Sustainably managed private working forests are healthy and resilient and provide forest habitat that supports a significant amount of the forest species. Our forest stewardship commitments include the responsibility to conserve wildlife species and their habitats.
Forests are diverse ecological systems with habitats for plants, animals, and organisms. Active forest management is a valuable tool for creating and maintaining a wide range of biodiversity benefits, enabling forests to stay healthy and productive. Across a landscape, a mosaic of forest ages from recently harvested to old-growth can be maintained – these forests in turn support long-term viability of wildlife species, plants, and biodiversity. At a broader scale, managed forests can provide habitat connectivity and help maintain and enlarge intact forested areas.
Markets for forest products provide an incentive to conserve forests as forests compared to alternative land uses that are not as beneficial to water quality, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration and recreation. Healthy and vigorously managed forests are also less susceptible to catastrophic loss from insects, disease, and wildfire.
Our commitment to conserving biodiversity on our forest lands is based on this recognition that well-managed working forest lands provide a broad range of habitats for aquatic, avian, and terrestrial biodiversity. Four main components comprise our approach to maintaining and enhancing biodiversity: (1) landscape-level management; (2) stand-level diversity; (3) protection of ecologically unique sites or species; and (4) research.
We provide habitat diversity at the landscape level by utilizing stand size and age class adjacency restrictions for final harvest, identifying streamside management zones, maintaining a diversity of cover types, and replanting native species. The managed landscape provides a mixture of forest structure, age classes, and cover types, intermingled with less intensively managed riparian areas and embedded conservation of unique sites. Diverse working forest landscapes provide abundant habitat for large ungulates such as deer, elk and moose and a wide diversity of birds such as red-bellied woodpeckers, prairie warblers and wild turkeys.
We achieve stand-level diversity that enhances habitat for a variety of wildlife species through site-specific forest management including planning, implementation, and evaluation. Stand level diversity techniques include retaining unharvested areas, retention of den trees or snags, retention of slash piles, utilizing irregularly shaped openings, and protection of non-forested areas such as glades, meadows, and non-forested wetlands. We identify sites with species or communities that are unique, rare, or listed as federally threatened or endangered through exchange of data with state natural heritage programs, NatureServe, state wildlife agencies, and by internal discovery. Site locations are then mapped and included in our Land Resource Manager system. Foresters use this proprietary, real-time information when preparing detailed harvest plans to ensure these unique features are incorporated into our management plans. PotlatchDeltic has a long and continuing commitment to investing in and utilizing research to improve biodiversity conservation and environmental protection. We actively participate in and fund research with NCASI, universities, and fish and wildlife organizations to understand habitat and biodiversity response to forest management and then integrate research findings into our management. In addition, we actively advocate for laws and regulations that protect fish and wildlife and promote practical approaches that recognize the benefits of working forest lands.
Our wildlife and biodiversity management in Idaho focuses on a wide range of animals, fish, and plants. In northern Idaho, elk, deer, and moose are vitally important to rural communities’ culture, traditions and economy and serve societal needs as game animals or subsistence foods. These large ungulates can also affect native vegetation and agricultural crops because of their large body size, diet choices, and widespread distributions. PotlatchDeltic recognizes the importance of these species and maintaining healthy herds in balance with native vegetation. As a result, we have made substantial commitments to research, conservation, and public recreation through partnerships with Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) and others. Our partnership with IDFG has continued to grow and includes efforts to balance recreational use with resource protection by ensuring that vehicle access is planned to limit disturbance to wildlife and allows full utilization of habitat by deer, elk, and moose.
The Westslope cutthroat trout is native to our northern Idaho forest lands and occupies many of the headwater streams within our actively managed working forests. They feed primarily on aquatic insect life and zooplankton. Cutthroat spawn in tributary streams in the springtime when water temperature is about 10 degrees C and flows are high with spring run-off, burying their eggs in a nest called a redd. The eggs hatch in a few weeks to a couple of months and most of the cutthroat remain as resident fish and spend their entire life in these tributary streams within our forests. Our Mica Creek Research project has demonstrated that the contemporary BMPs, which are the foundation of the Idaho Forest Practices Act, fully provide cutthroat conservation. The Mica study has consistently shown that cutthroat increase in number and extent when forest harvest occurs within the cold and nutrient-poor headwater stream watersheds.
The PotlatchDeltic northern Idaho timberlands are home to a broader range of biodiversity that, while not as notable as elk and cutthroat, are an important part of our conservation efforts. These range from the many types of fungus that emerge in our conifer stands such as morel mushrooms, which tend to show up in newly planted stands in the spring, to the angel wing mushroom that grows on the sides of conifer trees and are widely sought by animals for their forage value. There are also the Clearwater Phlox and the northern goshawk. The phlox and goshawk are both species that are identified in our GIS map layer of biodiversity and that we have conservation protocols for within our EMS.
