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Forestry group pleased that federal government excluded private land from northern spotted owl critical habitat designation.

OLYMPIA, Wash., Nov. 21, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) released its final critical habitat designation for the Northern Spotted Owl, and removed any designation from private lands.  After analyzing the best available science, and thousands of public comments, the Service concluded that there is minimal benefit for designating private lands covered by Washington State forest practices rules, as those lands are already managed for the conservation of the northern spotted owl. 

The federal government has never designated private lands as critical habitat as they encouraged private landowners to use the voluntary mechanisms like Habitat Conservation Plans, and other long-term conservation contracts, such as Safe Harbor Agreements to complement federal recovery efforts.  In fact, in Washington State alone, more than 2 million acres of state and private lands are encompassed in these voluntary federal conservation agreements, in addition to complementary state forestry regulations.  The Service concluded it was not necessary to put another federal regulatory overlay in addition to this comprehensive owl conservation approach in Washington State.    

"In addition to the habitat protections, scientists are now acknowledging that the barred owl poses one of the greatest threats to the future of the spotted owl, in addition to the health of some of the forest stands, especially in the drier, eastern regions" said Mark Doumit, Executive Director of the Washington Forest Protection Association.

Currently, more than 60% of Washington's forests are restricted from timber harvesting.  The remaining forest acres support rural economies and produce wood products, primarily from state, private, county and tribal lands.  In the past, federal spotted owl restrictions have severely impacted the economic stability of rural communities.  By deciding to not designate private lands as critical habitat and proposing a new "ecological forestry" approach to federal lands, the federal government is attempting to strike a balance between owl conservation, healthy forests and support for rural economies. 

Washington State continues to move forward in a positive direction, by implementing market based mechanisms for owl conservation which are intended to result in strategic contribution of nonfederal lands for owl conservation.  "We have been working collaboratively with the state, federal government, environmental groups and industry to develop a new approach for conservation, through conservation incentives" said Kevin Godbout, of the Weyerhaeuser Company, and member of the Northern Spotted Owl Implementation Team.

To learn more about how the spotted owl is protected in Washington go to www.northernspottedowl.org.

To see how much land is restricted from harvesting, and the economic impact of working forests in Washington, go to http://www.wfpa.org/washington-forested-counties/.

About the Washington Forest Protection Association.  Founded in 1908, WFPA members are large and small private forest landowners that grow and harvest trees on about 4 million acres in Washington State.  Forestry provides nearly 120,000 family wage jobs in the state. www.wfpa.org

SOURCE Washington Forest Protection Association

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