WCI Southwest Region Spring Meeting

Group of people standing in a forest.

The WCI Southwest Region spring meeting brought together over forty collaborators from the forest industry, state and federal agencies, and private organizations across East Texas and Oklahoma. The goal of the meeting was to build on successes and explore additional collaborative conservation opportunities to benefit a range of species, from aquatic species like fish and mussels to upland species like reptiles. 

The group visited timberland stands of various ages and streams with riparian buffers. The day concluded with a tour of a local mill. 

The in-person participation by so many highlights the importance of collaboration when maintaining and and enhancing conservation benefits on private working lands.

Wood Turtles: Conservation Considerations for Forest Landowners

Wood Turle

A new WCI resource provides insights and recommendations to benefit wood turtle populations within and around working forests.

This download covers:

  • Wildlife-Friendly Practices: Find specific forest management practices that are not only compatible with but beneficial for wood turtles.
  • Strategic Timber Harvesting: Learn how to time harvests to minimize disruption to wood turtle habitat.
  • Mitigating Vehicle Risk: Implement strategies to reduce harm to wood turtles from vehicular traffic.
  • Turtle-Friendly Stream Crossings: Whether upgrading, replacing, or installing new structures, get helpful guidance on materials and design.
  • Nesting Area Enhancement: Transform excavated areas and former gravel pits into valuable nesting sites for wood turtles.

Voluntary, collaborative conservation is delivering results for wood turtles. Sixteen organizations collaborated to develop these recommendations for forest managers to support wood turtles.

Collaboration and education are key to ensuring modern forest management benefits wildlife like wood turtles. Download the resource today and join the WCI in implementing smart wood turtle conservation.

WCI Supporters Receive Recognition for Dedication to Collaborative Conservation

At the 2024 Conservation without Conflict Summit in Arlington, VA, Jimmy Bullock and Cindy Dohner were honored for their contributions to collaborative conservation.

Bullock is the Senior Vice President of Forest Sustainability at Resource Management Service, LLC. 

Dohner is an environmental consultant and the former Director of USFWS Southeast Region.

The plaque reads:

In Recognition of Outstanding Lifelong Dedication to Collaborative Conservation

Presented to

Cindy Dohner and Jimmy Bullock

For your leadership in making Conservation without Conflict a reality. Your tireless efforts have brought private landowners, private entities, and government agencies together, fostering trusting partnerships to advance and implement collaborative conservation across the nation.

Your unwavering belief that Conservation without Conflict is the key to effective and enduring wildlife conservation in America is truly commendable.

Presented on February 20, 2024

Signed by Leopoldo Miranda-Castro, Executive Director

Conservation without Conflict

Learn more about Conservation without Conflict.

50 Years of the Endangered Species Act – Live in Austin [PODCAST]

50th Anniversary ESA Symposium panelists.

The 50th Anniversary Endangered Species Act Symposium held in Austin, Texas brought together ESA experts from governmental, non-profit, and for-profit organizations. Their discussion covers the ESA’s fascinating and complex past, present and future.

Panelists:

  • Gary Frazer – Assistant Director for Ecological Services at the US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Peg Romanik – Recently retired high-ranking attorney from the Department of Interior
  • Jimmy Bullock – Senior Vice President at Resource Management Service LLC
  • Leo Miranda-Castro – Former USFWS Director and current Executive Director of Conservation without Conflict

Where To Listen

The episode is found on the Mountain & Prairie with Ed Roberson podcast.

Listen to the episode on MountainAndPrairie.com, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.

Episode Highlights 

  • 10:15 – Peg Romanik discusses how the ESA transitioned from a more punitive approach to a more collaborative approach.
  • 14:45 – Leo Miranda-Castro shares an example of exceptional collaborative conservation.
  • 27:00 – Jimmy Bullock shares how grassroots efforts to conserve the Louisiana black bear in 1990 became a replicable model that eventually led to the creation of the WCI.
  • 31:30 – Market-incentivized species conservation.
  • 39:00 – The evolution of using the ESA for single species conservation to using it for landscape-scale conservation. 

The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and NAFO Sign Agreement to Advance Collaborative Conservation of Wildlife on Private Working Forest Nationwide

National Alliance of Forest Owners logo next to the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies logo

MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING STRENGTHENS THE WILDLIFE CONSERVATION INITIATIVE AS A NATIONWIDE, COLLABORATIVE PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN AFWA AND NAFO

Washington, DC, January 12, 2024 – The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) announced a new collaboration with the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO), formalized through a recent memorandum of understanding, focused on advancing the conservation of at-risk and listed species within private working forests nationwide in conjunction with NAFO’s Wildlife Conservation Initiative (WCI). 

The new agreement will enhance the partnership between AFWA and NAFO, broadening the application of the WCI’s proactive approach to voluntary conservation.

The WCI is built upon the shared belief that significant species conservation outcomes can be achieved through open dialogue, identifying common goals and supporting productive voluntary collaboration among stakeholders. It serves as a model for how states and private entities can collaborate effectively to achieve conservation successes.