Our southern timberlands have long growing seasons and plentiful rainfall that make a very productive system that supports a tremendous diversity of animals and plants. And in many cases, lots of them! On a spring day in our southern working forest the sounds of native birds singing, frogs calling and croaking, and the buzz of native bees can make for a noisy workplace for our foresters. Just the chirps of spring peepers, small chorus frogs, can reach the level where it is hard to hear much else.
Southern working forests have been documented to have more than 80 breeding bird species and many more species that migrate through twice a year. Forest lands at different stages of management and ages can be a boon to southern birds. A few examples of bird-benefiting forest management practices include riparian buffers that protect not only water quality but also Swallow-tailed Kites and Hooded Warblers and provide their nesting habitat. Mixed forest stands are home to Pileated Woodpeckers, Red-shouldered Hawks, and Barred Owls. Regenerating pine forests are important for the Prairie Warbler and Northern Bobwhite. Prairie Warblers are known to prefer recently thinned stands. Harvested areas with standing snags attract Red-headed Woodpeckers and Eastern Bluebirds as well as raptors, including nesting American Kestrels.
The traditional game species of white-tailed deer and eastern wild turkey have long inhabited and benefitted from active forest management and are sought after by the recreationists that utilize our southern forest lands. Deer thrive in areas that have been recently disturbed by forest management where lush herbaceous vegetation follows management such as final clearcut harvests or thinning. Turkeys utilize pine stands with open canopies for nesting and foraging, and hens take their broods to young stands that have lots of weeds and bugs to eat. Many a gobbler has been found strutting on open, grassy logging roads where traffic is restricted by gating, and the sun catches their iridescent feathers.
There is no better example of biodiversity conservation in working forests than the 40-year history of private forest landowners implementing voluntary BMPs for water quality protection. The South has a tremendous number of aquatic species including fishes, mussels, and turtles. These species have been conserved on actively managed forestlands yet have declined in non-forested watersheds and where dams have altered river flow. These aquatic species come by many interesting names such as the fat pocketbook mussel and candy darter, both of which are listed as endangered species, occupy stream reaches on our southern ownership, and are protected by our BMP implementation.
As a custodian of its timberlands, PotlatchDeltic recognizes that some of its lands need to be conserved as forestland in perpetuity. We realize this goal through land partnerships, conservation land sales, and conservation easements. We work with a wide range of stakeholders for conservation, including states, cities, counties, water authorities, and environmental / conservation organizations including The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, and the Trust for Public Land. In addition, we commit to the protection of species at-risk and have entered into habitat conservation agreements to protect endangered species.
Through our conservation land sales, public agencies have increased forest ownership and connected parcels previously blocked from public access, while securing working forests for the future. Wildlife management areas have been expanded and availability for public recreation and hunting has been increased. Water management authorities have increased watershed protection and areas have been protected from future development. Cities and towns have increased land for infrastructure and public recreation and use.
PotlatchDeltic occasionally enters into formal agreements through conservation easements that limit timber harvesting or development on our timberland. We offer this commitment to conservation to support wildlife habitat and biodiversity or to preserve places and landscapes that have exceptional natural, social, or cultural value.
Across our timberlands and procurement basins, species ranging from the Canada lynx to the northern long-eared bat have been identified as endangered or threatened and are protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). For the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker that occurs on our lands in southern Arkansas, we participate in a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP)16 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to implement a variety of conservation measures for its unique habitat requirements.
Working forests are critical to the effort to conserve biodiversity. PotlatchDeltic combines scientific data with our decades of experience sustainably managing forest lands to advocate for policies and regulations that recognize conservation values and reward landowners for the contributions that our managed forests provide.
The Wildlife Conservation Initiative (WCI) is an effort by the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) members to build a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to create a trusted, durable relationship to implement science-based conservation for at-risk species. The underlying concept is recognition of the wildlife conservation benefits of working forests to at-risk species, implementation of on-the-ground practices to conserve species and use of third-party forest certification to provide assurances to the Service.
PotlatchDeltic was a leader with other landowners of the WCI in Arkansas and the Lake States. We initiated the first meeting with the Service’s Arkansas Field Office to introduce the concept of third-party forest certification to the field office. In the Lake States, we led WCI efforts with the Service to design and expand the WCI partnership in the region. The initiative resulted in the Service recognizing the benefits of managed forest lands and Best Management Practice (BMP) implementation in their Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing evaluations.
Service evaluations of aquatic species endemic to streams within the working forests of the southern U.S. have resulted in many determinations that the species were “not warranted” for listing under ESA. Where aquatic species have been listed based on non-forestry threats, the listing rules for these species have recognized forestry water quality BMPs as protective of the species. These are meaningful long-term results for landowners, and they serve as a testament to the conservation value of voluntary practices implemented on private working lands.
