T R E E F A R M N E W S 26 West Virginia Forestry Association Mountain State Forestry | Fall 2018 www.wvfa.org Protect At-Risk Wildlife and Fish on Family Forestland From the American Forest Foundation FAMILY-OWNED FORESTS, along with other forests, farms, and ranches, provide essential homes to thousands of fish, wildlife, and plants that are threatened or endangered or considered ‘at-risk.’ Consider this: More than two-thirds of the species currently listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), rely on these lands for their habitat. That’s roughly 4,600 plant and animal species, including the Louisiana black bear, key deer, and red-cockaded woodpecker. In some areas, 95% of these forest-dependent, at- risk species live only in private forests. In the Southeastern U.S. alone, the American Forest Foundation estimates there are 224 at-risk wildlife species that call family forests home. In addition, there are another 293 candidate species that are under review that could be listed in the future. Most of these fish and wildlife species are not at-risk because of family forests. But rather due to the loss of forest habitat from encroaching development and conversion of forests to non- forests uses. Well-managed, healthy forests is a key strategy to helping these species recover. Family Forest Owners Want to Help At-Risk Wildlife. But Need Support The good news is family woodland owners state wildlife as a top reason they own their land. Infact, in recent AFF surveys of landowners in the South and the Northeastern U.S., more than 85% landowners said they want to do more for wildlife on their land, including at-risk wildlife. What is stopping them from improving habitat is cost and certainty about what practices to do. Cost: often land management practices that improve habitat, such as expanding a tree buffer along streams or removing culverts, are cost-prohibitive for landowners. They are willing to put in their own resources, but even then, many cannot afford the practices. Certainty: because at-risk species and their habitat are regulated by the Endangered Species Act, landowners want to know that if they do the right thing they won’t face penalties if something goes wrong or if they end up with more at-risk species on their land. Empowering Landowners to Protect Endangered Species The American Forest Foundation supports policies that encourages conservation of at-risk wildlife species as well as their habitat. These policies should encourage sustainable management and the protection of family forests as key habitat for wildlife. When landowners commit to conservation activities on their land, we believe policy should provide regulatory assurances to protect them from additional burdens that could result from the successful revival of these species on, or near, their lands. At-Risk Wildlife Policy Priorities Working with our partners and existing networks, we will advance policies that: Provide family forest owners with tools to conserve habitat, such as modifying existing. Endangered species conservation tax incentives so that family forest owners can qualify or expanding USDA conservation program support. Encourage voluntary forest certification as a way to protect threatened or endangered species habitat on family-owned forestland. Maintain and expand regulatory assurances for family forest owners who agree to proactively conserve at-risk species’ habitat. Promote forest and other private landowner participation in endangered species banking, resulting in new sources of income for private landowners and more habitat for these at-risk species. Increase educational funding through land grant colleges to inform family forest owners how they can voluntarily protect or improve habitat for at-risk species.