The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) today enrolled 58,763 acres of land owned and/or leased by Weyerhaeuser into the Louisiana Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis) (RCW) Safe Harbor Program.
The Safe Harbor Management Agreement signed with Weyerhaeuser Company establishes a baseline number of 48 RCW family groups on Weyerhaeuser lands. This represents the second largest population of RCWs on private lands in Louisiana. Weyerhaeuser's main RCW population is within the Jackson/Bienville Wildlife Management Area (WMA), which is leased by LDWF for public outdoor recreation.
"This represents a true win, win scenario for the red-cockaded woodpecker and Weyerhaeuser," LDWF Secretary Robert Barham said. "The department is very grateful for this generous enrollment of land into our Safe Harbor Program that benefits the red-cockaded woodpecker. We look forward to working with Weyerhaeuser in this joint endeavor."
Weyerhaeuser Company has approximately 850 employees in Louisiana and manages more than one million acres of timberlands in the state, all certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)™. Weyerhaeuser's Louisiana operations include iLevel Lumber Technologies operations at Dodson and Holden, iLevel Engineered Wood Products operations in Arcadia, Natchitoches and Zwolle, Tree Improvement Center at Taylor, Timberlands offices at Bogalusa, Dodson, Holden, Livingston, Natchitoches and Taylor, and WREDCO land development offices in Mandeville and Ruston.
Weyerhaeuser Company, one of the world's largest forest products companies, was incorporated in 1900. It has offices or operations in 10 countries, with customers worldwide. Weyerhaeuser is principally engaged in the growing and harvesting of timber; the manufacture, distribution and sale of forest products; and real estate construction and development.
According to Weyerhaeuser Forester Alan Boyd, "Here at Weyerhaeuser, we are very excited about this opportunity to partner with LDWF to help secure the future of the RCW. Although the RCW is the primary concern in this effort, it is not the only beneficiary. As an added bonus, the management implemented to benefit the RCW also benefits a multitude of other non-game and game species. This management, which is strongly dependant upon prescribed burning, also contributes greatly to ecological diversity. These beneficial fires promote a highly rich plant community characteristic of days gone by when fires were a rather frequent and natural part of the landscape."
The RCW is a federally and state-listed endangered species that inhabits open pine forests greater than 60 years old. Weyerhaeuser has agreed to proactively manage for their baseline RCW population by maintaining suitable nesting and foraging habitat, provisioning artificial cavities and performing prescribed burning. In return for their voluntary management, Weyerhaeuser has received regulatory assurances for any additional Endangered Species Act regulations for an increase in their RCW population above the baseline number.
LDWF received a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Section 10 permit, authorizing the agency to administer the RCW Safe Harbor Program in January of 2005. Multiple partners helped shape the final document including non-governmental organizations, private landowners, environmental consultants and state and federal agencies. The RCW Safe Harbor Program is designed to encourage landowners to actively and voluntarily manage pine timberlands for the benefit of the RCW, while reducing the fear of having an endangered species on their property. Landowners agree to employ one or more of five voluntary habitat management strategies that have a net conservation benefit for the RCW. These management strategies include: forest management, hardwood midstory management, prescribed burning, RCW cavity management and RCW population management.
"The RCW Safe Harbor Program represents LDWF's commitment to engage private landowners and reward them for proactively stewarding endangered species on their lands," said Eric Baka, RCW Safe Harbor Coordinator.
The Safe Harbor program allows landowners greater flexibility to manage their forest resources while benefiting the RCW through baseline shifts. Essentially the landowner increases their RCW population, via the installation of recruitment clusters, and reassigns their baseline responsibilities with LDWF approval. Weyerhaeuser intends to consolidate their entire RCW baseline within the Jackson/Bienville WMA. This consolidated RCW population will have greater biological integrity and give the birds a greater chance of surviving in the long-term. Baka and Boyd have developed the strategy to accomplish these baseline shifts.
With the addition of the Weyerhaeuser lands, LDWF has nine landowners enrolled in the RCW Safe Harbor Program, totaling 427,698 acres, with 101 baseline RCW groups and one above-baseline RCW group. LDWF is currently working with numerous other landowners interested in enrolling in the Louisiana RCW Safe Harbor Program. Landowners interested in the Louisiana RCW Safe Harbor Program or information regarding RCW management can contact Eric Baka, RCW Safe Harbor Coordinator at email@example.com or 318-487-5890.