The key link with forestry is the recognition by the Service of the effectiveness of BMPs to protect water quality, and the understanding that BMP implementation is broad and consistent across all working forest lands. The breadth of implementation is a result of landowners certifying their lands and companies buying wood fiber adopting SFI certified fiber sourcing, which requires that all wood delivered/purchased is harvested consistently with applicable forestry BMPs.
The WCI has strengthened and expanded since it was initiated in 2016 and now has cooperative landowner-Service projects in all the primary timber growing regions. The projects include species surveys, habitat research projects, and dialogue on how to simplify and reduce the administrative and regulatory burden of expanding conservation of listed species on private lands.
Active forest management creates resilient, healthy forests that are the foundation for diverse and sustainable wildlife habitats. Harvesting followed by forest regeneration results in early successional habitat with abundant grasses and shrubs, scattered down wood, and standing snags that are used by many mammals, birds, and insects. The broader managed forest landscape has an interspersion of extensively managed streamside zones, swamps and meadows, and a mosaic of managed stands of trees that broaden the biodiversity that inhabits working forest lands. Within this diverse and biodiversity-rich landscape are specific conservation measures that we apply to benefit species that require unique habitats or management.
PotlatchDeltic occasionally enters into formal agreements with nonprofit and governmental agencies that limit timber harvesting or development on our forestland. We offer such easements to support the recovery of a threatened or endangered species, or to preserve places and landscapes that have exceptional natural, social, or cultural value. We are especially proud of the conservation easement that we use as part of the habitat conservation plan for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) in Arkansas.
We are especially proud of the conservation easement that we use as part of the habitat conservation plan for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) in Arkansas.
The RCW was listed as an endangered species in 1970. Its numbers had dropped to an estimated 15,000 from an original population of 1.5 million but has since shown recovery. It is a habitat specialist occupying fire-maintained open pine woodlands and savanna and is the only woodpecker in North America to excavate cavities in living pine trees, which they utilize for roosting and nesting. They practice cooperative breeding, a social system in which some mature adults forgo reproduction and instead assist in raising the offspring of others. These characteristics contribute to the importance of available cavity trees and prescribed fire to provide habitat for breeding groups and maintain healthy populations.
In 1995, we entered a historic partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create a habitat conservation plan, or HCP, for the RCW, providing a variety of strategies for encouraging the bird’s recovery. More recently, we rewrote the HCP and embedded it in a 15,961-acre conservation easement in prime RCW habitat. This easement with the Nature Conservancy and the State of Arkansas, known as the Moro Big Pine Working Forest Conservation Easement, sets these lands apart in perpetuity.
Biologists from The Wildlife Company monitor the red-cockaded woodpecker population on our lands, conducting an annual survey and banding all newly fledged birds. Our researchers also regularly use “video peepers” to investigate the tree cavities where the RCW nests.
The 2018 merger with Deltic Timber Corporation brought a small number of RCWs scattered in non-viable demographic settings, and we translocated them to Moro Big Pine. Following the merger, we visited all sites with recorded observations of RCWs to determine if they were active, the number of RCW present, and their proximity to other RCWs. We also surveyed areas with potential for RCW cavity trees to determine if there were previously unknown locations with RCW. Our assessment revealed seven sites with RCWs present or with signs of RCW use within the last few years and that they were demographically isolated, meaning that there were no other RCWs close enough to their nesting locations to fill breeding vacancies created by the loss of a mate or to allow offspring to find other RCWs and become breeders.
We then initiated permit applications with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to allow translocation of the isolated RCWs to our Moro Big Pine Conservation Area in southcentral Arkansas. With permits secured, the fieldwork of capturing and translocating RCWs was initiated in early April of 2020. Capturing RCWs is conducted using well-developed protocols to ensure successful relocation and requires many hours of early morning and evening observations of cavities to determine roost locations. Nets with long poles that allow for capture of RCW from their roost cavities were located 30-70 feet above the ground. All the RCWs on the new lands - a total of six, consisting of two pairs and two singles from four different sites - were translocated. The RCWs were moved to high-quality habitat on Moro Big Pine, which increased the population size and viability there, where cavity trees are readily available and fire is used to maintain open pine, high-quality habitat.
Eighteen years of habitat management and translocation of RCWs to improve population viability has resulted in the population on Moro Big Pine growing from 24 adult birds with 9 potential breeding groups to the 2021 population of 79 adults with 29 potential breeding groups. The RCW population on Moro Big Pine is now large enough that we are working in partnership with the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission to translocate sub-adults from Moro to other small RCW populations in Arkansas to increase their genetic diversity