In 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced its proposal to change the status of the red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) from “endangered” to “threatened.” The bird had been listed as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since its passage in 1973. The 4(d) rule associated with the downlisting included many caveats that limited private forest landowners’ ability to manage their land. FLA was plugged in during this process – holding landowner events, attending Service events, and submitting public comments. After significant pushback from FLA members and other stakeholders, the Service adapted and proposed a new 4(d) rule in 2022.
The new proposed rule allowed more flexibility for private landowners to conduct prescribed burning and herbicide application on their property but had no exceptions for any other forest management activities that are vital to sustaining healthy forests and RCW habitat. FLA submitted comments on the new rule asking that the Service acknowledge the good stewardship of private working forests and include exceptions in the take prohibitions for active forest management.
Why this matters: Your property rights are one of FLA’s top priorities, and the ability for you to manage your land to ensure your economic stability is something we will continue to advocate for. The good stewardship of private forests has made the downlisting of RCW possible, and many landowners and land managers have already made a commitment to manage their land for the continued conservation of the species. The Service should support these decisions in their final 4(d) rule by allowing more flexibility for landowners to conduct beneficial management activities for RCW.
You can read FLA’s full comments here and a more detailed account of FLA’s actions in the May/June issue of Forest Landowner Magazine.