Seattle Times: "Wash. tree farm strikes habitat deal"
July 9, 2009
A Washington state tree farm has agreed to create and enhance habitat for northern spotted owls and marbled murrelets on thousands of acres of forest land it owns in Lewis and Skamania counties.
In a deal to be signed Thursday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state Department of Natural Resources, and state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Tumwater-based Port Blakely Tree Farms agreed to increase acreage of trees 80 years and older from the current 500 acres to 4,800 acres in 2067.
The farm also will expand commercial thinning and create additional snags - dead trees left standing which birds and other animals like to nest in - to develop a more complex forest structure that will attract prey species for the northern spotted owl.
In return, the farm will not face increased restrictions on timber harvesting if one or both of the federally protected species takes up residency on the property.
"They are showing how responsible long-term forest practices that enhance habitat also meet sound business goals," state Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark said.
The 60-year pact is the first of its kind in the state among a private timber company and the federal and state agencies.
Spotted owls were listed in 1990 as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act. Marbled murrelets were listed in 1992. Neither have been discovered yet on the property in question.
But Port Blakely President Court Stanley said that its typical forestry practices, including commercial thinning of dense timber stands and longer-than-average harvest rotations, could turn some of the property into suitable habitat for the imperiled birds and, in turn, make it difficult to cut timber.
Conservation groups support the deal.
"Now we have a family-owned timber company that wants to grow habitat for these threatened birds and a federal program that gives them an incentive to do it," said Washington Forest Law Center director Peter Goldman.