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Habitat Conservation Plan - Frequently Asked Questions

What is the importance of the HCP?

  • As a public landowner, ODF manages for many public values including recreation, environmental, and economic goals.
  • Like all landowners, ODF must comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
  • In an effort to achieve multiple goals,  we typically manage for stand conditions that provide both high value wood products and habitat for listed species that we are legally required to protect.
  • Protecting native species is not only a legal mandate, it is critical to supporting a healthy forest ecosystem, as extinction of native species significantly impacts the health and resiliency of the entire forest landscape.
  • Timber harvests on State Forests also support critical community services and milling infrastructure in local communities, so we are also required to maintain a working forest landscape.
  • Our current approach to comply with the ESA is to avoid negative impacts to known individuals and occupied sites.
  • This requires very costly annual surveys for species prior to every harvest, and sales are often redesigned or abandoned when listed species are found.
  • It also exposes the agency and our forest management activities to lawsuits, which can be costly, time-consuming, and impactful to harvest operations.
  • This creates instability and inefficiency in our timber program, which is a risk to local communities that depend on this funding.
  • In addition, the actions implemented to protect T&E species do not necessarily provide the most conservation benefit because they are reactive (sale-driven) rather than proactive (species-driven), and do not consider non-listed species or the ecosystem as a whole. 
  • One of the biggest concerns with continuing our current approach to ESA compliance is that we have no assurances that regulatory authorities will agree the actions we are taking.
  • Without that assurance, we are vulnerable to litigation that has the potential to bring our timber sale program and other forest management activities to a halt, which would result in negative economic outcomes for the State, Counties, and Local Taxing Districts.
  • In this framework, new species listings also have potential to impact our ability to manage the forest and generate revenue. This is no assurance that what we are doing has no impact or is in compliance with any standards for protecting newly-listed species.
  • With an HCP, we are able to take a more proactive approach to providing habitat for all of the covered species across the landscape, while retaining a greater level of predictability and certainty in harvest levels and associated economic outcomes. 
  • The HCP is designed to balance species protection and timber harvest.  The HCP developed  in coordination  with NOAA Fisheries (responsible for anadromous species like salmon), and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (responsible for terrestrial species).
  • This plan is an agreement that assures the Services that species will be protected and ensures that ODF will be able to continue our timber harvest program and other forest management activities in compliance with the ESA for the permit term (70 years).

Why is ODF moving in this direction?

  • Our current approach to ESA compliance and associated costs, impacts to operations, and litigation risk threatens our ability to meet the social, economic, and environmental goals for all Oregonians over time.
  • The HCP allows for a holistic landscape-scale conservation program that supports all species on State Forests, allows for recreation opportunities, and provides the certainty in species protection and the timber economy that we are required to provide for all Oregonians.
  • The HCP provides assurance to ODF that the Services cannot require us to increase conservation commitments over time, as long we are meeting our goals and objectives. This is called the “No Surprises" provision.

How will the HCP be integrated into forest management activities?

  • The HCP articulates the conservation measures to be applied across the landscape for species that are either currently listed and those anticipated to be listed over the 70-year permit term and these are implemented through the FMP. The FMP is much broader in scope and covers all other management activities such as harvest and cultural resources protection.

How does the HCP/New Forest Management Plan differ from structure-based management? 

  • The primary difference is that structure-based management uses a shifting mosaic approach to achieve many of the same conservation and production goals. Under this approach, individual stands can be shifted from conservation to production and vice versa. Under the new HCP/FMP approach, conservation and production emphasis areas are relatively fixed on the landscape. Thus, conservation commitments are more durable and there is greater certainty around ability to harvest in production emphasis areas.

Why is the HCP so controversial? Can the HCP be upended or overturned at some future point?

  • The HCP is not well-understood as a mechanism for providing a balance in certainty for our timber program and protection for T&E species.  
  • Oregonians value State Forests, but their values are not always in alignment. Some people value conservation over timber harvest; while others value harvest over conservation. 
  • There is concern that local communities that benefit directly from timber harvest will be adversely affected from a potential reduction in harvest levels under an HCP.
  • ODF is still developing the anticipated harvest outcomes under an HCP, and we will know more about these outcomes in winter 2023.
  • It is important to recognize that a reduction in harvest levels may be worth the certainty and stability an HCP promises for timber harvest over the 70-year permit term. It is not clear that we would be able to maintain the same level of harvest over the long-term under a status quo approach to ESA compliance. 

The permit is for 70 years, can modifications be made to the HCP during that time?

Yes, changes can be made to the HCP over time through the Adaptive Management process. This can be initiated with by ODF or the Services, and any changes must be mutually agreeable. These can be small changes in which the language can be modified or can include more significant changes that would require an amendment.  Larger changes to the HCP may require additional the Services to initiate additional NEPA process review (such as including additional species or making significant changes to the land base covered by the HCP).

What species are covered under the HCP?

  • 17 species
  • 10 fish (coho, chinook, steelhead)
  • 3 salamanders (2 aquatic and one terrestrial)
  • 2 birds (spotted owl, murrelet)
  • 2 mammals (red tree vole and coastal marten)

Does the HCP establish zones where certain forest management activities are limited? If so, can you briefly describe the different management zones?

  • Yes; there are Habitat Conservation Areas, designed to provide habitat for upland terrestrial species.  Harvest is allowed here solely for benefits to habitat, and Riparian Conservation Areas for aquatic species, where harvest is generally not allowed. Amphibians benefit from the combination of these conservation areas. The remainder of the landscape is available for harvest.

What are the benefits of moving to an HCP? What are the drawbacks of moving to an HCP?

  • Benefits:
    • Assurance of ESA compliance
    • Holistic conservation that supports a healthy and resilient forest ecosystem
    • Stability in timber economy
    • Reduced threat of litigation
    • Enhanced monitoring programs with fixed costs
  • Costs
    • There will be an estimated 20 % decrease in average harvest levels reduction of harvest levels, relative to current harvest levels.