Important Chance to Comment on Western Oregon State Forests HCP

Please take a few minutes to comment on the Western Oregon State Forests Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). This plan puts in place important protections for species listed or proposed for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act on nearly 640,000 acres of State Forest land. It covers forests in the western third of the state including the Clatsop, Tillamook and Santiam State Forests and other scattered parcels (the Elliott State Forest is being addressed through a separate process). There are 17 species covered in this plan including Northern Spotted Owls, Marbled Murrelets, salmon and steelhead, martens, red tree voles, torrent salamanders and others.

Northern Spotted Owl on large branch
Northern Spotted Owl, photo by BLM

What does a habitat conservation plan do? A habitat conservation plan is an agreement between a landowner (in this case the Oregon Department of Forestry) and US Fish and Wildlife Service and/ or the National Marine Fisheries Service, the two federal agencies charged with protecting species listed under the Endangered Species Act. An HCP allows a certain amount of incidental take of listed species in exchange for agreements to protect and advance recovery of the species elsewhere. Depending on the terms, an HCP can be a powerful tool to advance conservation of listed species.

More information about the HCP and associated NEPA process can be found here.

Overall, we are generally supportive of this draft habitat conservation plan. It has taken many years to develop and includes significantly stronger protections for streams and places nearly half the forest acreage into large habitat conservation areas. We want Oregon Department of Forestry to continue moving forward with this effort despite strong pushback from timber interests. We also want the plan to be stronger.  It is important the Oregon Department of Forestry and the federal agencies hear those messages from the public.  

Key Messages:

  • It is important that the Oregon Department of Forestry, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service continue forward with developing a Habitat Conservation Plan for state forest lands in Western Oregon. Current protections for federally listed species on state lands are not adequate. This HCP has been years in development and is necessary to advance real protections for species like the Northern Spotted Owl, Marbled Murrelet, marten, salmon, steelhead and torrent salamanders.
  • The plan does not go far enough in terms of protecting these species. We strongly recommend selecting Alternative 3 which is the most conservation focused Alternative with some additional modifications.
  • In addition to selecting alternative 3, we recommend the following:
      • Protect all known northern spotted owl activity centers and all suitable nesting/roosting habitat within the plan area in Habitat Conservation Areas.
      • Protect all known occupied nesting stands and all highly suitable marbled murrelet habitat within the plan are in Habitat Conservation Areas
      • Make all of East Hakki Ridge sub watershed into a Habitat Conservation Area as it is adjacent to the large reserve in the Elliott State Forest and should eventually be added to that reserve. 
      • Add buffers on seasonal streams to better protect imperiled stream dwelling amphibians.
  • Please consider a shorter frame than 70 years for this Habitat Conservation Plan. Seventy years is too long given the uncertainties associated with climate change.