Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Importance of Private Timberlands

Privately owned timberlands offer many benefits for both people and wildlife. In northern Idaho, for instance, timber company lands often provide important migration paths for mammals like elk, moose, grizzly bear, wolverine and fisher. These lands are also home to endangered species and provide cold water streams for bull trout and cutthroat trout. Many of the lands are open to the public and are popular places for hunting and hiking.

With development prices soaring, many timber companies are selling these lands for home or recreational property development. This development cuts off public access, introduces non-native weed species and can fragment wildlife habitat.

The Nature Conservancy works with timber companies to conserve these working forests. In Idaho, the Conservancy has worked with Potlatch Forest Holdings to conduct a biologically inventory of the company’s lands for endangered species, rare plants, roadless areas and key wildlife habitat.

In 2004, Potlatch announced its decision to certify all of its lands—including 600,000 acres in Idaho--as sustainably grown under Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) certification. These certifications require conservation plans for wildlife.

Last week, The Nature Conservancy made an announcement of a Potlatch project in another state: The creation of a new wildlife management area in Arkansas on Potlatch lands. This will include a 16,000-acre easement, the largest ever established in Arkansas.

This area will be open for public recreation, and will provide important habitat for endangered species like the red-cockaded woodpecker (below) and American alligator, and game species like deer, turkey and bobwhite quail.

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