,” which would recognize that the harming or killing of aquatic species protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) can occur even when the forest practices involved were legal.

A steering committee, in conjunction with consultants, will draft the habitat conservation plan and the incidental take permit process. The steering committee contains representatives from both the forest products industry and small woodland owners as well as the ODF, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Conservation interests are also represented.

“The permit, when approved, will give both large and small private landowners regulatory certainty under the ESA for up to 50 years for fish and 25 years for amphibians,” said ODF wildlife biologist Jennifer Weikel, who is coordinating the HCP.  “It provides conservation benefits and protects habitats for the listed species.”

“The Private Forest Accord goals were to protect critical species and give long-term regulatory certainty to manage healthy forests,” said Josh Barnard, chief of the ODF’s Forest Resources Division. 

“An incidental take permit will bring about the win-win the accord strived for. The permit shifts the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections from individual landowner strategies to a statewide approach. It will help us more efficiently administer the forestry laws and protect species listed in the HCP.”

It is unlikely that the incidental take permits developed by the committee will be available before 2027, state officials said.

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