“By signing this MOU, state fish & wildlife agencies are joining in the conversation for a collaborative approach to species conservation on private lands,” said Chuck Sykes, Director of the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries and President of the Association. “Through proactive, voluntary participation in this program, we are able to better implement our state wildlife action plans (SWAPs) and make a meaningful impact to conserve our species of greatest conservation need.”

“By signing this MOU, forest owners and State Fish and Wildlife Agencies are making a significant commitment to voluntary, proactive conservation,” said David Tenny, President and CEO of the National Alliance of Forest Owners. “As proud stewards of their land, private forest owners invest heavily in conservation efforts on their own. Our experience with the WCI has demonstrated that the sustainable management of private working forests is an effective wildlife conservation solution. Through proactive, voluntary participation and collaboration, we can leverage the insights, information and experience of private forest owners, conservation groups and State Fish and Wildlife Agencies to achieve positive results for wildlife.”

The WCI has ongoing species conservation projects throughout the United States where NAFO members own or manage significant acres of working forests. The initiative makes more than 46 million acres of private working forests available for collaborative species conservation initiatives. Through the open dialogue of the WCI, private forest owners are sharing valuable insights and information with state fish and wildlife agencies, including the presence of species on their lands, the status of forest conditions and decades of research and management experience on the impacts of active forest management on wildlife habitats.

As part of the ongoing work of the WCI, private forest owners provide much-needed access to forest habitat for researchers to conduct on-the-ground studies about forest-dependent species. This provides more robust data, which helps forest owners and agencies alike make better decisions about managing and protecting wildlife habitats. The WCI’s proactive and collaborative approach to conservation is being recognized as a promising non-regulatory method for conserving species for future generations.

Contact: Ethan Breitling, ebreitling@nafoalliance.org

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The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies represents North America’s fish and wildlife agencies to advance sound, science-based management and conservation of fish and wildlife and their habitats in the public interest. The Association represents its state agency members on Capitol Hill and before the Administration to advance favorable fish and wildlife conservation policy and funding and works to ensure that all entities work collaboratively on the most important issues. The Association also provides member agencies with coordination services on cross-cutting as well as species-based programs that range from birds, fish habitat and energy development to climate change, wildlife action plans, conservation education, leadership training and international relations. Working together, the Association’s member agencies are ensuring that North American fish and wildlife management has a clear and collective voice. 

The National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) is a national advocacy organization committed to advancing federal policies that ensure our working forests provide clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat and jobs through sustainable practices and strong markets. NAFO member companies own and sustainably manage more than 46 million acres of private working forests – forests that are managed to provide a steady supply of timber. NAFO’s membership also includes state and national associations representing tens of millions of additional acres. Private working forests in the U.S. support 2.5 million jobs. Private working forests – which provide 90% of our timber harvest for wood and fiber – also account for 80% of our total net forest carbon sequestration and nearly half of our forest carbon storage. Learn more at nafoalliance.org.| @NAFO_Forests

USFWS Article: “Turtles and Timber in Michigan” 

Trish Brockman, Dept of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University with a wood turtle.

Originally published on fws.gov. See the original story.

When a forester fells a tree and yells, “Timber!” would you believe they’re also thinking, “Wood turtle!”? In the working forests of Michigan, they are! We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are proud of our partnerships across sectors, including the world of forest timber. Take a moment to learn how species conservation and the timber sector are working together in Michigan.

Wood turtle profile – Would you swipe right to protect?

Meet the wood turtle, a scrappy reptile who settles into chilly waters for brumation – the scientific term for hibernation in reptiles – during midwestern winters. In the summer, this little guy spends his days in the forest searching for berries and a good place to sunbathe. Wood turtles can live for 80 years, but don’t be fooled, they know how to party. They keep their feet loose by doing the worm stomp: a dance done to imitate rainfall and draw worms out of their burrows.

Found in woods and waters from Maine to Minnesota this semi-aquatic turtle, like so many species, has experienced habitat loss and degradation. Every day, they encounter dangerous road crossings, polluted waters, nest predation and capture by poachers. While we know wood turtle populations in the northeastern states are declining, health of populations in the midwest are less understood. Luckily, Trish Brockman, a current graduate student in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University, is on it.

In 2020, Brockman was recruited by the Wildlife Conservation Initiative to research the way wood turtles use forests with timber harvest, called working landscapes. The initiative is a formal partnership among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Alliance of Forest Owners and National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Incorporated. The partners work together to conserve species on private working forests.

The old souls of the forest

Since the start of her graduate research, Brockman has developed a fan-girl attitude for this native reptile.

First, Brockman needed to find out exactly how her subjects used the forest. Like paparazzi for the local turtles, she followed as they foraged for berries and frequented the best sunbathing logs. While learning about their use of the land, she gained an appreciation for their individuality. Brockman began to see these turtles as “old souls” with routines, personalities and preferences. They have great memories. She says, “they know the forest like the back of their…well shells, I guess.”

Harvest timber, not turtles

As Brockman examined the relationship between wood turtles and working forests, she found that the two can coexist.

“Forest management isn’t just about chopping down trees,” said Brockman. “It’s about creating a healthy forest that works for wildlife, economic factors and people.”

