Saving Puget Sound: A Conservation Strategy for the 21st Century

Chapter 9. Applying the ESA (Continued): Owls, Forests, and Fish

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569834.ch9

The most important thing we can do is to admit, all of us to each other, that there are no simple or easy answers. This is not about choosing between jobs and the environment, but about recognizing the importance of both and recognizing that virtually everyone here and everyone in this region cares about both. [President William Clinton, remarks at the Forest Conference in Portland, Oregon, April 2, 1993 (U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management 1994:S-5)]

Of all major land uses in the Puget Sound region, by far the biggest systematic improvements to protect habitat for listed salmon have been made by forestry. In part, this is a legacy of the fights over the spotted owl Strix occidentalis. The Northwest Forest Plan (NFP), which fundamentally reshaped management of federal forests in the Pacific Northwest, includes an Aquatic Conservation Strategy to protect and restore salmon habitat on federal lands. The shock of change caused by the plan was especially strong in the timber industry, with its large landholdings and the long-term orientation required by a crop that generally takes at least 40 years to reach harvestable size. Anticipating further effects on non-federal lands, many of the Puget Sound region’s largest public and private forest owners negotiated habitat conservation plans (HCPs) to guarantee “no surprises” under the ESA for 50 or more years. In addition, the Washington Forest Protection Association (an industry trade group that includes large and small landowners) worked through a process known as Timber Fish and Wildlife to negotiate regulations for the entire industry, first for the spotted owl and other old-growth species, then for listed salmon. The latter regulations, known as the Forest and Fish agreement, have been approved by the Washington Forest Practices Board, an appointed body responsible for regulating forestry on state and private lands. They also have been approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the basis for a habitat conservation plan that covers virtually all private timber harvesting in the state.