Alabama and Mississippi Stakeholders Provide Critical Comments to USFWS on ESA BPS Rule: Through a Forest America Call To Action in Alabama and Mississippi, forestry stakeholders sent in more than 150 comments telling the FWS the importance of providing for flexibility for forest management under the 4(d) ruling for the BPS. Getting the BPS 4(d) rule language right is essential for forestry stakeholders. If the FWS does not provide more flexibility for forest management under this ruling it could trigger a deluge of unintended consequences in future ESA rulings. In a stakeholder comments sent to the FWS on behalf of the forestry community, more than 30 significant landowners and key organizations conveyed the importance of a more flexible forestry management ruling. The US. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is proposing to list the black pinesnake (BPS) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with a proposed section 4(d) rule. This ruling is vital to forestry stakeholders because it has the potential to set a precedent on forestry management restrictions not only for the BPS, but for all future ESA listings as well.
Forestry stakeholders need to tell the FWS the importance of providing for flexibility for forest management under the 4(d) ruling for the BPS. Getting the BPS 4(d) rule language right is essential for forestry stakeholders. If the FWS does not provide more flexibility for forest management under this ruling it could trigger a deluge of unintended consequences in future ESA rulings.
The Southeast Region of the FWS is faced with evaluating whether to list and place under ESA protection more than 400 at-risk species as a result of national, multi-district litigation and a mega-petition brought by environmental and conservation groups. Of particular concern to forestry stakeholders in the 10 state region are the more than 20 species that are slated for action by the FWS in the next two years!
Stronger and more flexible forestry language is needed
The FWS is asking forestry stakeholders to submit comments regarding timber and forest management and restoration practices that may be impacted. Currently the rule is not specific as to a landowner's ability to clearcut their property for harvesting. This ambiguity allows for a legal threat to challenge land management activities impacted the BPS ruling.
Critical habitat designation should only be on public land, NOT private lands
The proposed 4(d) rule places 91,603 acres of private land, in 11 counties in Mississippi (Forrest, George, Greene, Harrison, Jackson, Jones, Lamar, Marion, Perry, Stone, and Wayne) and three counties in Alabama (Clarke, Mobile, and Washington) under more severe regulations and economic handcuffs by giving the status of "critical habitat designation"
Two of these private tracts of land (Fred T. Stimpson WMA and Scotch WMA, both in Alabama ) have been in the Wildlife Management Area (WMA) system for decades, providing public benefit of small and big game hunting as well as wildlife viewing are being proposed by the FWS as “critical habitat designation” areas. The FWS reasoning for designating the Stimpson WMA is two BPS being recorded in the past 25 years. While the Scotch WMA, has had two recorded sightings since 1990.
The FWS is seeking comments as to “whether we could improve or modify our approach to designating critical habitat in any way to provide for greater public participation and understanding, or to better accommodate public concerns and comments.” Forestry stakeholders need to tell the FWS that including private property, especially land in the WMA system, in “critical habitat designations” places private landowners under further onerous regulations and economic handcuffs and will cause a significant blow to cooperative management between public and private agencies.
Your input is crucial to letting the Fish and Wildlife Service know that normal forests management, including clearcutting should be listed as an exempted activity in the final the 4(d) rule and that private forestlands should not be included in critical habitat designations. Click here to TAKE ACTION!