Henning Stabins, a wildlife biologist for a private forest products company, agrees wholeheartedly. “It’s all about being proactive,” he says, “We want to address endangered and at-risk species, but we also want to keep common species common.” Stabins says it can be tricky to care for species of conservation concern, such as wood turtles. Species who are particularly at risk, are listed on the Endangered Species Act and are given special considerations. With 29 years of experience to learn from, he’s found it’s easier to conduct research proactively and conserve species, like the wood turtle, before they are listed.

Brockman shares the knowledge

Brockman expanded her work to host “Wood Turtle 101” workshops with foresters wanting to learn more. “You can write all the scientific papers you want,” Brockman explains, “but if you can’t communicate to the folks who are doing the work, you can’t be ​​effective.”

Foresters who attended the workshop found creative ways to help the turtles. They rescheduled harvest to avoid logging during active turtle season and are thinking of ways to construct and maintain sites to improve nesting success. With the wood turtle’s home range being a near perfect reflection of the privately managed forests that cover more than 60% of Michigan, their support is making a big difference.

Friends across sectors

Brockman is still receiving pictures and locations of wood turtles from enthusiastic foresters. She is amazed by their level of engagement, and it gives her hope for the wood turtle’s future. With support from our agency and the initiative, these two unlikely groups have found friends across sectors.

We’ve seen how these efforts are compounded beyond our individual capacity when we collaborate with other organizations. These voluntary partnerships continue to bring innovation, stewardship and meaningful engagement to the field of conservation.

See the original story by Gigi Otten at fws.gov.

Assistant Secretary Estenoz and State Wildlife Agencies Visit WCI Field Tour in Florida

David Tenny, Shannon Estenoz and others visit a WCI project site. Estenoz holds a small tortoise in her hands.

On August 3rd, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz joined regional Service representatives, NAFO, and NCASI on RMS land in Florida to see firsthand the accomplishments of the WCI and the tangible conservation value of active forest management. The tour showcased several highlights, including SMZs, gopher tortoise burrows, the creation of open canopy conditions to benefit species, and the zero-baseline reintroduction of the flatwood salamander.

You can see the Dept. of Interior’s press release on the event here.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Announces MOU [Press Release]

Diana fritillary butterfly with orange, black and white wings stands on white flowers.

Service Signs Agreement to Advance Collaborative Conservation of At-Risk Species Within Private Working Forests Nationwide.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) and the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Inc. (NCASI), announced today a memorandum of understanding which formalizes the Wildlife Conservation Initiative (WCI), a collaborative partnership focused on advancing the conservation of at-risk and listed species within private working forests nationwide.

The partnership aligns with President Biden’s proclamation of National Agriculture Day and features three shared principles: the crucial role of private forest owners in species conservation, the importance of utilizing better data for improved conservation outcomes and the significant conservation value of modern sustainable forest management. The WCI is built upon the shared belief that effective species conservation efforts can be achieved through open dialogue, identifying common goals and supporting productive voluntary collaboration among stakeholders.

“This agreement strengthens an already impactful partnership leveraging the strengths of the Service, NAFO and NCASI. It underscores the importance of the contributions private forest owners make to wildlife and natural resource conservation,” said Service Director Martha Williams. “As we celebrate the proclamation of National Agriculture Day and mark the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, we are pleased to highlight the Wildlife Conservation Initiative as an important collaborative effort that serves as a model for how the Service and the private sector can proactively work together to conserve species. The Service invites any industry to use this agreement and the WCI as a model for voluntary collaboration.”

The WCI has ongoing species conservation projects in every Service region where NAFO members own or manage significant acres of working forests. The initiative makes more than 46 million acres of private working forests – an area larger than Washington State – available for collaborative species conservation initiatives. Through the open dialogue of the WCI, private forest owners and the Service are working together to determine the presence of species on private forest lands, the status of forest conditions and the impacts of active forest management on wildlife and their habitats…

Read the full press release at fws.gov

AP News: Regulators, Landowners From Habitat Protection Partnership

Gopher Tortoise stands in grass

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — The Biden administration and industry groups pledged Thursday to promote logging practices and research intended to protect imperiled species on private forest lands.

The agreement between the government, the National Alliance of Forest Owners and the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement aims to halt a “historical pattern of costly litigation and counterproductive conflict” between industry and regulators, said Ethan Breitling, spokesman for the alliance.

It comes after the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a rule in February that would encourage voluntary conservation projects on private land, partly by shielding owners from punishment if their actions kill or harm small numbers of imperiled species.

The memorandum formally recognizes the Wildlife Conservation Initiative, a partnership with 14 research projects underway around the U.S. They focus on species including the red tree vole in the Pacific Northwest, the Western pond turtle in the Southwest, the wood turtle in the Midwest and a variety of Eastern butterflies and migratory birds.

A primary goal is cutting and planting trees in ways that enable landowners to make money yet prevent further harm to wildlife that could lead the service to designate them as threatened or endangered, said Dave Tenny, president of the forest alliance.

Read the full article by John Flesher at APNews.com