NOAA Fisheries Approves Habitat Conservation Plan With California’s Largest Private Forestland Owner; Goal Is To Protect Salmon Streams

NOAA Fisheries has approved a Habitat Conservation Plan and Safe Harbor Agreement with California’s largest owner of private forestlands to protect habitat for salmon and steelhead.

Sierra Pacific Industries is the largest private forest landowner in the state of California, with about 1.8 million acres of timberland throughout the northern and central portions of the state. Rivers and streams on the company’s land in the Trinity River and Sacramento River basins provide habitat for salmon and steelhead species listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Safe Harbor Agreements are an important model for endangered species conservation and recovery. They engage the support of landowners who are critical to species recovery. Participating landowners voluntarily undertake activities on their property to enhance, restore, or maintain habitat benefiting ESA-listed species. In return, they receive assurances that they will not face new restrictions on their land because of their good stewardship practices.

Sierra Pacific Industries will carry out various conservation measures to support salmon and steelhead recovery. Actions include:

–Reducing erosion through road improvement projects

–Enhancing watershed resiliency by identifying and implementing projects designed to reduce wildfire behavior, intensity, and magnitude

SPI’s role and overall objective is ensuring streams and other wetlands on their lands continue to provide cold, clean water to salmon and steelhead habitat. They have also committed to maintaining the high-quality habitats identified in NOAA Fisheries’ recovery plans as being essential for ESA-listed species conservation and recovery.

“When SPI approached us about collaborating, we knew there were real gains to be made on all sides. We value such conservation-minded partners who share our commitment and desire to conserve at-risk salmon and steelhead,” said Cathy Marcinkevage, Assistant Regional Administrator in NOAA Fisheries’ California Central Valley Office. “We especially note the consideration of creative ways to contribute towards the recovery of salmon in the area. In particular, SPI’s work to maintain and improve upstream habitat, which will help advance NOAA Fisheries’ priority actions of reintroducing populations of listed salmon to their historic spawning grounds.”

The partnership has been almost 5 years in the making.

“Our work with NOAA Fisheries reflects our shared understanding that wildlife conservation and sustainable forestry management—combined with sound science—go hand in hand,” said Sierra Pacific Industries Vice President of Resources Dan Tomascheski. “We work to ensure our forests provide habitat features that support salmon, steelhead and other wildlife. This kind of conservation partnership maintains and produces thriving wildlife populations, while also providing SPI with the needed assurance to continue investing in our operations in a manner that provides for jobs, renewable forest products, recreation, and clean water and air.”

NOAA Fisheries notes that recovery of endangered fish populations in California cannot be achieved without re-establishing populations back into their historical habitats. Reintroducing these species into their native habitat is vital to support healthy, resilient populations.

Barriers such as dams have cut off salmon from 95 percent of their historical habitat. Numerous watersheds on lands owned by SPI in the Sacramento River and Trinity River basins are upstream of these barriers. They are no longer accessible to salmon and steelhead. These areas include historically occupied habitats that are necessary for the successful reintroduction of ESA-listed species proposed in recovery plans.

Species planned for reintroduction in the Sacramento River Basin include Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon, and California Central Valley steelhead. In the Trinity River Basin, we have proposed reintroduction of Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast coho salmon.

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